Development of an ESD Indicator in Germany

To further examine the current state of ESD implementation in Germany, the University of Education in Freiburg recently conducted a study assessing the accessbility of data and the measurability of ESD-relevant teacher trainings.

With the help of an extensive list of ESD-related search items, the research team first identified almost 67.000 teacher trainings in Germany which exhibited a possible relevance for ESD. Using Mayring’s qualitative content analysis, the researchers further analysed the collected data and were able to reduce the number of relevant teacher trainings to just over 3800. They also identified different degrees of ESD relevance.

Through the evaluation, three suitable ESD indicators could be developed for 15 of 16 German Federal States:

  • FESD (formula for the ESD-indicator for teacher trainings) Basic
    The FESD Basic shows the proportion of ESD-relevant Teacher Trainings to the total number of Teacher Trainings offered by the state.
  • FESD Basic, rated
    In additon to the FESD Basic, the FESD Basic, rated also takes account of whether the Teacher Trainings are highly, partially, or potentially ESD-relevant.
  • FESD Pro
    The FESD Pro calculates the degree and frequency of professionalization possibilities for teachers, that is, the highly ESD-relevant Teacher Trainings in relation to the total number of teachers in the country.

By providing relevant and reliable information about the status of ESD development, the indicator can enable stakeholders, such as curriculum developers, teacher educators, school leaders etc. to evaluate how ESD implementation evolves over time. As part a of a larger set of ESD indicators, it can serve to promote comparison of performance, monitoring and data collection and foster benchmarking processes as well as political target setting. It can therefore be seen as an important driver in promoting the structural implementation of ESD.

Nevertheless, the researchers state that the study constitutes only a starting point of suggesting a possible path for ESD monitoring in the field of teacher trainings. To clarify the needs and achievements of ESD implementation in the field of continuing education of teachers, a comprehensive set of ESD indicators should also focus on, for example, ESD competencies.  A shift to the micro level at which ESD effects are measured on outcomes—such as SD-related knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and behavior—is still needed.


In 2015, as part of the national implementation process of the UNESCO Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (GAP ESD), the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) launched a high-scale monitoring campaign of the current state of ESD implementation in Germany. Prof. Dr Gerhard de Haan, Scientific Adviser to the National Platform on ESD, and his team at the Institut Futur of the Free University Berlin monitor the national implementation of the GAP and issue recommendations on ESD. Antja Brock, Research Associate at Institut Futur and member of Prof. Dr. de Haan’s monitoring team, co-authored the study.