Dlouhá, J., Pospíšilová, M. (2017). Education for Sustainable Development Goals in public debate: The importance of participatory research in reflecting and supporting the consultation process in developing a vision for Czech education. Journal of Cleaner Production, Permanent link
The paper reviews recent theoretical discussions on education for sustainable development and competence based teaching, and relates them to the international policy processes of the Sustainable Development Goals implementation where ‘the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development’ are expressed in the SDG 4.7. It shows the importance of the public debate for fostering shared understanding and acceptance of strategies for educational change within the ongoing development of Agenda 2030 at national level. The participatory involvement of multiple actors on different levels is widely recognized as a pre-requisite for consensus on long term goals, but in the Czech Republic, lack of public discussion was identified as an obstacle to deep transformation of the educational system and its reorientation towards ESD. The case study presented in this article describes participatory research conducted to reflect and support the activities of the multiple Czech actors who developed a joint Vision for education that emphasizes competences for sustainability and active citizenship. To draft the Vision and receive formative feedback on its content and wording, participatory processes were organized in several stages: an expert panel developed the first version of the document which was then consulted with representatives of other social actors in focus groups and on future search conference. Next, an overview of actors' views, preferences concerning the Vision content, and the perceived opportunities for and barriers to educational change was collected through an online survey with more than 160 respondents. This generated data for reflection of different views, and quantitative analysis of the actors' expressed preferences. Results highlighted the differences in the actors' focus and particular interests, but also showed a balance in these interests between different groups of actors so that in general, the cooperatively drafted Vision proved to be widely acceptable. In the course of this participative research, in-depth discussion with a number of civic society representatives was initiated, their specific viewpoints were confronted and critically evaluated, and new concepts of the Czech educational system discussed. The fact that the arguments were developed jointly guaranteed a common understanding across a wide range of backgrounds thus facilitating the integration of the Vision in policy debates. This method of participatory research is thus an example of sustainability science which strives for social impact in addition to scientific impact.