Asian Network for Promoting Teacher Education Discusses ESD in Teacher Capacity Building

In 2016, researchers from around East Asia proposed to further strengthen teacher education on education for sustainable development (ESD) through a research project looking at both pre-service and in-service teacher training programs. The 1st meeting of the Asian Network for Promoting Teacher Education, held in Okayama, Japan on 10– 11 June 2017, focused on how ESD initiatives from national ministries of education and sub-national education boards were integrated into teacher training programs of universities in six countries (Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, and South Korea).

While research into ESD has been rich, it has also focused on case studies and localized contexts and implementation. The aim of the network's research is tos to provide an overview to ESD approaches nationally and regionally, and create a comprehensive narrative around national implementation strategies. This will help create guidelines and recommendations for successful and transformative ESD initiatives in teacher training programmes.

This meeting highlighted how RCEs have been instrumental in the teacher training programmes in localized contexts within both Japan and South Korea, and offered insight into how an RCE model may be of use in other countries within the scope of the research project. One of the core components of the network will be to develop guidelines for teacher training institutions, ProSPER.Net can serve as a valuable entry point to gain entry into Masters’ and PhD programmes with these recommendations in the Asia Pacific region.


National teams presented country reports on the state of ESD in teacher training programmes. Junior and senior researchers showcased teacher training curricula aimed at integrating ESD into a variety of teacher training programs on their respective campuses. Research teams presented on both how cross-curricular approaches can integrate ESD into teacher training, as well as how subject specific teacher training can engage with a wide variety of sustainability subjects. 

The conference was particularly fascinating, because it contextualized the unique challenges different nations are facing in creating a national ESD strategy for teacher training. It was interesting to see the complexity of how a national strategy plays out in sub-national, local contexts. For example, Mongolia’s teacher training facilities face a challenge in developing curriculum for a society that is rapidly urbanizing, but still with a high percentage of people living a nomadic lifestyle. Here, teacher training programmes have to develop curriculum and guidelines for both contexts. The research team from Laos illustrated that a great linguistic diversity among pupils creates communication challenges, even with a comprehensive curriculum on ESD. South Korea has dealt with many ‘branding’ issues for ESD. The government's ‘re-branding’ of ESD has created confusion among teachers, even with content having changed little or not at all.

RCEs have been interested in building the capacity of teachers within their ranks, but have had limited engagement with teacher training programmes for doing so. Because this project will create a comprehensive review of all teacher training programmes in the region, and help map out how ESD can be integrated into them, RCEs able to link with this flagship project will acquire invaluable knowledge on capacity building for educators. They may even be able to synergize with existing programmes.

After mapping out teacher training programmes and examining national ESD strategies, the next phase will be to examine how ESD is implemented in individual teacher training programmes across countries. It will allow us to see to what degree local and sub-national contexts and priorities will influence the implementation of national curriculum guidelines.