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Global Learning for Sustainable Development: A Historical Review by CMES Helen Avery

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The review summarizes key findings of 53 peer-reviewed publications, published in English in the period 1994–2020 identified with the search terms “global learning” and “sustainable development”, sustainability or GLSD, respectively.


Despite continued efforts by educators, UN declarations and numerous international agreements, progress is still limited in handling major global challenges such as ecosystem collapse, accelerating climate change, poverty, and inequity.

The capacity to collaborate globally on addressing these issues remains weak. This historical review of research on global learning for sustainable development (GLSD) aims to clarify the diverse directions that research on GLSD has taken, to present the historical development of the research area, and highlight emerging research issues.

The review documented a gradually growing knowledge base, mostly authored by scholars located in the global North.

Conclusions point to what we might achieve if we could learn from one another in new ways, moving beyond Northern-centric paradigms. It is also time to re-evaluate core assumptions that underlie education for sustainable development more generally, such as a narrow focus on formal learning institutions.

The review provides a benchmark for future reviews of research on GLSD, reveals the emerging transformative structure of this transdisciplinary field, and offers reference points for further research.

Nordén, B.; Avery, H. Global Learning for Sustainable Development: A Historical Review. Sustainability 2021, 13, 3451.