Within and beyond: towards a praxis framework for socially-critical education for sustainable development (ESD) in a community development context

Noguchi, F 2017, Within and beyond: towards a praxis framework for socially-critical education for sustainable development (ESD) in a community development context, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Urban and Social Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Within and beyond: towards a praxis framework for socially-critical education for sustainable development (ESD) in a community development context
Author(s) Noguchi, F
Year 2017
Abstract Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) aims to develop the capacity of all individuals to be socially-critical and take social and political action to achieve sustainable development through all forms of education. However, schooling and the formal education system has dominated ESD policy, research and implementation. Consequently, ESD has tended to overlook the non-formal and informal education processes within community development, which encompasses the empowerment of local people to contribute to sustainable community development. As a result, the experiences, actions and struggles of practitioners and community members, particularly the socially-marginalised, have been silenced, despite its value in advancing socially-critical ESD. This research aimed to bridge this gap between ESD and community development and examined the contributions of critical environmental education (EE) to the policy, research and practice of ESD.

Hence, this research (i) investigated the relevance of critical EE to socially-critical approaches to ESD in a community development context, and (ii) developed a praxis framework so that both fields would be mutually supportive to strengthen the practices. To address these questions, the research conducted a critical ethnographic study of Mopet Sanctuary Network (MSN) in Hokkaido Japan. MSN was established in 2010 by both the indigenous Ainu and non-Ainu people to achieve sustainable community development based on the indigenous fishing rights claim initiated by the local Ainu elder fisherman, Hatakeyama. Through my engagement with MSN as an educator, I attempted to integrate critical EE into the planned ESD activities. The resulting research can be divided into two parts. Each part was guided by a different methodology and produced contrasting results. Part I was described as within socially-critical ESD, to mean that as the educators we were working within the framework of critical EE. The practice of ESD, as conducted by MSN, resulted in ‘patchy empowerment’, whereby a few MSN members were observed to have been disempowered, while the majority were empowered to challenge the current development policies. The disempowerment of the few manifested through Hatakeyama’s irrational behaviour during the process where two groups within MSN conflicted each other over the strategies for Hatakeyama’s rights claim. This was symbolically represented as ‘swing’ of a pendulum. Furthermore, the cause of the patchy empowerment could not be explained using critical theory.

These findings motivated me to go beyond the current theoretical and methodological frameworks for the research in Part II. Part II applied a decoloniality approach to understanding the meaning of knowledge creation and experience learning of the local community from the perspective of the few MSN members who were disempowered, in particular, Hatakeyama. In this attempt, I gained valuable insight into how the power difference between modern knowledge and ‘embodied local/indigenous knowledge’ can significantly influence outcomes, even within inclusive and participatory processes. The concepts of ‘place’, ‘language’ and ‘knowledge’ that made possible the inclusive and participatory process of MSN actually oppressed Hatakeyama and his embodied local/indigenous knowledge, by linking with Hatakeyama’s ‘feeling of inferiority’. Through ESD activities, a part of Hatakeyama’s embodied local/indigenous knowledge was taken out from his local context, translated into modern Japanese (the language of the coloniser), and made to fit into modern knowledge used by the majority of members. During this process, Hatakeyama was compelled to ‘swing’, because none of the conflicted groups represented his knowledge and ways of learning. Thus, patchy empowerment emerged.

This research produced four key findings. Firstly, critical theory, which supports critical EE, has epistemological limitations. Secondly, critical EE, which continues to be dominated by a focus on ‘schooling’, further enhances the epistemological problem of critical theory. Thirdly, this epistemological limitation suggested the necessity to look beyond the perspective of modern knowledge, by taking a decoloniality approach. Fourthly, taking a decoloniality approach helped to establish the epistemology of the marginalised people from their own perspective. Finally, this research proposed a praxis framework for ESD in a community development context. This framework recognised the theory and practice of ESD within communities, with a particular focus on the socially marginalised, and identified the valuable role of the educator in contributing to learning and empowerment for all.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Urban and Social Sciences
Subjects Organisational, Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication
Land Use and Environmental Planning
Environmental Education and Extension
Keyword(s) Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
Community Development
Decolonial methodology
Indigenous Ainu people and knowledge
Epistemological limitation of critical theory
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Created: Fri, 27 Apr 2018, 14:02:37 EST by Denise Paciocco
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