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Higher Education Competences for Sustainable Development Research Paper


The purpose of this article is to make readers aware of recent discussions on sustainable educational developments (SD) from the context of competency-based approaches to higher education. It also explores the sufficiency of competence-based models in terms of how they can help in ensuring sustainable educational and societal transformations.

Published in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, the article deploys the literature review methodology. It examines the available literature regarding the topic under investigation. It bases its arguments on observations made following direct interactions between its authors, policymakers, practitioners, and theoreticians in the discipline of “Higher Education for Sustainable Developments (HESD) and the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UN DESD)” (Mochizuki & Fadeeva, 2010, p. 391).

The article finds educational sustainable development as consisting of sophisticated conceptualizations that are integrated into various educational programs. It also finds that the competency-based model has received intense interest among high educational stakeholders around the globe.

The article has the limitation of disregarding the role of primary data in arriving at reliable conclusions. Relying purely on data published in previous articles may not be sufficient to gauge the capacity of competency-based frameworks to result in sustainable academic and societal revolutions.

In terms of its practical application and social implication, this article is resourceful to policy developers, practitioners, and theoreticians interested in HESD and UN DESD discourses.

This study adds value to the current ESD that has received diverse attention from various players. However, the article emphasizes the need for carrying out a multilevel analysis of the stated competence-based approaches.



The article offers an intense review of the literature regarding competencies for sustainable educational developments. It bases its ideas on recent achievements in this area of research. Hence, it has the strength of not drawing attention to outdated developments as its theoretical basis for determining gaps in the existing literature. This study further offers in-depth perspectives on different international processes by emphasizing the diverse nature of competence-based approaches as they currently apply to ESD. Such considerations support suggestions for future research in the area of educational sustainable development, especially in higher learning institutions.

A “coherent critical multilevel analysis” (Mochizuki & Fadeeva, 2010, p. 391) of international processes that influence higher education sustainable development entails a strong suggestion that arises from arguments raised in the article. This study contributes to the debate on different strategies necessary for implementing ESD and educational sustainability strategies.


The article only deploys a literature review as the research approach. Therefore, it fails to use primary data that reveals differences, relationships, or correlations between different processes influencing sustainable developments in higher educational institutions. Hence, while it amplifies the debate on the basic strategies for implementing ESD coupled with educational sustainability initiatives, no statistical evidence is given to back up the efficacy of such strategies.

Importance and Implications for Society

Higher education plays the role of transforming individuals by ensuring they acquire competencies that enable them to change and lead sustainable lives while at the same time transforming their current and future societies (Dragoo & Barrows, 2016). This article appreciates this role by emphasizing the need for mainstreaming formal educational sustainability by ensuring the continuity and productivity of curriculum in higher learning institutions. The two authors suggest that executing ESD and educational sustainability strategies only occur when the society questions skills and knowledge acquired in any academic facility, activity, or a course. Therefore, the article is important for society since it addresses the need for aligning learning activities with appropriate competencies or outcomes. Thus, it is resourceful to the community because it enables learners to develop the capacity to deal with societal challenges in a positive way.

When reviewing the competence-based approach to education, the two authors criticize the 2005-2014 descriptors for ESD adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization claiming that they focus more on inputs, as opposed to outputs or the necessary outcomes expected of an instructive prospectus (Mochizuki & Fadeeva, 2010). Hence, the article has a bearing on societal demands since it establishes the transformative power of competency-oriented education. The ESD traits identified in the DESD international implementation schemes fail to provide helpful mechanisms for developing educational initiatives that ensure true revolutionary learning. This argument calls upon societies to consider broader and complex strategies for interpreting competency-based education and reflecting on different pedagogies with a view to finding out how this learning approach can be transformed to ensure sustainability in higher education.

According to this article, there are well-established arguments against competency-based approaches to learning. However, it observes that such a critique only focuses on the need for avoiding insufficient and dogmatic interpretations of the concept under study (Mochizuki & Fadeeva, 2010). Therefore, it advocates for the development of an ESD framework that can uphold sustainable development. Such an approach should reflect on holistic worldviews concerning the need for higher learning institutions to revolutionize society.

The article establishes complexities and broader ways of understanding and viewing international processes that shape competency-based learning strategies. Hence, such skills-focused approaches to education guarantee educational sustainability (Bergsmann, Schultes, Winter, Schober, & Spiel, 2015). It encourages higher education institutions to consider diverse theoretical and practical views regarding the development of educational sustainability programs. However, considering this diversity, it is crucial to consider the soundness of different international ESD processes.


Bergsmann, E., Schultes, M., Winter, P., Schober, B., Spiel, C. (2015). Evaluation of competence-based teaching in higher education: From theory to practice. Evaluation and Program Planning, 52, 1-9.

Dragoo, A., & Barrows, R. (2016). Implementing competency-based business curricula in higher education. Journal of Education for Business, 91(7), 374-379.

Mochizuki, Y., & Fadeeva, Z. (2010). Competences for sustainable development and sustainability: Significance and challenges for ESD. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 11(4), 391403.

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IvyPanda. (2020, November 30). Higher Education Competences for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/higher-education-competences-for-sustainable-development/

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"Higher Education Competences for Sustainable Development." IvyPanda, 30 Nov. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/higher-education-competences-for-sustainable-development/.

1. IvyPanda. "Higher Education Competences for Sustainable Development." November 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/higher-education-competences-for-sustainable-development/.


IvyPanda. "Higher Education Competences for Sustainable Development." November 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/higher-education-competences-for-sustainable-development/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Higher Education Competences for Sustainable Development." November 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/higher-education-competences-for-sustainable-development/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Higher Education Competences for Sustainable Development'. 30 November.

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