Time and sustainability: a missing link

In our recently published open access paper on “Time and sustainability: A missing link in formal education curricula”, we share the results of our analysis of German curricula regarding in how far these address time as a dimension of sustainability. It is the first attempt at systematically inquiring into the relation between time and sustainability in formal education curricula.

Our research is informed by a perspective on time as an essential dimension of sustainability and its premise of intra- and intergenerational justice. This becomes visible through prevailing sociocultural norms and practices of time use being among the drivers of unsustainability. Educational institutions are one of the main spheres where these norms and practices are conveyed to learners from childhood onwards. It is therefore relevant for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to understand how (formal) education approaches time.

Our paper introduces the concept of time as a resource for sustainability, followed by an analysis of how time in this sense is addressed in German curricula, covering all grades and school forms. Our study shows that, overall, an engagement with time as a resource for sustainability is rare in formal education. Time is most often presented either in the context of ethical reflections on lifetime or in teaching time management skills. Curricula, therefore, mostly perpetuate social norms of time.

Regarding time and consumption, curricular engagement overall is rare. In the rare examples where consumption is discussed, it is presented as a matter of individuals’ leisure.

We share the following implications for ESD:

  • The time perspective is useful for school development. Considering time as a dimension of sustainability provides a connection to whole school approaches for ESD.
  • We consider our findings relevant for future curriculum development regarding the increasing mainstreaming of ESD into formal education.
  • Our analysis might be the starting point for future research on time and sustainability in formal education settings.
  • Finally, our findings might serve as an inspiration for education practitioners to develop teaching materials on time and sustainability – similar to the existing toolkits by Butler et al. (2012) or Grauer et al. (2021)

Grauer, C., Fischer, D. & Frank, P. (2022). Time and sustainability: A missing link in formal education curricula.The Journal of Environmental Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/00958964.2021.2009429

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