Neoliberalism, pluralism and environmental education: The call for radical re-orientation

Helen Kopnina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development (ESD) researchers and practitioners offer a well-founded critique of authoritarian tendencies and the threat of student indoctrination into neoliberalist values. Neoliberalism advocates economic growth through open markets and tends to ignore sustainability imperatives. Some researchers are also wary of any type of advocacy in education for the fear of indoctrination, warning against using education as a tool for behavioral change, regulated according to predetermined guidelines. This article supports the critics' caution against neoliberalism, which privileges economic development and tends to ignore other concerns. This article addresses the question of how could educators create meaningful EE/ESD programs within or as an alternative to neoliberalism and discuss larger societal implications of transition to more progressive models. It is proposed that educational practice can be more effectively utilized in order to address unsustainable practices, by engaging with the most effective modes of sustainability and particularly important, critically reflecting upon realistic possibilities of decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. It will be argued that we need a more focused EE/ESD that takes as its basis our common future on the planet of finite resources that necessarily need to engage more 'radical' perspectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-130
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Development
Early online date2 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


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