Reorienting education practice towards a better future.
The Earth Charter & ESD School Seal (ECSS) is a quality seal pioneer among school assessments since it integrates an ethical perspective of sustainability with the pedagogical elements and education practice associated with education for sustainable development.
Developed by Earth Charter International as a response to requests from education institutions that seek recognition of their work with the Earth Charter and ESD, the overall objective of this School Seal is to serve as a learning tool to galvanize change towards the integration of values and practice of sustainability in the school.
Institutions will be able to assess whether the ethical principles for sustainability expressed in the Earth Charter are reflected in their actions and education practice.
The assessment process provides valuable insights about what is working well in the school and what are areas of improvement in terms of the school’s commitment to sustainability, benefiting the entire school community. It will also be an opportunity to give visibility to the schools that are working towards incorporating sustainability values and principles in their modus operandi through the lenses of the Earth Charter.
We envision thousands of schools worldwide engaging in the ECSS assessment process as a way of improving their sustainability practice, and in turn, helping, with their example, transform the education system in their localities, supporting the implementation of SDG4, target 4.7.
To whom is the Earth Charter & ESD School Seal relevant to?
Just like the Earth Charter, this School Seal can be used by anyone active in the education sector or committed to primary and secondary education. The purpose of the seal goes deeper than just an assessment which eventually offers a recognition. It is an attempt to show alternatives for daily practices, to offer a lens through which an education community’s actions can be analysed and offers inspiration to reflect and adapt.
The ECSS is especially relevant for those education institutions interested in applying a whole-school approach to sustainability, in connection with education for sustainable development, putting in practice SDG 4, target 4.7.
What is the main objective?
The ECSS aims to assess whether education processes that are committed to make sustainability practice central, and which are using the Earth Charter as a guide or framework, are having an impact on the transformation of people’s worldview’s, their behavior and in the institution’s culture. Since intrinsic transformation processes are difficult to measure and quantify, the ECSS measures whether the conditions for transformation and change are given in a school environment. In addition, this Seal aims to be a learning tool that will allow education institutions to reflect on their practices and find ways to improve.
What is an Earth Charter School?
An Earth Charter school is an institution whose actions in all areas are consistent with the ethical and pedagogical basis of this seal. It is a school that strives to be aligned with the ethical proposal of the Earth Charter, and the pedagogy associated with bio learning and education for sustainable development.
How was the EC &ESD School Seal created?
The idea of an Earth Charter quality seal to offer a recognition to primary and secondary education institutions has long been a desire for Earth Charter International. ECI developed EC Assess in 2007, an instrument that is still used and valid. Between 2009 and 2011, ECI participated in a research project with Brighton University to develop values-based assessment framework. These initial frameworks did not focus on education institutions, nonetheless, they were used as the basis of the EC School Seal. This Seal is the product of doctoral research project of Alicia Jimenez, ECI Secretariat staff member, which started in 2016 and has been tested and improved thanks to the participation of student interns, Earth Charter facilitators and educators.
Special thanks to CEUNA School (Costa Rica), La Joya School (Costa Rica), Preparatoria de Rioverde A.C (Mexico), and () for being the first schools to participate and obtain this Seal.
Research on the EC & ESD School Seal
Jimenez, A. (2020). “Building the Foundations of the Earth Charter Schools Seal” Chapter 7. In: Vilela, M; Jimenez, A (eds). “Earth Charter, Education and the Sustainable Development Goal 4.7: Research, Experiences and Reflections” Earth Charter International.
Kemper, J., (2021). “Stimulating Collective Transformative Learning Experiences with an ESD Whole-School Assessment Tool“. Glocality, 4(1), p.5. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/glo.48
Benefits of the EC & ESD School Seal
Carrying out an evaluation process is a learning opportunity, in this sense, with this Seal schools will be able to assess their actions in a comprehensive way using the vision of the Earth Charter and obtain valuable lessons to improve their commitment to sustainability, bringing it to another level. The evaluation process is not intended to be an instrument to judge but to reflect and through this, identify the positive points and possible areas for improvement in relation to the practice of education for sustainable development from an ethical perspective.
The certified Earth Charter & ESD Schools will stand out as schools that make a difference in the lives of students and all members of the education community, and contribute to the betterment of society, especially its surrounding communities.
After concluding the assessment process, the education institution obtains, according to the level acquired, a public and visible recognition (in the form of a logo), which indicates that the school implements concrete actions that put the vision of sustainability articulated in the Earth Charter into practice in their educational endeavors. In addition, each student and staff members of the School will receive a diploma certificate that recognizes that all are part of the success achieved in the school.
The education institution that receives the certificate will receive various other benefits such as:
- appear listed on the official page of the Earth Charter International, and will be widely publicized through different media;
- access to the Earth Charter global network exclusive platform where members from different countries are able to interact and get to know each other;
- invitation to special events (such as webinars, conferences) related to education and sustainability with experts from different parts of the world;
- special discounts for Earth Charter courses.
In addition, given that the Earth Charter has been recognized by UNESCO as an ethical framework for sustainable development and as a tool for educational processes within the framework of ESD 2030, (2003 and 2019), obtaining the Earth Charter School Seal indicates that the school that obtained the ECSS implements education for sustainable development, under the ethical vision of the Earth Charter.
Process & implementation plan
The following requirements must be fulfilled in order to start the assessment process:
- The school must fill in a form expressing its interest in carrying out the assessment.
- The school must have signed an organizational commitment to the Earth Charter.
- The school creates a committee that will implement the assessment.
- Members of the school committee should participate in a capacity-building activity about the Earth Charter (different options available).
The school’s assessment committee will organize the implementation of two instruments, which will be provided after receiving approval to carry out the assessment process:
- A list of indicators that focuses on the culture, structures and procedures of the educational institution, following the whole-school approach for sustainability areas. The assessment committee can evaluate the schools’ performance regarding the indicators on a scale from zero to three. To back up the assessment, evidence that confirms the indication must be provided. There is no limitation to what can be used as evidence, it may be documents, photos, video etc. However, the evidence material must be official and verifiable. The digital assessment sheet provides statistics that visualize the performance of the school based on the indicator categories and the Earth Charter values. Like that, strengths and weaknesses can easily be identified and different categories can be compared.
- A student questionnaire with closed-ended questions, giving insights on the personal experiences of the members of the school community. The questionnaire is to be filled in by a randomly-chosen sample of students (10 years old and above).
The pathways of using ECSS:
1) Official Assessment (obtaining official Earth Charter & ESD School Seal)
In order to obtain the Seal, the school must hire an external verifier, who is certified by the Earth Charter International. The verifier will be the contact person of the school for any questions that may arise. Once the assessment committee has completed the student questionnaires and gone through the indicator list, providing all the evidence in an organized way, the verifier will review the assessment and the evidence to check and confirm the level that the School stands. When the results are officially confirmed, the school will obtain the official recognition Earth Charter School Seal which is valid for two years.
2) Self-assessment (no official Earth Charter & ESD School Seal)
The institution can use the ECSS material in form of a self-assessment to reflect on its practices and gain insights for improvement ideas, without applying for the official recognition at the end of the process. The focus is on using the tool to identify areas of improvement and to engage in a deep reflection process with the entire school community.
Sharing the results:
To process the lessons learned throughout the assessment process, the school can engage in planning future steps, and act in the areas where the assessment process showed possibilities for improvement. Or, reinforce those areas where things are working very well!
The school committee can spearhead a process to convert the assessment results into written manifests that point out the direction of the institution’s futures development. This could be in a form of a strategic plan, an action plan or a mission or vision statement.
It is very important to share the assessment results with the education community. Schools participating in the EC School Seal will receive templates of posters and other graphic ways to share in a simple and attractive way the lessons learned from this assessment process.
Official Assessment (obtaining official Earth Charter & ESD School Seal)
The Schools who want to receive the official recognition of an “Earth Charter School”, will need to cover the costs of the following items:
- Certification fee (includes the assessment materials and basic training opportunities)
- Certificate per student or staff member (optional, only if the school wants to offer a certificate to each one as member of an Earth Charter school).
- External verifier.
Self-assessment (no official Earth Charter & ESD School Seal)
Interested schools can purchase the materials to carry out self- assessment.
Specific information about the cost in US$ will be provided upon request, please contact us [email protected].
Capacity Building Optional Opportunities:
Schools interested in learning more about the Earth Charter pedagogy can request a workshop, or participate in the course and masterclasses offering of the Earth Charter Center for ESD. These capacity building opportunities have a cost, it is possible to offer discounts and scholarships (partial or full) for Earth Charter & ESD Schools members.
Contact [email protected] for more information about these opportunities.
We hope you got motivated to start the Earth Charter School journey! Please fill in this registration form to start the process.