NAEE’s manifesto for young people’s learning and the environment was launched in 2022. Its purpose is to build on existing work in schools and colleges and further stimulate change in thinking and practice. Doing this means that young people can be even better prepared to meet the social and environmental challenges they will face through their lives, and be ready to contribute to solving them. The manifesto is aimed at school and college leaders and governors, teachers, pupils and students, and is relevant to policy makers, administrators, inspectors, teacher educators, and NGO education teams.

We asked to critically appraise it. Here’s what Claude said:


  • Holistic approach – Calls for environmental issues to be integrated across subjects and the whole institution, not just an add-on. This enables deeper, more systemic understanding.
  • Focus on experiential learning – Emphasizes learners getting out of the classroom for hands-on investigations, which aids engagement and comprehension.
  • Collaboration – Stresses importance of partnership between all stakeholders (teachers, learners, community, etc.) to advance change.
  • Addressing eco-anxiety – Recognizes rising anxiety levels among youth regarding environmental crises. Educational responses can help empower students.
  • Aligning values and actions – Calls for congruence between sustainability messaging and actual institutional practices. This boosts credibility.


  • Lacks concrete goals/metrics – The commitments are vaguely worded without specific measurable targets. This could limit accountability.
  • Overly optimistic language – Assumes high levels of agency by schools/teachers to transform curriculum, which may not match reality of constraints.
  • Limited discussion of trade-offs – Does not delve into potential tensions between environmental, economic, and social priorities that schools must navigate.
  • Light on policy advocacy – Although it references policy context, the manifesto could press harder for supportive governmental policies and funding.
  • Unclear dissemination strategy – Does not spell out how the manifesto will be spread to the full range of relevant audiences to maximize adoption.

Overall, the manifesto makes a compelling case for strengthening environmental education and provides a values-driven vision. However, achieving system-wide transformation will require grappling with limitations schools face and rallying policymakers to provide resources and flexibility needed for success.


Then we asked it to critique the manifesto from the perspective of someone who supports education for sustainable development. Claude said:

  • Lacks integration of sustainable development pillars – The manifesto focuses heavily on environmental education without adequate attention to economic and social development. These three pillars should be addressed in a balanced way.
  • Environment framed as separate issue – Discussion of environmental topics is often siloed rather than showing how environmental health, poverty, justice, etc. are interdependent issues. This risks reinforcement of nature/society divides.
  • Emphasis on eco-anxiety over agency – Framing around eco-anxiety evokes passive concern rather than active empowerment and systemic thinking needed for sustainability.
  • Limited systems thinking – While collaboration is stressed, the manifesto could go further in teaching complex systems analysis and interdisciplinary problem-solving for sustainability.
  • Individual behavior change focus – Actions seem targeted toward individual responsibility rather than examining how social, political, and economic systems need transforming.
  • Lacks postcolonial perspective – Insufficient attention to indigenous knowledge and worldviews, equity between Global North and South, and historical roots of the crises.
  • Uncritical view of technology – Technological optimism pervades the manifesto; more caution is needed about unintended consequences of technologies.
  • Change rhetoric not structural – Language of “change” and “transformation” dominates over discussing how to achieve the deeper reforms and trade-offs required.

Overall, while well-intended, the manifesto takes a relatively shallow approach to sustainability education. A deeper redesign incorporating systems thinking, postcolonialism, and structural change is needed to truly achieve education for sustainable development.

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