Doctoral Thesis

Dr. JFG Eussen - 2022  

An academic study of the OPEDUCA Project and -Concept is available as Doctoral Thesis by Dr. Jos Eussen, 'ESD-based education: Fulfilling the transformative promise of education for sustainable development', published February 2022, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands.



“ESD can be realised by means of student owned ongoing thematic learning processes on future defining themes throughout the entire formal educational system, connected with educational sources in the region
to from there base a local-to-global learning space that affects the transformative potential of education for a more sustainable development”,  


Is the envisioned learning process acceptable and reason for application by formal education? 

The OPEDUCA-concept was found to install a learning process acceptable and wished for in present day education as it proved to meet contemporary challenges and schools’ search for improvements. The many years long participation of over 40 schools in daily Dutch practice provided proof of concept, acceptance and application. Schools embraced the learning process and contributed significantly to the establishment of a joint vision, multi-disciplinary partnership and insightful practice. Schools participated irrespective of additional funding, most on a weekly basis while involving their students during regular practice. 80% of schools from primary and secondary education (32 out of 40) found reason and argument to execute the envisioned learning of which 44% (14) sought structural implementation solely from own conviction. 25% (8) entered a transition process to base their school on the concept, a development initially not planned for nor supported. Inspired and motivated by the envisioned learning process, over 300 teachers from primary, secondary and further education participated in intensive 4-day MasterClasses (in groups average 15), mostly paid for by the schools themselves and highly rated.

Determinants for the schools were:
- The logic and clarity of the concept.
- The parallel address of contemporary challenges, priorities and innovations sought for.
- The re-conceptualised encompassing approach of ESD, integration educations.
- The executable quality of the multi-disciplinary partnership around the schools.
- The ownership teachers experienced.
- The gathering and parallel involvement of primary, secondary, further and higher education.
- The involved and effective way students accepted and managed the concept and instrumentarium.

We conclude the breadth, depth and length of participation as well as the positive practices justify an affirmative response to research question 1.
Acceptance was furthermore related to the notion the OPEDUCA-concept answered to contemporary demands for innovation through an integrative instrumentarium and therewith countervailed pressure put on schools. Teachers were positioned and enabled to cooperatively work on the envisioned learning and apply it in regular practice with their students, taking it from the cradle and put it to the test in an owned and pro-growth way.
From a process-perspective, distinguishing between Learning, Education, Schooling and the (educational) System proved effective to entangle thoughts, discussions and opinions. It gave way to a constructive assembly of experiences and opinions, avoiding a muddled debate over practitioners’ heads.
The positioning of ESD as a joint and unifying concept underlying education proved valuable as it provided the joint sensation of a larger and longer-term goal.
The OPEDUCA-project and -concept accepted as a conducive framework and promising approach to realise transformative learning while not losing out on the transmissive.
The multi-disciplinary partnership in education was supportive both for belief in the concept and its application since it was genuine; parties external to the schools gave material proof of their support and offered schools a promising environment for development and transition. The sensation of being connected in a larger whole contributed by way of awareness, the schools’ drive however commanded by their own needs. Motivation and acceptance were, contrary to earlier expectations, only marginally related to the establishment of governance structures and embedment in the larger whole of interdepartmental, European and UN efforts in ESD which were more a comforting background than a motivator.
To incur structural change, a more-year school development is required to internalise the vision and consequences of a well-wrought transition, moreover since the instruments cannot be implemented half-way. In this, the fortitude of the school leader and the systems’ allowance to grant bottom-up transition a change without further intervention, are decisive factors.
In the setting of an OPEDUCA-region not the systems’ support, policy-measures or whole-institution-like constructions are called for but a relative tranquillity around the school.
We found no relevant disparities between primary and secondary education,
the concept fitting every cognitive level, nor was there any reason to differ between Dutch schools and those worked with in other countries, acknowledgement and acceptability being alike for alike reasons.
During the years the OPEDUCA-concept met ever more support, understanding students shall learn in a transdisciplinary learning environment, steadily researching and integrating real world needs and perspectives to develop competencies that enable them to solve complex sustainability problems in their further careers (Biberhofer & Bockwoldt, 2016; Dlouhá, Barton, Huisingh, & Adomssent, 2013; Kolenick, 2018). Seeing ESD to develop towards a more transformative, cooperative, learner-driven education (Brezet, 2009; A. Gough, 2021; Herranen, Vesterinen, & Aksela, 2018; von Koerber et al., 2018).

Can pupils and students comprehend and effectuate the instruments proposed?

Students effectively combined inquiry-, problem- and community-based learning, the OPEDUCA-instruments providing structured means for observation, contemplation, interpretation and storage of their learning process. Differentiated learning, the merger of individual and cooperative aspects, effectuating activation and socialisation could be clearly observed. The integrative approach matched student’s associative disposition. Work ethic, posture as well as willingness to learn improved according to the students themselves as well as their teachers.

Across the board 25% of the students swiftly engaged with the instruments from a near natural comprehension, a further 40% grew in the concept following the collaborative quality of the student-oriented pedagogy. Ap. 15%, mostly those also challenged by traditional education, especially benefitted from BusinessClass, however required more personal guidance to oversee the entirety of the concept due to lacking study skills. For 10% of students (specifically in pre-vocational secondary education) the instruments did not proof sufficiently more attractive than traditional (classroom based, instructive) education.

Students very well understood and found meaning and motivation in learning on bases of future defining themes, their relevance and the challenge of own inquiry being felt as a relief from (all day) instructions. The development of Fields of Knowledge was hardly a problem while they enjoyed working in (small) teams doing so, finding joy in cooperation, in- as well as outside school.
Driven by curiosity and constructive activities while not limited by programmed instruction, textbooks and curriculum control, the array of issues students addressed was broader than prevailing curricula prescribe while elements were studied more in-depth, including complex interdependencies not spelled out in advance.
Student empowerment proved an essential quality of OPEDUCA BusinessClass following youngsters’ need to gain a solid personal foothold to start building ability. The empowerment phase proved effective through its focus on the re-discovery of meaning, preceding motivation. BusinessClass was overall an experience that strengthened personality, enabled students to discover (hidden) abilities, gain faith in who they are and can be(come). A general conclusion, worded best by the notion BusinessClass stands for ‘the recognition of unexplored capacity’.
Whereas Flight for Knowledge can be considered to better serve those more talented and BusinessClass those more challenged, both instruments as well as Global were effective for students in the entire age-range of 10-18.
Each instrument was seen to support the development of students’ metacognitive ability as lines of reasoning could be made visible again, the learning process re-visualised to retrace thinking and reasoning. The fact the instruments call for but also enable students’ activation of prior knowledge proved more important than conceptualised as it provided for additional intermediate guidance and assessment of progress by their teachers. Honouring students by trusting them with a critical and reflexive position about both content and competence development proved essential for their involvement. The presentation-element of each instrument was a main driver as it allowed students to give proof of ability and development-status.
The concurrency of the pupil-student-apprentice continuity proved to be an asset since it made students aware they were respected from these various perspectives simultaneously. Explicitly wording and discussing they were no longer merely approached as subject(s) to schooling but as students working on their development, generated attention, involvement and perseverance.
Decisive for the students’ understanding of the pedagogy, effective participation and progression in learning was the ability of the teacher to refrain from a prominent role yet radiate a comforting presence. Allowing students a notion of initial ignorance gave an active mode of learning a change to awaken.
Where the narrative ability of the teachers lacked, students were seen well equipped and willing to benefit from the narratives Partners in Education shared. They proved sensitive to a real-world learning environment as it invited and allowed their senses to reach out in a more varied way, retrieving meaning while searching for applicable data and information. A deep, profound understanding of matters by way of a constant combination of theory and practice, placing subject-elements in a real-world context, was essential through its meaning-giving quality and students’ sense-making. Regionally embedded learning furthered with peer-to-peer exchanges abroad proved invaluable.

For the students, sustainability issues were constantly present without explicit guidance, the spectrum exceeding contemporary interpretations of ESD. As issues become related to matters and themes at hand, students addressed sustainability out of own (learning-)account. Therewith the application of OPEDUCA also exposed how present curricula fall short on ESD.
Open argumentation inherent to the re-conceptualisation of ESD (“You are the future”) was an effective activator as it supported ownership and established the sensation in students to be defining. Keeping far from education as an obligation, students came to formulate the pay-off: “OPEDUCA - Discover Your Development”.

The students’ involvement gave way to 3 added values initially not part of the concept:
• students gave explicit proof of their existing body of knowledge, adding pedagogical value as it allows to mark a starting point and better progress assessment.
• the process made students show their external/explicit as well as hidden/implicit conceptual and propositional ideas, convictions and interpretations, underpinning the value-dimension of learning.
• the variety of activities gave way to not directly foreseen soft and transversal skills, agilities that otherwise likely remain in stealth mode (care for the progress of peers, graphic talent, interrogation tactics).

  

Can teachers understand, accept and apply the teaching strategy and instruments proposed?

Working directly with over 300 teachers in daily practice, initial understanding and acceptance of the instruments was profound. The combination of an upfront coherent pedagogical concept then opened for their insights and preferences was effective, OPEDUCA MasterClass strategic for teachers’ understanding and acceptance of vision and concept.
For 25% the pedagogy and didactics followed their natural composure which already harboured educator qualities based on life experience and associative capacity.
For a middle group of grossly 40-50% effective application following acceptance depended on these colleagues’ lead and school leaders’ consistent support. Whereas 15-20% of teachers remained wavering back and forth, 10-15% embodied a silent force reluctant to change, an inertia forming a stronghold in the school’s governance. This small fraction we saw able to effectuate decisive negative influence once the school leader lacked steadiness and resolve.
The role, position and professionalism of teachers is more prominent than one might presume given the student-centred approach of the OPEDUCA-concept.
As classroom-based instruction is not merely exchanged by coaching, any idea of obsoleteness makes way for an upgrade of the profession, the teaching more demanding in terms of the development of a worldly view, transdisciplinary understanding and collegial cooperation. The concept requires another dispotion,
a different position in a new school-setting, a professional handling of present day blockades and cooperaton with colleagues as well as external educators in unfamliar ways.
As students went beyond textbooks and regular materials, teachers had to support in a more diverse and articulate way, being best positioned when becoming students again themselves. Students very well felt a teacher’s disposition, requiring presence and not a roleplay, the teacher challenged to be a catalysator for the students’ explorative senses, a clear though silent presence with an expanded horizon in
a student dominated learning environment. As teachers’ questioning preceeds explanations and explanations preceed instructions, they were required to in briefest of moments observe, raise (exploratory) questions, compliment and point out where logic and understanding tends to fail, add to the construction of meaning.
An interplay that calls for an expert-perspective on both content and process, teaching beyond mere guidance or coaching. Encouragements and clarifications to be understood as coming from a potentially better-informed student.
Effectuation of the theme-based transdisciplinary learning depended on the teachers’ inclination to become deeply involved, fearlessly look beyond the own subject and break down disciplinary silos, the willingness to cooperate with colleagues and be open to the senses of their students.
A teachers’ more profound knowledge of the present curriculum and examination-demands is required to keep track of students’ progress, matching the new with the traditional. A substantial challenge since textbooks appeared to have taken over own insight in the composition and contents of the curriculum. The idea of a collaborative web-based application to real-time track, trace and guide the students as they zig-zag across subjects in various tempo and depth, went beyond most teachers’ familiarity with ICT.
Teachers in general favoured that the OPEDUCA-concept requires an orientation on actual, practical and real-life developments, bringing ones subject to life interlinked with others. A full embrace and pro-active position however made way for a reticent approach as over 85% were sooner than later confronted with a lack of associative capacity and consequently too limited transdisciplinary thinking. Teachers’ confinement in schoolish life and limited life experience underly too shallow narrative qualities. Consequently, they are challenged to convincingly position future defining themes and re-fuel the students’ learning by applicable practice. Although this can be compensated by attracting educator-capacity, the same strangeness to the world prevents the creation, upholding and expansion of relationships with Partners in Education. As teachers were also found to have limited attention for, if not missing fascination with, societal developments and phenomena outside the perimeter of school which further restricted their ability to allocate educational sources in the real.
For BusinessClass the teachers’ personality stood out as another challenge since life skills and own entrepreneurial experience are called for. Consequently, a structural involvement of educators from industry proved necessary for a strict and therewith effective application of the instrument. The involvement of Partners in Education was a distinct value for Flight for Knowledge and indispensable in BusinessClass.
Although the virtual exchanges in OPEDUCA Global could be managed by the students, the teachers’ constraints accumulated as the instrument required all the above when going beyond a mere virtual exchange.
In cases teachers gave way to adapting OPEDUCA-instruments due to personal shortcomings or organisational conservatism, such in each case eventually frustrated the application. Teachers who lacked confidence to let go of schoolish aspects of education and drew back to the traditional by approaching students merely as pupils, incurred a downward spiral themselves - a lack of courage leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Teachers were found to have become executers of education caught in the restrictions of the institute school. Next to a lack of trust in own capability, school characteristics such as the sense of a safe and steady working environment, stood in the way of a more liberal application of the improvements embraced. We noticed a vicious circle, teachers being trapped in the present constellation while their overall gentle nature, weak organisational positioning and demanding day to day operations restrict further professional development.
OPEDUCA MasterClass was indispensable and highly valued by participants to generate understanding and a skilled application of ESD-based Education. It delivered on the effectuation of ESD by observing a teacher-development from operational actor to strategic factor.
Since a deep conviction about student-centred learning cannot be taught and instrumentalised (OPEDUCA is not an automat), ESD-based Education at least requires a pro-active attitude. It however became clear teachers are generally not eager to develop beyound their profession. Collegial exchanges about learning and education as well as joint work will have to expand to at least 20% of time while presently most contacts are restricted to matters of the school as organisation.
Overall, teachers can not be regarded change-agents due to their composition,
lack of professional experience and organisational setting in the school. It can be seen as a weakness of the concept it inherently counts on a self-development potential of teachers. 

Can a professionalisation course enhance teachers’ capacity for ESD-based Education?

The realisation of ESD-based Education requires a thorough upgrade of teaching capacity. Such in parallel with the requirement to change the school’s daily process in order to facilate teachers’ setting of theme-based learning, mini-lectures, the valorisation of learning outcomes, assume inter-collegial learning and engage in professional relationships with Partners in Education.

Building on our findings and conclusions from OPEDUCA MasterClass, which developed into a professionalisation course for teachers, it is possible to enhance teacher’s capacity to understand and operationalise ESD-based Education. The instrument proved a key value to equip teachers with a thorough understanding of the concept, awaken a sense of ESD and work on their professional development. It moreover allowed for indispensable insights in the present practice of schooling, educational challenges and the students’ learning, therewith provided essential building blocks for the transition pathway. The course proved to be a clear mirror for a teacher’s perceived and present competence-level. It became obvious the envisioned multi-faceted competence-development of students requires teachers not to merely teach different but embody such in a credible way.
Determining for the success of OPEDUCA MasterClass was the choice to have it take shape and substance in accordance with the concept, making the process, content, style and setting ‘part of the message’. It became clear MasterClass must precede every other activity in OPEDUCA, the teachers’ role being more determining than that of school leaders.

Having been qualified and rated highly, OPEDUCA MasterClass can stand model for a professionalisation course for teachers, taking in some defining characteristics such as an extensive interplay between concept and practice, the involvement of expertise and experience from outside education and the generation of a clear distance from daily concerns to have participants think and act freely, reconsider and construct jointly. The sense of a safe environment is elementary and functional as it allows to carry through a variety of mental and physical activities, addressing amongst others creative thinking, the narrowness of present mindsets, the essence and values
of collaboration, goal setting and the will to achieve. The approach needs to provide
a mirror for participants’ present disposition and perceived competences as it is essential that, when back in practice, teachers embody the envisioned multi-faceted competence-development of their students.

A professionalisation process is far from a training, let alone a conference. It requires an immersive setting in order to go into the depth of ESD-based Education while opening up to the backgrounds of practice. Participant’s notion “We are not temped to think out-of-the-box, you are telling us there is no box”, indicates the manifestation of a mental image, picturing an emerging reality clearly beyond the(ir) present.

It is an essential condition school leaders allow for teachers’ participation without prior insight in the content and operational working of MasterClass as participants should have the change to most freely re-think education, their profession and position in school, consider a ‘re-invention’ of their work and setting.

A variety of deliberations with managers, teacher educators and students at Teacher Training Institutes, seeking comparison with the results of MasterClass, led us to conclude and underline teacher education should challenge itself to become the highest arena of exploration of teaching and learning. The teacher students’ meaningful learning experience to include a much wider range of real-life learning, emotions and profound personality development.

We grew the concerning insight initial teacher training and regular teacher education are ill equipped to work towards a new reality of ESD-based Education. During our global (re-)search together with experts active in the field for decades, we found not a single institute that structurally incorporates ESD. About 30% mentions sustainability aspects though shows no more than superficial practice. The teacher students’ future way of teaching will be challenged as their own study is not enough meaning-oriented, combining an application-oriented with a reproduction-oriented learning pattern (Gordon & Debus, 2002). Where the students we worked with felt emotionally thrilled or threatened, whether experiencing a more positive or negative feeling, the essence was they ‘felt’ to begin with. Directors of Teacher Training Institutes confirmed they are likely educating their students for a future ‘in the womb of a school’, not as independent professionals. Following, there is a considerable gap between present day teacher training and the development of the professional called for.





What is required to realise a multi-disciplinary partnership for ESD and make it functional?

Determining for the realisation of a multi-disciplinary partnership for ESD proved the availability of a vision that informs action, starting out as the grain of sand in an oyster, then growing due to a stream of diverse contributions.

Finding that a large variety of people from different professions could embrace the same concept partly proved our notion right we created an un-human subdivision of society. People finding unity outside their role in the system indicates we split ourselves through artificial contradictions that generate conflicting interests,
feed polarisation and open spaces to imperfect solutions. The converging quality of the OPEDUCA-concept made it possible to face this self-created imperfection. Openly exchanging that we came to think in divides, but all are inextricably part of the same manifestations and can be approached as individuals indissolubly bound together, offered a strategic human perspective. Re-stating togetherness by ways of a joint vision on youth development defined the OPEDUCA-project.

As obviously insufficient interactions among stakeholders in networks and insufficient coordination of actions may not support integration of sustainable development to educational organisations (Vargas, Lawthom, Prowse, Randles, & Tzoulas, 2019), it is essential to first observe the positioning and relevance of such (perceived) stakeholders. The functionality and effectiveness of a transformational collaboration to drive change does not originate from linking present institutions but by projecting a committable course of action.
Those most active in ESD (NGO’s, Centres of Environmental Education, service providers in education) at the end of the day proved hardly prepared, ill capable and in cases even unwilling to ally for a common course. Our initial notion the educational landscape is scattered proved just, those comprising that patched sociatal fabric not the agents of lasting change as each remaines caught in their respective system-part serving own interests. The system’s components, imagined as gears interlocking in a series of complicated cause- and effect relations, are often either too far apart or defined by single functional dependencies instead of continuously interrelated processes with change capacity.

The OPEDUCA-project had a transition quality intrinsic to the concept as it is a not-institutional approach with the potential to engage the broadness of society, self-enforcing through the accumulation of authentic competences and representative mass.
Authenticity proved an important condition, finding that more effective manifestations of collaborative learning correlate with the degree in which people and organisations embody primary societal functions – the closer to the core of the societal value chain, the more intrinsic the energy and fortitude to spiral up efforts and progress. The transition set in motion was inward out, bottom-up, and as such relentless enough to break through the ‘layers of fog’, address the ‘cacophony of educational priorities’ by sound reason and dampen if not prevent the ‘waves of change’ schools suffer from.
For a positive sensation of trusted improvement, scale proved relevant as the notion of broader support provided trust. Especially school leaders and teachers grew more convinced they could take a critical constructive look at their present practice and surroundings, encounter external claims with confidence and reason. The multi-disciplinary partnership provided manoeuvring space for schools as they found relevant supporters to their course. This in turn secured the quality of the partnership since each would eventually be called to deliver.
Depicting ESD as a positive underpinned with realistic vista’s provided for the sense of an overarching purpose. The re-conceptualisation of ESD delivered defining arguments for the participation of a diversity of people and organisations as it already held the multi-disciplinary quality within it. It supplied a sensation of being of use and need beyond mere gathering or networking. Societies’ constituting parts became involved not because of present positions but through the contribution of authentic added values born from more year relevant experiences. Consequently, further qualitative insights added to the converging quality of the concept, folding ever more authentic interests into a whole. Concept and approach benefitted from the power of reasoning and validity of argument, resting in relevant experience collected and joined.
The personal address, exchanges on eye-level also with participants holding substantial authority, made it possible to drill through functions, positions, roles and structures, enhanced the sensation of commitment and togetherness, provided further ground for bonding and expansion of the cooperation. Hereto empathy based on a well-wrought understanding of the other’s occupation and business appeared critical and functional for the establishment of interconnectivity between parties. Building this way, the vision on ESD and the OPEDUCA-instruments became qualities that gave reason for a variety of societal actors to contribute capacity by ways of people, facilities and finances – enabling the further development of the whole through dedicated involvement. For ESD-based Education a multi-disciplinary partnership is not a condition to be (institutionally) arranged nor an arrangement to be carried through, but the result.

It proved possible to gather, bring and bind people together on a regional scale from a multi-disciplinary perspective for the effectuation of ESD while simultaneously meeting contemporary challenges in education. Picturing the future school as nexus of learning provided a solid foothold as partners could understand and practically effectuate their added value by ways of first-hand contact and effective activities. At the same time this drove schools to not only concur with the approach but also follow-up on promises made to themselves. A most natural self-strengthening constructive process only hindered by the patched blanket of the educational landscape which was found to be occupied by half-hearted parties and overgrown by weed due to governmental policies that promote a thousand flowers to blossom. Students gave proof not to be waiting for playful activities, sensed when being treated as children instead of youngsters working on their development. The more relevant the themes and context and the more primarily authentic the Partners in Education, the more likely students grow understanding of where to look further, what to inquire and with whom. As they asked for knowledge they sought for the revelation of wisdom, touching on the bare essence of ESD.

How can the role of industry in ESD be understood and conceptualized?

A structural conditioned participation of industry in ESD-based Education is a requirement for the quality of the learning (process) through the adding of meaning, purpose and volarisation. Projecting ESD as an ongoing tread, as a learning process throughout the formal educational system interchanging with the world of work, there is sufficient reason to adopt the idea that an extended backwards dovetail of schooling and the labour market enriches students’ competence development and contributes to a conviction of life-long learning.
ESD-based Education takes industries’ interest beyond the HRM-perspective towards a meaningful application of a companies’ CSR and in the longer run contributes to the rise of entrepreneurs able to engage in both consumers’ and industries’ transformation towards sustainable consumption and production. Seeing industry as indissociable part of the fabric of society, it can profoundly expand its role and be(come) a major supporter and enabler of ESD.

As experienced in the construction of a regional multi-disciplinary partnership for ESD, the presence of the world of work is also a value as such since it indirectly provides trusts for schools and attracts organisations from other fields of society. Moreover, expertise present in industry can protect schools from needlessly disruptive external influences, empower school leaders and teachers to see through and take a stand against educational innovations by gaining understanding of amongst other Portfolio-Analyses, Added Value Chains, ICT, Planning & Control Cycles and HRM. More important, schools can gain a profound realistic insights in the relevance of knowledge, competences and transversal skills, qualities that appeared less subject to inflation than perceived in the realm of ‘21st century skill’ convictions. Industries involvement enabled the development of students’ non-routine cognitive skills, accentuating human qualities more valuable in the longer term. Directly cooperating in the education process as educators, practitioners from industry also expanded a school’s teaching capacity in quantitative and qualitative ways.
There is a notable difference between companies active in the primary, secondary and tertiary domain, the first able to deliver more authentic insights and experiences, being closer to phenomena most relevant in the light of sustainable development. Also, in terms of applicability it appeared important students could touch and study concrete manifestations, sense the generation of products and services, relate to things they can grasp. Mostly being goods made by industry (including clothing, farms, bakeries, chemistry) but also services such as the maintenance of a wheelchair, organisation of an open-air or a food-delivery service. Here the interplay between learning about and through manifestations of regional society and the development of personality stood out.

Whereas industry is in general a sector able to provide a broad spectrum of tangible knowledge-domains, especially manufacturing companies are of key importance for the effectuation of ESD-based Education as they:
- provide access to first-hand data and information,
- generate most open views on reality,
- have students experience the application of knowledge and the relevance of skills and competences,
- provide insight and first understanding of (the world of) works i.e. the labour market,
- contribute to students’ understanding of society’s value- and income-generating capacity,
- materialise the effects an entrepreneur can exercise over sustainable consumption and production.

Participation as Partner in Education required and enabled companies to share and embrace the vision and instrumental approach as they could evidence the operationalisation of a qualitative learning process they understand and can add value to. The interplay with school leaders and teachers essential to bridge two separate worlds that clearly hold and manifest a separate set of values and attitudes. Especially for schools a cooperation demands the development of a worldlier understanding and consequent behaviour to match expectations and operational handling.
From the company perspective, collaborators mostly found initial reason for cooperation from an HRM perspective, getting involved to secure a well-equipped workforce, seeking to close the competence gap between schooling and work. Looking at knowledge-sharing and learning-development, most companies’ CSR-function appeared ill developed, involvement mostly organised in an indirect way by outsourcing efforts i.e. buying into programs service-providers offer. Companies that overcome an underlying strangeness with the world of education can win substantial ground through the effectuation of ESD-based CSR.

There appears to be a substantial difference in case either the management and employees from the core of a company are involved or a designated staff established for the course, ‘sending’ a service-provider the least effective practice. Without exception, direct involvement of people active in the core added-value chain of a company proved to effectuate the educational partnership sought for. Across the board, entrepreneurship can only be transferred by entrepreneurs while students’ meaningful learning correlates with their access to primary value-chains.

We found no sign any of the companies involved ever took part from a (hidden) commercial perspective, cooperation was seen to rest on dedication to the course of education.





  

How can ESD-based Education improve learning and formal education?

The OPEDUCA-concept meets the transformative promise of ESD, matches present policy requirements, invokes improvements of formal education and contributes to the notion of a learning continuum that touches on the essence of sustainable development. The re-conceptualisation of ESD and corresponding instrumentarium were seen to come natural to students and found broad support with teachers as well as school leaders. It answers to the decades long search of researchers and policy-developers for an integrated vision, applicable strategy and workable practice. The entirety of this study offers comprehensive practice- and science informed insights ESD-based Education enhances students’ learning process while providing outlines for an ESD-based School. As apparent contradiction, this joint capacity requires a vision on education away from schooling to have a holistic approach materialise in concrete pedagogy.
From a societal perspective the OPEDUCA-concept realises a multi-disciplinary partnership in the social-demographic region with the potential to underpin a local-to-global learning space for sustainable development. Therewith it contributes to a deep, complex and integrative knowledge generation that contributes to solving problems humanity faces. With the development of entrepreneurship in the foundation of the study of future defining themes, students were seen able to grow into future-critic constructive youngsters, better prepared to manage developments occurring. Since entrepreneurship development is delivered from practice, the students’ learning includes numerous opportunities for higher level thinking, varying from elaborating on the fair price of a jeans, over honest coffee to the power of commerce, finance, fairness, access to scarce resources, trade and negotiations. Critical thinking applied when observing markets, products, services, location, funding, environmental effects, consumers, employees, sales and a series of other aspects that are accentuated and articulated during the process.

The OPEDUCA-concept makes it possible to involve external expertise in a more structured and structural way. Through the (student-)developed OPEDUCA the learning can feed from a regional multitude and diversity of actors and phenomena that embody a variety of educational values that enhance students’ understanding of society’s composition, functioning and possible further development. Consequently, the students’ learning is informed by different perspectives and a variety of practices that gradually acquaint them with transversal competences. They construct a life-wide curriculum which exceeds the formal as the fantastic complexity of life enters their learning. The more the learning remained close to the future-defining themes as ‘anchors’, the stronger the educational bonding since context and applicability improved.
The availability and accessibility of authentic, nearby and therewith more meaningful experiences, makes real-world aspects part of the learning. Aspects that also contribute to intra-generational justice, participatory decision-making and citizenship. The possibility for students to build a notion of the future, one’s adult (working-)live and potential roles and responsibilities stood out. The learning process appeared to bring near again what became disconnected in our societal construct.

The learning has been observed to be more actual and valid as each element of every (school-)subject is eventually (re-)placed from a more logical, contextualised and transdisciplinary perspective. ESD-based Education also gives way to working-in, placing, more recent and further-going scientific insights and phenomena. Students were seen to be occupied with and applicate curriculum-elements in a larger variety of contexts and at multiple moments, giving proof of a deeper understanding during discussions and presentations. Specifically, the instrument Field of Knowledge proofs fluid to content as it is layered, grounded and more actual than textbooks can be.
It therewith also exposes how present curricula go short on ESD.
The de-composition of subjects makes the learning integrative and generates deeper understanding by way of as then contextualised subject-elements. Therewith a revaluation of disciplines follows from enhanced relevance and usefulness,
the transformative re-valuing the transmissive.

There is no reason to differ between the development of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ disciplines and competences in the course of ESD, seeing these can and should be approached as integrated and mutually enforcing per definition. Specifically in the more basic reconnection of youth with Earth but also in the Dimensions Wellbeing and Welfare, we touched on the essence of understanding, of students literally ‘grasping’ meaning, feeling phenomena and holding objects in one’s hand. The evolutionary explanation that the way we learn causally relates to the way our learning developed from out viewing, beholding, witnessing, then recognising, appeared a most valuable insight. Like experiencing our 3-dimensional world cannot be replaced by 2-dimensional paper or screens, students’ development is not served when the learning of content is placed apart from personal sensing. In this respect also the construction of a Field of Knowledge by hand, drawing, doodling and taking notes irrespective of the outwardly presumed focus, was seen to exploit the special capacity of our brain to imagine. Consequently, laptops, tablets and the like were found to be better positioned secondary as ‘logistical support’ (for sharing, multi-media coverage of elements, physical library function) and not occupy a principal place in the learning process.

Characteristic for OPEDUCA appeared the opportunity for students to present themselves as humans, as social creative beings generating and trying out ideas. Aspects of this being the Study-Team setting which provides opportunity to self-organise and the external visits that require planning, presentation, composure, constitution of an approach, evaluations in direct contact with others. As empathy and personal attention require personal contact, conversation and discussion realising convincing communication, the on first sight old fashioned people-based learning proved invaluable.
The effectuation of the concept of Partners in Education contribued substantially as the exchanges infuse applicable (subject-)content, see to skill-development in a practice informed way, supply a sense of reality and enhance if not ignite a student’s motivation. Further people-to-people settings such as the presentations to peers and live-audiences highly motivated students and offered additional pedagogical value
as they were required to re-capitulate the learning itself. The various moments
of presentation furthermore worked effectively for the development and training of competences such as public speaking, the formation of attitude and composure,
the ability to listen to, understand and respond to questions, to hold ground when ones thinking and position is critically challenged.

During BusinessClass students were seen to practice Arts for the design of products and services, expressions of value, the design of a logo – not by way of tasks set out for them but resulting from their tries for useful application.

Although it can be argued the failure of school leadership to establish fruitful
external educational relations calls for internal quality structures (Mogren, 2019),
we found connections with society to be condition for such as they inform what qualities inside school are called for and offer crucial support in the accommodation of the educational relationship and later transition. Building internal quality structures around incapable actors will contribute to school’s inertia. As ESD-based Education makes it possible to opt for a Whole Student- over a Whole School Approach, choosing students over structures, valuable educational connections that merge school and society will result from the learning process. Alike, it is important not to (over-)value Social Learning as an approach to ESD but as an inherent quality of such learning.

ESD-based Education furthermore improves formal education as it:
- realises efficiency-gains through the integration of otherwise stand-alone projects and assembled educations such as STEM and Environmental Education,
- absorbs otherwise separately organised educations that seek to meet the bewildering array of unconnected renewals and innovations, the ‘Learning Continuum for ESD’ useful for the prevention of paranoia on missing out,
- incorporates the development of transversal skills and any listed under the guise of 21st-century skills and ESD-competences, saving teacher- en student-capacity for the core of the learning process,
- re-valuates traditional subjects, resolving inefficient tensions between the disciplinary silo’s,
- increases teaching capacity following the re-valuation and re-positioning of the profession in combination with the introduction of educators from Partners in Education,
- has a dampening effect on the prevailing conflict between constructive and instructive pedagogies, freeing scarce capacities from on an ongoing polarised discussion,
- can in principle be built from present practice given teachers’ close involvement in its conception and testing, therewith avoiding unnecessary and drastic changes to reach innovations sought for.

The curriculum-independence of ESD-based Education makes it stand clear from influences and alterations by political, religious and other motivations. Put otherwise, it realises a more objective, science- and experience-based curriculum.
Not commanding a ‘learning of knowledge’, students engage in a process that includes moments of self-clenching when first comprehension requires correction to obtain fuller understanding. Being wrong, misinterpreting, running into walls, offered opportunity to from there even more profoundly grasp meaning and develop own ideas, values and critical judgement. A quality of ESD-based Education that allows students’ creativeness, fantasy, openness and courage to be deployed, to face the future with broadest of opportunities. Thereto a school should enable them to develop trust in oneself and strengthen own judgement, not through prefabricated activities but by accepting a natural, divers, if not ‘wild’, learning process.
Certainly when Flight for Knowledge and BusinessClass expand to Global and students literally unfold their wings and senses further while having obtained firm ground to stand in, grew roots in regional society, the cross-border spread of ideas and exchanges delivered further proof of concept ESD-based Education has the potential to bind us in a local-to-global perspective for the effectuation of ESD.


What are requirements and blockades
to effectuate ESD-based Education?

The main requirements for effecting ESD-based Education are the operationalisation of a multi-disciplinary alliance that provides for Partners in Education, a school’s determination to organise education on its own in an integrated way and the development of educator-capacity through an ongoing professionalization of its teachers. The construction of a multi-disciplinary partnership demonstrated that a wide variety of cultures and people encaptured in different nations en systems can embrace a joint perspective on ESD, pointing to a common if not universal pedagogical core. The articulation and sharing of this core can be seen an important requirement for ESD-based Education as it strenghten a school’s belief in own capacity. Underlying, ESD appeared in need of an education of itself, leading to a re-conceptualisation that provided for a vision and applicable strategy. Approaching ESD as truly interdisciplinary, both on content (the variety of fields of knowledge and disciplines) and pedagogical (merging learning philosophies and ways of teaching) enables ESD-based Education, bringing ESD to the core of human development through education.

The blockades being the mirror image requirements, government policy can be a complementary hinder if the cacophony around schools it not profoundly curtailed. Schools being criticized and scrutinised per definition, require public, if not otherwise private, protection against a multitude of double-faced and hypocrite initiatives dominating what has become an educational marketplace.
ESD-research and policy-development can play a critical role in this regard if able
to take distance from any sanctimonious attitude themself. Students and their educators cannot be ‘taught’ a worldview from out an academic ivory tower but can be guided to develop one, a mission requiring people with personality and understanding wrought in life’s practice, tried and assessed in the world themselves. Such qualities cannot be arranged by building further programs, structures and the reshuffling of roles in institutions, not commanded by research strange to life itself.
We concluded there is no reason to approach ESD as an add-on to regular education or a mere modern-day version of Environmental Education. Nor is it sensible to create a place for ESD in the confused constellation surrounding and penetrating formal education; such is a strategic mistake as it tempers its potential to deliver a coherent pedagogy. The constellation around schools presents a clear and present danger
as it disqualifies contemporary education without supplying better, erodes a school’s transition capacity and leaves it behind worn out in need of more external consult and services. We observed from nearby how a delicate system bursts under
the pressure of external influence, chasms allowing for eruptions of deceptive innovations.

A school leader can be a main supportive factor if she has an unobstructed vision and consistently demonstrates managerial qualities in sound relationship with her teachers. In 15% of cases we experienced the risk of building on school leaders who, encapsulated in the presence, tried to meet innovations spelled out by others.
It is more important the school leader is the backbone the transition than the promotor of ESD. Also from a managerial perspective, the road of progress is founded on self-confidence to be(come) self-sufficient. A challenge that can effectively addressed by application of the OPEDUCA-concept, being built and accepted by practitioners as a better pedagogical alternative.
Starting an innovation program with an effort that centres on curriculum and instruction is the most effective strategy for getting teachers effectively interested and involved. Even where organizational variables, such as morale or climate, need to be worked on, these should usually come after teachers have been excited about an innovation that reaches into the pedagogic core (Louis & Miles, 1990).

Instead of worsening the pressure the curriculum exercises by burdening it with ESD-competences, ESD-Based Education can and should be allowed to ‘crack’ the curriculum through the introduction of transdisciplinary learning that also protects
it from upcoming outside modernisations. Present day curricula can be respected, should not be perceived as a blockade and certainly not made into one. The power of contextualisation, therewith the generation of relevance which in turn feeds students’ motivation, causally relates to the re-conceptualisation of ESD informing learning from an overarching natural order of phenomena. As students experience a ‘re-built’ while they study along the dimensions Earth, Wellbeing and Welfare, logically place and gain understanding of natural and social phenomena, they touch on every curriculum element and perceived ESD-competence in a most ordinary and effective way.

A ‘Whole School- or Institution Approach’ appears not an ‘ESD approach’ but a typical institutional response of a system not conscious of itself, having fallen to pieces and trying to glue itself back in place. Pressing such a pretentious idea on present day schools as a concept for improvement comes down to overplaying a too vague, overly complex and therefore costly concept, risking circumvention of the essential focus on learning and therewith standing opposite to ESD. A school should not merely consider but face society and seek the integration of its education, not becoming encapsulated in even more formal relations, structures and processes that have the capacity to grow into new parts of a system justly criticized. Where a lack of vision and missing pedagogical understanding informs such escapes away from a true transition, modern day preaches in ESD can become a magnificent blockade for progress.

Although the OPEDUCA Project can be regarded successful in terms of a shared vision, commitment, the applicability of the concept and the alignment with schools’ own as well as (inter)national policies, a full-fledged implementation requires schools to withstand a multitude of external influences and demands to maintain focus on the joint learning process of the teacher and student. Seeing the school as supportive thus ancillary to the students’ learning and teachers’ manifestation of education, its initially restrictive organisational weight needs to be exposed, faced and dealt with. At the end of the day the effectuation of ESD in formal education is not about the curriculum, any understanding of ESD-competencies or about the overarching system. Progress towards ESD-based Education is about effectively addressing the lack of professionalism to properly organise the transition and thereto stay upright in an over-demanding world in which social validation rules educational quality.
A school’s inclination to over-organise ESD or by default add superfluous (project-)structures, cuddly activities or rules of engagement, drains capacity, suffocates teachers’ efforts and neglects students’ potential.

ESD-based Education offers a coherent and steady development if it is understood as a foot-and stronghold to awaken and strengthen a school’s natural dedication for future relevant education. However, since a transition eventually touches on multiple aspects of present institutions and the system, it in principle cannot be undertaken incremental as such will lead to a wavering and eventually faltering process.
The 3-fold of interventions around the schools (the ‘layers of fog’, ‘ cacophony of innovations’ and ‘waves of change’) stapled on a school’s natural inertia, protective environment and limited professionalism, delivers a cocktail of mutually reconfirming restrictions on the schools’ transition capacity. The existing plethora of ideas, concepts, approaches, products, services and alike that swarm education and schooling, together with an administrative fungus layer in which ideas and interests are entirely cross-linked (Bommeljé, 2020) eventually make the ‘waves of change’ become a perfect storm. Teachers not hiding in towers of disciplines and school leaders keeping their feet on the ground despite the array of external demands,
are confronted with working conditions that drive good teachers and principals to become renegades or out of the system altogether (N. Stone, 1991). Consequently, external parties’ business cases can be deployed, further divert a school’s course and impoverish its cause. At the root of this we observed and directly experienced too meagre managerial capacity and professional identity of both school leaders and teachers, poor self-governance leading to a proliferation of managers, advisory firms, councils and experts who intertwine and live in symbioses with the governmental system. Consequently, school development from out the present can be regarded a near unsurmountable challenge. As we observed a culture resisting change able to neutralize energy (Cuban, 1984; Sarason & Sarason, 1982), resting within a self-inflicted culture that deteriorates transition potential, I argue it are not new governance models and structures what is called for, but a good scrubbing and decomposition of the present constellation in and around schools, for as then not much will remain in need of such new models and structures.

Since the OPEDCUA-concept springs from present-day education, combining best of knowledge and experience in the fields of learning, education and schooling, it offers a framework for improving formal education by ways of a gradual and consequent transition, maintaining proven values. The ‘Soll’-position thereto needs to be outlined and communicated openly and persistently while bringing ideas to practice as swiftly as possible. Keeping options open will lead to a wavering, ever more doubtful process and eventually abandoned improvements. Releasing that the history of education reform is one of consistent failure (Pogrow, 1996) the pathway of progress cannot be built with the same bricks nor laid by those walking on it. Although OPEDUCA was not intended to be and cannot serve as a readymade program (the concept is not an automat), it can initiate movement and momentum to break free from present structures and limitations, guide a strategic development. Embedding the OPEDUCA-instruments, folding them together the way conceptually intended, sees to a consistent development of ESD-based Education as an organic whole that makes each come to full effect. Once the cooperative of teachers and Partners in Education is in place, the effectuation of Flight for Knowledge will be the first and most invasive change as it already manifests a student-centred setting of the learning process,
sees to Study-Teams, requires adaption of facilities, involves educators and opens regional society to students’ learning. Implementing BusinessClass is then less demanding and disruptive, Global following naturally and requiring the fewest of additional changes. After it initially served as introduction and training in the application of the other instruments, OPEDUCA MasterClass is to be positioned as starting point and ongoing manifestation of teachers’ further development.

A schools should set itself free for ESD, meaning unproductive pressure should be lessened, also on teachers’ short-term performance. If not, qualitative gains suffer from quantitative requirements, the lingering pressure of schoolish characteristics eventually limiting unqualified success. In case teachers are (implicitly) required
to intermediately ‘show for what they are doing’ by material evidence, they are seen to create metaphor-projects, activities that go from initially energy-collecting to attention-distracting, up to a level where the metaphor takes the place of the more profound education envisioned.
Overlooking practice in over 16 countries, schools are poorly if at all guided in ESD. National programs aiming for more-year perspectives were seen to lead to numerous short-lived initiatives leaving no imprint. When a lack of vision is covered up by a potpourri of projects (‘letting a thousand flowers blossom’), ESD-researchers and policy-developers become a major blockade for the implementation of ESD as they deliberately create and uphold delusions. Initiatives originating or resulting from (semi-)governmental programs, including Centres of Environmental Education as well as various from the private sector supported by public means, too often add to and benefit from a self-installed phenomenon that positions schools as needy and incompetent, a sad practice leaving both ESD-policy and -practice in a weak state.

In how far is the concept in line with present-day science and policy-development in ESD?

The OPEDUCA-concept is in line with a vast body of research and scientific reasoning, namely stemming from the era before ESD reached the spotlights. It concurs with publications in the earlier years of the field that plea for a link between (formal) education and sustainable development and is confirmed in a range of publications since then. Although the non-conformist approach generated frictions with(in the world of) contemporary ESD, it opened defining new insights and horizons.
Contrary to mainstream ESD, the OPEDUCA-project included the construction of a vision, strategy and instrumentarium, putting academic knowledge to work and in service of practical validity. It was the first approach to see ESD as an ongoing learning pathway throughout formal education, a clear focus on youth, not reject industry, materialise the key-role of teachers and put learning for sustainable development at the base of education.

The OPEDUCA-concept is in line with the notion interdisciplinarity is a foundation for ESD (Feng, 2012) and sustainability a cross-cutting-priority that can serve as a pivot for cross-curricular teaching and learning (Dyment et al., 2015). The ESD-based Education the concept effectuates has the potential for a comprehensive reform through the reinvention, reorganisation and revitalisation of the entire school into an equitable and educationally excellent place (Borman, Hewes, Overman, & Brown, 2003). It allows to take a stand against a too widespread policy-focus on curriculum, testing and assessment (Lingard et al., 2003). OPEDUCA being built by teachers acknowledges that collegiality and collaborative engagement are important parts of teacher development (Emihovich & Battaglia, 2000), professionalisation a conditio sine qua non.
Starting out from a penetration vision and in collaboration with local surroundings the OPEDUCA-project and -concept see to the incorporation of sustainability instead of fragmented add-on’s, enhancing the students’ capacity for independent an critical thinking (W. Scott, 2013), real-life learning elements giving way to continuous associations and references between what is lived, experienced and conceptualised while also allowing for more concrete observations (Paivio, 2013).
Where the OPEDUCA-concept remains to differ is that it doesn’t require sensations of complexity and uncertainty as motive, positioning transdisciplinarity learning as a logical consequence of studying future defining themes and real world phenomena, not visa versa. Given the transdisciplinary essence of learning, it is not a precondition for ESD but the consequence of understanding ESD-based education.

By comparison, contemporary ESD remained entangled in the academic discourse, became institutionalised and needlessly normative and descriptive. Given a lack of vision and an applicable pedagogy it seeks resolve in skills- and-competences listings, lets a thousand flowers blossom despite the risk of a proliferation with weed.
In desperate search for a (funded) role, ESD became positioned in competition with (semi-commercial) add-on solutions like STEM while denouncing the roots of Environmental Education to remain with the refurbishment of schools through a system- and institution-driven ‘Whole School Approach’. While still neglecting the learning- and ownership perspective of youth, the failure to bring ESD to initial- and further Teacher Training- and Education stands out as the most prominent failure thus far and most magnificent challenge ahead.
Contemporary ESD’s focus on system elements I regard a try to add components to an ill functioning machinery, a disregard of challenges schools faces already. There are countless efforts seeking to ‘screw’ ESD into the educational system by ways of defining competences in their own right, degrading it to the promotion of the SDG’s or trying to influence the composition and contents of curricula and textbooks. Furthermore, we continuously met argumentations to build on the importance
of Systems Thinking and Social Learning, ideas kicking in wide open doors.
Although I underline the need for integrative thinking, multidisciplinary perspectives, awareness of system dynamics and learning with, from and through each other,
these qualities are not unique attributes of ESD given their universal logic and application in an array of older disciplines and practices.


Seeking a place under the sun, researchers- and policy-developers try to place ESD
as another assembled education, tambouring its importance by ways of stressing the urgency of sustainable development, lately headlining Climate Change, Equality,
the eradication of poverty and the like. Next to our finding that the drive and motivation to articulate the importance of ESD in all possible ways is not strange to scholars and consultants in search for funding or position (practices that truly put the cart before the horse), such shopping around with ESD leads to misunderstanding and its devaluation. The promotion of ESD as such is not a wise course since it,
unlike other domains (like STEM, Culture, ICT or Language-promotion), per definition lacks a single disciplinary relationship, nor does it serve a specific interest group, factors relevant for popularisation, positioning, funding and esteem. To formulate it otherwise, there are no specific teachers, customers or sponsors ESD can be sold to. And that is exactly why education can be built on it.

Depriving ESD from its essence and depraving it to a tool by creating and promoting ready-to-go and take-away activities, merely contributes to the outer appearance
of the students’ learning process. Selling ESD out to STEM or reverting it to Environmental Education will lead to its degradation, as does UNESCO’s recent choice to put ESD at the service of SDG-promotion. This moreover since, despite transformative language used throughout the discourse and agenda, also the SDGs primarily espouse a pro-growth model of development and a utilitarian approach to education. For SDG 4 to contribute to sustainable development and transformation, there must be a shift in the dominant educational discourse so that issues of social and environmental justice are placed at the heart of educational priorities (Brissett & Mitter, 2017). A longer-term focus on the essence of learning in the context of sustainable development can inform a practicable education as the essence of ESD. The ESD-based Education proposed sees to a normative based on an education strategy that includes practical instruments to effectuate learning from experiences, students being and becoming more involved in addressing real-world sustainability problems (Brundiers & Wiek, 2011; Cortese, 2003; Rowe, 2007).


The OPEDUCA-concept was seen to address each and meet most conditions and characteristics proposed by ESD-researchers and policy-developers over the years yet differs in grounding principles and provides for a more practical orientation,
a multi-disciplinary reality and applicable pedagogy. Namely the direct people-based approach proved to be an advantage over a sole academic development as it was beneficial by ways of direct and continuous access to daily reality. Literally developing at the inside of schools, industry and other organisations, allowed for a multitude of diverse observations and exchanges that without further ado led to a wide and deep involvement of practitioners. Two aspects characterising an effective bottom-up approach of ESD.

In contrast with the amount of research between the start of the OPEDUCA-project and now (J. Moore, 2005; Van der Dussen Toukan, 2018), policy papers speak of the importance of youth yet hardly regard their interest. Students seen to be taken serious only in the smallest pockets of policies and too often as objects of assimilation in our present way of doing or to promote adults’ efforts in the realm of sustainability. Now that youth at last becomes more central in ESD, also the contribution of the OPEDUCA-project and -concept to a local-to-global learning space by way of virtual school-to-school exchanges is finally acknowledged (Hopkins, 2021), although such took over a decade.

Contrary to a broadly held idea in the ESD-research community visions are per definition situated as schools and communities are inserted in unique cultural and social contexts (Espinet, 2014), the OPEDUCA-project proved the importance and effectiveness of a joint vision on ESD. The idea that school-community collaboration should require a diversity of mandates and regulations through norms and legal instruments, obstructs and smothers ESD, restricts its transformative potential. Contemporary thinking challenges can be met and improvements realised by adding structures, processes and institutions, is one of the most profound differences with the OPEDUCA-concept which follows the natural process of students’ learning in a less unregulated way, acknowledging the value to learn about and with cultures, living languages, learning to relate and learning to belong (Pike, Selby, & Selby, 1988).

Presently, ideas are converging, amongst others reflected in recent OECD-publications (OECD, 2016; Stengel, 2020) or by way of for example the
‘Holism-Pluralism-Action-orientation ESD framework’ (Sinakou, Donche, Boeve-de Pauw, & Van Petegem, 2019) which also addresses the lack of an integrated conceptual framework in the field of ESD and builds on action-taking, students’ leadership in their learning, community involvement and interdisciplinarity.

Questioning to what extend OPEDUCA is in line with present day research- and policy development in ESD, it also needs to be concluded there is a profound difference
in openness and cooperative attitude. Since we stood open to and welcomed contributions of practice and the broader world of science, ever more critical-constructive standpoints entered the scene and continued to do so also after this study was formally concluded. Having been ahead of time for likely 10 years or more, insights and convictions that already found their way to the formal realm of ESD
will likely be followed by further values found and then broadly shared in the years to come.  

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For academic reference and publications: Eussen, J. F. G. (2022). ESD-based education - https://doi.org/10.26481/dis.20220201je - ISBN 9789464235906