Educating for Sustainability in Language Education

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Most often connoting environmental matters, sustainability has become a notable feature of the discourse of contemporary education worldwide over the last decades. The term sustainability captures the fundamental idea that our human interactivities with the world and its inhabitants must take place in ways that ensure life for future generations. In this plenary talk I trace the histories and ideologies underlying the concept of sustainability. I explore the existing relationships, and those yet to be realized, between education for sustainability and language education. Engaging critically with these relationships as 21st century educators, we need to consider: What do language educators and learning organizations, at all levels, need to know about educating for sustainability? What are the key learning objectives and competencies associated with educating for sustainability? How do we evaluate the impact of language education for sustainability? Will embedding sustainability in language education actually make a difference? To address these questions, I draw on examples from international developments in educating for sustainability. These include sector specific and institutional strategies; adaptations to national educational policies and curricula; and assessment of competencies for sustainability conducted on a global scale. Discussing these examples, I question whether knowledge about global issues and measures of global competencies have the power to make sustainability a reality. Boldly, I suggest that language education with its inherent global and applied perspectives, holds a somewhat unique position from which to offer leading contributions to education for sustainability. In outlining this possibility, I propose ways to implement modest and meaningful adaptations to our language education practices and to our educational leadership. Language education for sustainability may offer us an emancipatory potential to innovate in ways that see us all not only survive but thrive.
Period13 Apr 2024
Event titleEaquals Annual Conference
Event typeConference
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Language Education
  • Sustainability
  • Teacher Education