Textbooks For Sd: Social Responsibility Of Authors


Achievement Goal 4, that formulates, as is known, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” - deal with transforming the entire school environment for sustainable development. SDG Target 4.7. - providing the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve sustainable development - is based on transforming the entire school environment through education for sustainable development. Incorporating education for sustainable development into mainstream curricula is most efficient way to achieve goal 4.7. This requires the creation of new generation textbooks. According to the Global Education Monitoring Report 2016, the content and methodology of school textbooks often falls short of expectations. Still updating the content of textbooks is relevant for all countries. The article raises the problem of social responsibility of the authors of textbooks for embedding the fundamental concepts of sustainable development in educational materials in order to develop knowledge, skills and behavioral results necessary for sustainable development. The article presents an analysis of Russian textbooks from the point of view of terminological, semiotic and cultural approach. The ways of improving school textbooks to achieve sustainable development goals, taking into account the characteristics of culture and the national education system, are proposed. Key questions for authors have been developed to test their textbooks for ideas on sustainable development.

Keywords: School textbookeducation for sustainable developmentsustainable development goalssocial responsibility


Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and to foster lifelong learning opportunities for all. Education for Sustainable Development is a leading area of educational transformation worldwide. SD goals and targets are universal, meaning they apply to all countries around the world, and people everywhere have a role to play.

People must learn to understand the complex world in which they live. They need to be able to collaborate, speak up and act for positive change (UNESCO, 2015).

Textbooks represent a largely untapped opportunity to integrate peace, global citizenship and sustainable development issues into formal education. However, even in our increasingly digital age, school textbooks remain "the most visible part of the curriculum" and they are the most "authoritative sources for the transfer of knowledge and social values" (Georgescu, Bernard, & Peterson, 2007, p.5).

Textbooks present a largely untapped opportunity to integrate peace, global citizenship and sustainable development into formal education. Clearly, textbook-led curriculum development alone is not sufficient to foster the skills, dispositional and behavioral learning outcomes called for by ESD. But even in our increasingly digital era, school textbooks remain ‘the most visible part of the curriculum’ and they are the most “authoritative sources for the transfer of knowledge and social values” (Georgescu, Bernard, & Peterson, 2007, p.5-7).

Problem Statement

The UNESCO issue named “Global Education Monitoring Report Education for People & Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures For All” (UNESCO, 2016) noted that education is the foundation of global well-being. It calls for these core values to be incorporated into national guidelines used in textbook revisions and taught in workshops for textbook authors and illustrators. Policy Paper Global education monitoring report “Textbooks pave the way to sustainable development” mainly draws on new analysis for the 2016 GEM Report (UNESCO, 2016). It stressed that few instruments shape children’s and young people’s minds more powerfully than the teaching and learning materials used in schools. However, “textbooks in many countries still fail to deal comprehensively, clearly and fairly with concepts that are crucial for social cohesion, political stability and the future of the planet, including human rights, environmental protection, peace and non-violence, and cultural diversity” (Sinicrope, Norris, & Watanabe, 2007; UNESCO, 2018). It was concluded that all governments should urgently review and revise their textbooks to ensure that the content covers these ideas, which are integral to SDG Target 4.7. The issue named “Textbooks for Sustainable Development - A Guide to Embedding” (UNESCO, 2017) provide specific guidance for textbook authors in mathematics, science, language and geography on how to “embed” peace, sustainable development and global citizenship in textbook content. The embedding concept was further developed by Chapter 6. PISA 2018 Global Competence Framework, 2019 (OECD, 2019). In early 2017, a group of international scholars and practitioners came together to promote the integration of SDG Target 4.7 topics and related social and emotional skills (SEL) into textbooks. With the help of the International Society for Education (CIES), UKFIET 2017, UCL Institute of Education (2017) and George Washington University (2018), a soft start was given to the Network for Integrating SDG Target 4.7 and Socio-Emotional Learning into Teaching Materials (NISSEM) as a resource for promoting action on SDG Target 4.7 (Textbooks, 2017).

Research Questions

Do textbook authors understand their social responsibility for creating educational materials in the context of ESD?

What questions to the content of textbooks will help them to navigate?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to substantiate the key questions that the authors of textbooks should ask themselves in order to analyze their compliance with the content of task 4.7.

Research Methods

Analysis of the textbooks content was quantitative, semantic, linguistic and pedagogical. Quantitative analysis determined the percentage of textbooks that contain the terms "sustainable development", " sustainable development goals". Semantic analysis was qualitative. It aimed at identifying ideas of environmental and moral imperatives; environmental determination of socio-economic development; green economy; sustainable development goals; human rights; global problems of humanity; peace and values of all cultures; natural and cultural heritage in their relationship; environmental, social, economic and cultural ties; connections of the present with the past and future; global citizenship; United Nations. Linguistic analysis was aimed at revealing the hidden meanings of the relationship between man and nature. Pedagogical analysis inspected pedagogical design (construction of content) of textbooks based on the cultural model of V.V. Kraevsky, M.N. Skatkin, I. Ya. Lerner. This model, developed in the 70-90s of the XX century, provides for the combination of the cognitive, social-emotional and behavioral components of education as a whole. School textbooks of elementary school (Environment), basic and high school (Social studies, Geography) were analyzed.


A policy paper by the “Global Education Monitoring Report” (UNESCO, 2016) has called on governments to review and revise the content of their textbooks urgently, in line with the core values of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It calls for these core values to be built into the national guidelines used during textbook review and taught in workshops for textbook writers and illustrators. Sustainable development concept should gradually become the value centre and common point of reference for all school subjects, structures and activities. The orientation of the whole school towards this principle should find ways into new textbooks. More than any other education target, Target 4.7 touches on the humanistic and moral purposes of ESD, and their reflection in curricular contents and teacher preparation. The target also acknowledges the important role of culture and the cultural dimensions of education: “By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s” (SDG, 2014).

NISSEM notes that integrating the SDGs and socio-emotional competencies into textbooks ideally should start at a young age (Sinclair, 2018).

We analyzed federal textbooks for elementary, basic and secondary schools. It is important that one of the conditions for the approval of a textbook at the federal level is its compliance with the state educational standard. A quantitative analysis showed that none of the primary school textbooks contains, like the standard, the words “sustainable development”, “sustainable development goals”.

A conversation with one of their authors of the textbook revealed the author's conviction that the mention of sustainable development in school textbooks of all levels is premature, since "nobody knows what it is." The Geography textbooks, like the standard, contains the term "sustainable development" for certain years of study, in contrast to the Social Studies textbooks, in which such a mention is absent.

Semantic analysis of textbooks showed that the idea of the ecological determination of socio-economic development is not formed at any level of education. The mention of a green economy is only found in the textbooks Geography, not Economics. The topic of human rights is covered in Social Science subject. All textbooks contain themes of global problems of humanity, but the role of the United Nations in solving them is not presented, as well as the goals of sustainable development.

Meanwhile, the problems of climate, biodiversity, environmental pollution, natural heritage are present in Geography and are considered there, as a rule, in the mainstream of science. Social studies textbooks pay much attention to the issues of peace, the values of all cultures, but the issues of global citizenship are not mentioned. Environmental, social, economic and cultural ties are poorly represented, as well as the theme of the future. Awareness among the authors of textbooks about the concept of sustainable development and SDGs is superficial, most of them are convinced that this topic is "minor", not a priority.

Some teachers consider SD ideas as foreign, not suitable for our country; do not understand that the foundations of sustainable development were created by brilliant Russian scientists - V.I. Vernadsky, N.N. Moiseev and many others.

A linguistic analysis of pedagogical discourse textbooks for elementary, basic and senior schools showed the high (40%) quantity of educational metaphors, indicating the militarization of environmental consciousness. They reflect dread, confrontation, struggle with nature. It is disturbing because such attitude can torpedo actions for achievement SDG Target 4.7. The anthropocentric, utilitarian view of nature dominates, although the ideas of value of all living beings are formally proclaimed. In the lower grades, environmental education continues to be conducted by eyes of writers - hunters. Global problems are analyzed in the context of diverse academic subject, without connection with each other, mainly within the natural sciences. The humanitarian deficit in textbooks is of great concern. The ideology of sustainable development and global citizenship he is represented poorly. Pedagogical analysis of textbook texts showed that they are science-centered. The content is mainly represented by a cognitive component; the cultural socio-emotional component is minimal, unsystematic and not continuous (Ivanova, 2018).

Thus, the content of school textbooks remains far from the SDGs, their authors broadcast their own, sometimes destructive view of the relationship between man and nature. The results of the study lead to the conclusion that textbooks need updating in accordance with SDG 4.7, this task should be considered a priority for the authors of school textbooks and included in the social responsibility as the task of their education and self-education. In higher education, we see the opposite, positive trend. About 100 universities implement SD courses in the country. Do they cope with the problem of re-education, persuasion of students, SD values formation? In any case, the spread of SD principles in the population minds has not yet reached a critical mass.

What kind of textbook content updating is needed?

Systematic and vector. This does not mean the rejection of subject teaching, a depreciation of subject knowledge and skills. The textbooks content updating means their orientation to a new target setting, adding new values to the existing content without compromising the quality of subject learning, but with an increase in this quality, since new values are opened in educational topics – how to “live together on the planet with common respect for human dignity, understanding global peace and building our own future” Georgescu, Bernard, & Peterson, 2007). Such textbooks don’t moralize, but create conditions for students to search for their own meanings, form beliefs and awareness of decision-making (Willingham, 2008).

The issue “Textbooks for Sustainable Development - A Guide to Embedding” (UNESCO, 2017) aims to support textbook authors and publishers in preparing a new generation of textbooks that integrate ESD.

According to this Guidebook, “we need education that empowers learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society, for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity “(UNESCO, 2014). This guide builds on the work of ESD and related areas such as global citizenship education, peace education, human rights education, environmental education, global education, and others.

ESD is not a bolt that is artificially screwed to the subject content, it is an embedding exactly (UNESCO, 2015).

According to this Guidebook, “while being critical of the ‘bolt-on’ approach, embedding can be seen as long-term goal achieving ‘whole-system redesign’” (Textbooks…, 2017). The ultimate goal is to integrate ESD into all forms of education so that it becomes an undeniable, fundamental value and social norm. Embedding is the reorientation of the content of academic subjects so that they serve a global purpose.

This deep embedding of ESD content will contribute to the achievement of good learning outcomes, not only in the areas defined by SDG target 4.7, but also in familiar school subjects. Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship must be the main driver of change in education.

Interdisciplinary and integrated approaches to ESD are necessary because the challenges of sustainable development are holistic, cross-cutting and interrelated.

ESD content should be the foundation of each subject, not an addition to the curriculum (ESD goes far beyond education ‘about’ sustainable development)

As Huber & Reynolds says, “schools and their teachers need various forms of support to promote cross-curricular activities: cross-referencing between textbooks of different subjects, developing supplementary materials focusing on key ESD issues that can be used across subjects, instituting a scheme or programme to invite experts to school, curating online clearing houses on useful interdisciplinary teaching and learning resources, and so on” (Huber & Reynolds, 2014).

However, there are problems. They are not about informing about sustainable development, but about changing values, attitudes, and behaviors. Let's name the main problems. First, the mandatory content of the curriculum is usually structured around the key concepts of academic disciplines (Rakhkochkine, 2011). This may be a problem for textbook authors and publishers who want to create a new generation of textbooks that integrate ESD. Secondly, the time resources of each subject have already been exhausted. Third, and this is very important, the inclusion of integrated content in the subject requires special didactic approaches, since the structures of scientific and cultural-centered content are different. Promotion of an interdisciplinary approach needed to establish a TRANS-substantive theory. In addition, each country should take into account the historical features of the national education system in solving this problem.

Indicative list of acquiring ESD competencies is well known. However, their formation is very delicate, even if all the textbooks are aimed at it. In what sequence and in what combination should cross-cutting competencies be developed? How to distribute this process between different subjects, taking into account their specifics? How to distribute between them "explanation", "fixing", "application", if the authors of textbooks do not interact with each other either "horizontally" or "vertically"? But the brain, the child's psyche develops consistently, according to its own laws. "Jumping"over age-related opportunities is harmful.

The promotion of an interdisciplinary approach requires not only special methods (problem-oriented educational situations, for example), but also didactic support - specific models of content construction, pedagogical language, appropriate criteria for selecting content sources, etc

Presenting only the key ideas of SD, SDGs, and ESD competencies to the authors of textbooks is not enough if all of them are not united by deep connections that reflect not only the social demand, but also the peculiarities of national thinking and values.

It is not enough to present to the authors of textbooks only the key ideas of ESD if they are not all united by deep connections that reflect not only social demand, but also the peculiarities of national thinking and values.We are talking about a cross-cutting content, its semantic cross-linking, understandable in the languages of all academic subjects .

Moreover, presenting only the key ideas of SD, SDGs, and ESD competencies to textbook authors is not enough if all of them are not united by essential connections that reflect not only the social demand, but also the peculiarities of national thinking and values. The visibility of such essential, deep, hidden connections between authors, teachers, and students can become the basis of movement from the periphery to the center.

More than 30 years of Russian experience in greening the content of various subjects from the periphery to the center has shown that it is not a fact that the parts form exactly the whole we want. It is possible to integrate cross-cultural results of individual subjects (formulated in the language of these subjects!) only by understanding the deep results of such integration in terms of meaningful settings of behavior. Academician argued that such semantic links should be ecological arithmetic and ethics of a planetary scale (Moiseev, 2010).

SDG learning by various subjects is not enough to form a complete view of the global world and ways to solve its problems. We believe that the periphery-to-center approach will be more effective if it is supplemented by oncoming traffic from the center to the periphery.

To do this, it is necessary to identify the core content of ESD even at the pre-subject level, which combines all subjects, but does not include subject terminology. We will call this the conceptual stage of embedding / infusing.

Further, it is important to "translate" the socio-political ideas of SD, formulated by a theoretical pedagogical language, into a language understandable to children, based on the key universal and national archetypal concepts in their minds. This is the stage of axioms postulating.

But how can we make this language functional for all academic subjects, so that it is embedded in their terminology without breaking it?

We have formulated axioms in the form of short and archetypically significant expressions that are understandable in the language of any subject and are able to organize the identification of meaning for SD in the subject content (environmental "lens"). Five «green axioms» were formulated to reveal the significance of the environmental imperative underlying all the SDGs. The «green axioms» are the same for all levels of learning and for all subjects. But the depth of their content is revealed gradually, consistently, adapted to the age using various metaphors, symbols and allegories. For example, the axiom "Сommon environment, common fate, common responsibility" is based on archetypal concepts that take into account the etymology of the Russian words: common – community, environment - heart and fate – «given from higher power». The axiom can be supported by the content of any educational subject. Teachers are helped by specially designed analogies with famous fairy tales, movies, info graphics, etc., vividly, evoking emotions and various associations. There is no school subject to which the green axioms do not apply.

What is the green axioms? The combination of cognitive, social and emotional components of the content, as well as stimulating reflection in searching for moral principles of action for SD.

This is the next stage, the presentation of green axioms in the language of educational subjects, their specification, animation, finding your examples in your environment, comparing your behavior with them, as well as dialogues, dialogues, dialogues... - between different generations, different cultures, different religions, different sciences, scientists and volunteers, creating the spirit of a new age of Enlightenment (Bennett & Paige, 1993). Moral attitudes of behavior are not imposed, they are interpreted and clarified from year to year by the students themselves, in their native language. For example, a 3rd-grade student answered the question: "Why do we need to preserve the cultural heritage of all peoples?: "These are the bones of history". The green axioms experiment started in 2015 and united 18 regions of the Russian Federation, thousands of volunteer teachers. They are united by the network "Learning to live sustainably in a global world". The all-Russian festival for SD (2019) showed that teachers consider their duty to fill the social and emotional gap in the content of general education for SD.

It allows returning to contents a significant part of forgotten national heritage - natural, cultural, intangible cultural heritage, values and traditional knowledge of Russian peoples, linking it with modern science, fostering wisdom Patrimonito - citizen of the Earth and patriot of Russia as an environmental donor of the planet.

The next stage is the synthesis of movements from the periphery to the center and from the center to the periphery, in which intersubject projects fix metaznaniya and metaumeniya.

What questions will help textbook authors realize their social responsibility in order to integrate SD principles into their content?

Is the author familiar with UNESCO guidance materials on ESD and the experience of ESD in the country? What exactly is used?

Are the main ideas of SD adapted to students using metaphors, symbols, and allegories in verbal and visual forms?

What metaphors, symbols, and allegories are used in the text? Don't they have hidden harmful meanings that contradict the spirit of UR and GG (stereotypes of consumer society, ideas of confrontation between society and nature)?

Do the illustrations have a double reading, hiding the ideas of anthropocentrism?

Is the ESD language used adapted to the cultural concepts and age of students?

(According to our research, the term "Sustainable development" is not understood by Russian children under 17. As an analog, while preserving the content and scope of the original term, we recommend the term "Ecoworld", which is easily assimilated even by children of preschool age. This Russian word «Ecomir» means the Universe, the Earth, the environment, the world of nature, the world of things, society, community, and earthly life, as well as being together, and the absence of war, and harmony).

Is the textbook accompanied by a dictionary for teachers with an explanation of the terms used?

How does the author answer the question: Who is the main one on the planet?

Is the idea of an environmental imperative end-to-end in the text?

Is the content based on cross-cultural dialogues? (between famous personalities; representatives of different generations, as well as from the future; science, art, literature, religion; male and female; different countries and peoples)

Does it form an idea of the role of culture in, for, and like SD?

Are skills formed in the spirit of the New Enlightenment (cultural synthesis based on cultural universals)?

Does the textbook have the features of moralization, offers ready-made moral solutions to the detriment of freedom in the search for their own meanings?

Is there a connection between moral and aesthetic attitudes to the world around us?

Are key cross-cultural skills being developed, including respect, cultural awareness, and empathy ?

Does the text reflect the lines: global civic education, peace education, human rights education, environmental education, development education, Global education?

Does the text reflect fundamental concepts of sustainable development, such as planet, prosperity, people, peace, place and partnerships?

Are there any topics that are relevant to real life?

Is information given about one or more SDGs, the activities of UNESCO and the country for SD, contribution of each individual to the SDGs?

Does the textbook set cognitive learning objects, socio-emotional learning objects, behavioral learning objects? Does the author create conditions for the development of cognitive skills, social-emotional skills, attitudes, or predispositions for actions?

Does the textbook focus on "life skills" and "21st century skills" to promote local, national and global citizenship and sustainable development?

Are SD competencies and global competencies planning to be formed?

Is ecosystem thinking being formed and applied in the text?

Has the textbook interactive and reflective-dialogue approach?

Is the students ' attention focused on critical and reflexive thinking, searching for and discussing moral principles of behavior in the environment? Are there methodological and organizational conditions for this?

Are specific goals and objectives of SD and SDG training formulated in the cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral areas?

Does the textbook follow two lines – the subject line and the end-to-end line for SD?

Does the textbook have a forward-looking, futural character?

Does the textbook contribute to the formation of a complete individual picture of the world, in the unity of its scientific, humanitarian and technological aspects?

Does the textbook encourage conclusions about the ecosystem relationship of environmental, social, economic, and political aspects of life at the global, local, and personal levels?

Does the pedagogical support meet the stated goals?

Does the textbook cause feelings of experience, cognitive and emotional dissonance in connection with the violation of deep-rooted ideas about how the world works (Markus & Kitayama, 1991).


Why is social responsibility of textbook authors for the quality of their textbooks in the spirit of SDG Target 4.7 important? Textbooks pave the way for sustainable development.

If we leave the young generation without adequate education today, we will condemn them and the world to future poverty, environmental destruction, and even social violence and instability for decades to come.

Today's students will have to implement the SDGs and deal with their consequences.

New content must be included in all mandatory and nationally evaluated subjects. To do this, authors should refer to reference materials developed by UNESCO, share their results at the national and international levels in the context of ESD, supported by national examination bodies, to ensure that the content of Task 4.7 and related skills are systematically included in the examinations and assessments of students. As Glasser (2007) succinctly put it, we still have “a long way to go before we can fill the gap between our stated desire for a more sustainable world and our daily actions” (Glasser, 2007).

But we must not stand still.


The study was carried out within the framework of RFBR grant N 19-013-00345 \ 19 " Research of the educational environment as a means of advanced socialization of students in the global world».


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Dzyatkovskaya, E. N., Nesterova, A. A., Dlimbetova, G. K., Mamchenko, A. A., Surkova, N. E., & Sabrekova, M. (2020). Textbooks For Sd: Social Responsibility Of Authors. In I. Elkina, & S. Ivanova (Eds.), Cognitive - Social, and Behavioural Sciences - icCSBs 2020, vol 1. European Proceedings of Educational Sciences (pp. 29-38). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epes.20121.5