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Education for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific: In View of Development Education

Before I encountered Development Education, I had been involved in UNESCO activities, promoting Education for International Understanding. In March 1981, the Japan UNESCO Association sent a group of high school students and teachers to Thailand and Cambodia for about a week. I was one of the members. We visited a slum in Bangkok, a refugee camp in Thailand and a refugee village in Cambodia. After we returned to Japan, students and I visited refugee camps in Japan. The contacts with refugees gave me an opportunity to shift to Development Education from Education for International Understanding. Development Education seemed to focus on problem solving, and I felt Development Education helped to change self, society, structure and system. Development Education was appealing to me in that sense.

When the economy was in good shape a couple of decades ago, even trade union members did not pay attention to the exploitation structure between the north and the south. They worked hard for a better living and they earned what they wanted. Members of the Teacher Union seemed to ignore the problems between the north and the south. They pointed out that there was poverty in this and that country, but they did not relate this to the structure of the world. Pupils and students learned a lot about North America and Europe, but not much about Asia, Africa, South America and the Pacific. Such attitudes meant that they did not understand the problematic issues within Japan, or the 'north and south problem in Japan', either.

Meanwhile, development educators and teachers in Japan tried to introduce global issues into their classrooms. One distinctive aspect showed was that development, the environment, human rights and peace issues are all interrelated. Over-development in the north causes under-development in the south; that is, over-development is linked with under-development. Since we, the people, have caused the gap, no other creatures but we, the people, can change the situation. Education can be conducted in such a way as to inspire future generations. Development educators, therefore, visited Northern and Western Europe, Canada, the US and Australia to search for Development Education resources. Many teachers took part in study tours in Asia. Fruitful materials and methods were introduced into the Japanese educational arena. Translated resources from the UK have become quite popular and influential, especially the participatory learning method has been welcomed and appreciated among some school teachers. Facilitators from UK, US and Australia gave a lot of lessons to earnest teachers. The attitude to bring the new in from overseas allowed many people to think that Development Education is very similar to Education for International Understanding, that is, to teach something about countries overseas.

Now let me give you several examples of what is going on here in Japan in the field of Development Education.
1) In recent years, Japan has seen Asian facilitators from the Philippines, Nepal and so on, which enables us to be closer to our neighbors. One of my friends and I had a talk three years ago to bring Kamal Phuyal to Japan. He's an internationally well-known PRA facilitator for rural development. A PRA facilitator visits a village to help people there by strengthening relationships at the grassroots before embarking on a development project. I find the role of teachers is quite similar to that of PRA facilitators. You only can do very limited things unless you have good relationships in class and in the village. Kamal's first workshop tour was quite successful. He visited schools and universities, NGO meetings and a remote rural village. The PRA tools he introduces stimulate people because they really are 'participatory'. He is not an annual visitor but he visits Japan several times a year, and he is here now.
2) The Kansai NGO Council had a serious discussion with the JICA Osaka International Centre before it launched a joint programme for Asian NGO workers five years ago. Because JICA is a governmental organization, its counterparts had always been NGOs and it was not easy to invite NGO staff with its budget. JICA Osaka was wise and brave enough to decide to start a new programme in cooperation with NGOs around the Osaka area. The NGOs' partial intention was to let the Asian NGO workers know the negative side of development in Japan as well as to give opportunities for Asian NGO workers to meet each other and create a future network. This programme always includes at least two field trips---to Hiroshima and Kamagasaki in Osaka. At Kamagasaki you see many one-day laborers and the homeless. They are the same kind of people that Asian NGO workers see every day in their field. They show their sympathy to them and some weep, or even cry, to find the common people left alone in the same social structure in Japan and in their own countries. This is the moment that every participant shares the issue and begins to work together.
3) The Development Education Study Society in Kyoto has been active since 1989 and we---let me say 'we' because I've been involved in this society from the beginning---have published two books filled with Development Education teaching plans and materials for teachers. And now we have a new plan for a third book. The focus is on issues in our society. Japan's food self-sufficiency rate is 40%---why is that, and what are we going to do?

Is the Japan-US Security Treaty for world peace? What problems do Japanese young people face? These issues are not isolated, but rather a part of the global structure. If we see these issues in global perspective and try to be endogenous, world situation can be a little different. If it were not for US bases in Okinawa, US attacks on Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq would have seen other processes and results. People are just competing to see how fast they can waste resources to make rubbish. We wish to pursue this hope through education. We believe that a globalist is a localist and vice versa, so education about local issues in global perspective can help lead our global society to be sustainable. Development, environment, human rights and peace issues are everywhere. Global issues are matters for which every global citizen is expected to be responsible.

At the Johannesburg NGO Forum last year, we saw a woman from Soweto. She said, "We are willing to improve ourselves in education which will make us to survive end of the day by creating jobs for other people or ourselves." She added, "Please come to our church." The voices of the most people in the world are not yet to be heard. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is an opportunity to listen to their voices and work together with them. Without this, it would end up as another ODA distribution battle. In order to avoid this, and to keep the discussion on human dignity level, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be the priority to fulfill the basic human needs, although the goal is still not high enough.

This article was presented at the International Symposium, Globalism and 'Education for Sustainable Development' in the Asian-Pacific Region on July 31, 2003.
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