From environmental education to education for sustainable development in higher education: a systematic reviewPurposeDesign/methodology/approachFindingsOriginality/value

Publication TypeJournal Article
Año de publicación2021
AuthorsCastellanos, PMAcosta, Queiruga-Dios, A
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Fecha de publicaciónSep-08-2021
KeywordsHigher Education


In education concerning environmental issues, there are two predominant currents in the world, environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development (ESD). ESD is the formal commitment and therefore promoted by the United Nations, to ensure that countries achieve sustainable development. In contrast, EE was the first educational trend with an environmental protection approach. The purpose of this systematic review that seeks to show whether the migration from EE to ESD is being effective and welcomed by researchers and especially by universities is presented. With the above, a global panorama can be provided, where the regions that choose each model can be identified. In the same sense, it was sought to determine which of the two currents is more accepted within engineering education.


The review followed the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyzes parameters for systematic reviews. In total, 198 papers indexed in Scopus, Science Direct, ERIC and Scielo were analyzed. With the results, the advancement of ESD and the state of the EE by regions in the world were identified.


It was possible to categorize the geographical regions that host either of the two EE or ESD currents. It is important to note that ESD has gained more strength from the decade of ESD proposed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. For its part, EE has greater historical roots in some regions of the planet. In turn, there is evidence of a limited number of publications on the design and revision of study plans in engineering.


Through this systematic literature review, the regions of the world that are clinging to EE and those that have taken the path of ESD could be distinguished. Moreover, specific cases in engineering where ESD has been involved were noted.

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