What is the status of ESD-integration into Germany´s education sectors? How is ESD being transferred into the education system? These and other questions are systematically assessed by the ESD-Monitoring at Institut Futur (Freie Universität Berlin).

Monitoring - content and context

The German national monitoring on ESD is contributing to an encompassing and differentiated picture of the extent and quality of ESD implementation in Germany. The independent monitoring programme is conducted by Prof. Dr. Gerhard de Haan as the German Scientific Adviser of  the UNESCO programme “ESD for 2030” and his team at the Freie Universität Berlin (Institut Futur). Since its beginning in 2015, the team tracks the status and process of ESD-implementation within the German education system. Based on knowledge synthesis and conducting studies on ESD, the monitoring team derives recommendations for ESD-governance and good practice.

The results are frequently summarized and communicated for policymakers, practice, academia, and the interested public. Through the mobilization of knowledge and its advisory role within the German multi-stakeholder implementation process, the monitoring team directly supports the UNESCO programme "ESD for 2030"  and the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP). The national monitoring is funded by the federal Ministry of Research and Education.

People in a team meeting


By applying different methodological strands (document analysis, qualitative studies, quantitative and mixed-method-studies), the monitoring gives answers to the following questions:

  • What is the status of practical and political ESD-implementation?
  • Which factors support or impede high quality ESD?
  • How well has ESD already been integrated into the different educational sectors (early childhood education, school, vocational education and training, higher education, non-formal and informal learning; and ESD-implementation in local authorities)?
  • How do the different stakeholders negotiate and transfer ESD from projects into the structure of the educational system?
  • Which recommendations may be derived from these insights for policy and practice?

Structure of the nationwide ESD-monitoring:

The monitoring programme at the Institut Futur is split into four modules: While  three research modules (document analyses, qualitative studies, quantitative studies) focus on answering questions regarding the implementation of ESD, the module “Scientific Advisory and Knowledge Mobilization” combines the results of the three research modules and transfers them into the process of ESD-implementation.

Infografik: 2015-2018: Document Analysis I & II, Qualitative Studie I: Interviews on Diffusion of ESD & Leverage Points, Quantitative Study I: ESD in Formal Teaching and Learning Settings; 2018-2020: Document Analysis III, Qualitative Study II: Focus Groups on Governance of ESD, Quantitative Study II: ESD in Non-Formal Teaching and Learning Settings; 2020-2022: Document Analysis IV, Qualitative Study III: Reflexive Monitoring in Action: Workshops; Quantitative Study III: Transformative Learning: ESD in Formal Teaching and Learning, Scientific Advice & Knowledge Mobilization

Institut Futur

Scientific Advisory & Knowledge Mobilization

The work of the national monitoring of ESD is located at the interface between science and the ESD-implementation process, which involves stakeholders from policy, administration, civil society, economy, and educational practice. The scientific advisor and the monitoring team thereby inform relevant bodies and organizations, as well as the interested public on the current status and effective future strategies of enhancing ESD quality and quantity in Germany. By that, the results of the monitoring and knowledge synthesis are communicated for specific groups of actors to make the knowledge applicable to their own work.

Overview of Publications (English)

Document Analysis

Over 4.500 documents from all sectors of education have been analyzed since 2015.  Thereby, an overview has been provided of how deeply ESD has already been anchored in curricula, laws, resolutions, training regulations, study guides and other important documents of the German education system. Through the longitudinal analysis, ESD-related trends were identified within the different sectors of education and areas with a particularly strong need for action could be highlighted. The studies additionally focus on transferring learnings from good examples of ESD-implementation for policy, administration and practice.

For the document analysis, a mixed-method approach is used to assess text passages including keywords such as “ESD”, “Sustainability” or “Sustainable Development”, but also related education concepts (e.g. environmental education, global learning) and perspectives on and from ESD (e.g. Whole Institution Approach, SDGs). Following a longitudinal approach to monitoring, the assessments are regularly updated and published for all sectors of education. The results indicate that ESD is increasingly being implemented within the central documents of the German education system. At the same time, many areas such as the further training of educators remain important fields for additional action.

Within the current project phase (2020 – 2022), all central documents are reassessed for changes and possible trends. Also, an additional focus is laid upon target-group oriented communication of the monitoring results.

Recent publication:

Holst, J., Brock, A., Singer-Brodowski, M., & de Haan, G. (2020). Monitoring Progress of Change: Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) within Documents of the German Education SystemSustainability, 12(10), 4306.

Children on a field with a wind turbine in the background

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Qualitative Studies

Several qualitative studies (interviews, focus-groups) conducted by the monitoring team aimed at a deeper understanding of the implementation and diffusion of ESD within the different sectors of education. Here, supporting as well as hindering factors of putting ESD into practice have been identified. Also, the common patterns of interaction and negotiation processes of different actors bringing ESD from projects into the structure of the education system have been analysed. A central result of these studies is that actors are reflexively moving between structure-immanent and structure-transcending patterns of interaction. Altogether, specific transformation paths could be identified within the process of structurally implementing ESD in the different sectors of education.

Based on these results, the current project focuses on supporting ESD-actors in the process of implementing their goals, particularly through facilitating reflexivity on their own roles and options for action. The module uses the approach of “Reflexive Monitoring in Action”, which aims to empower systemic innovation networks for sustainable development.

Recent Publications:

Singer-Brodowski, M., von Seggern, J., Duveneck, A., & Etzkorn, N. (2020). Moving (Reflexively within) Structures. The Governance of Education for Sustainable Development in Germany. Sustainability, 12(7), 2778.

Singer-Brodowski, M., Etzkorn, N., & von Seggern, J. (2019). One Transformation Path Does Not Fit All-Insights into the Diffusion Processes of Education for Sustainable Development in Different Educational Areas in Germany. Sustainability 11(1), 269.

Quantitative Studies

Conducting large-scale quantitative studies, the monitoring team assesses different dimensions of good ESD-practice from different angles. Thereby, the learners’, educators’, and administrative staff’s perspectives are grasped on questions for quality ESD implementation including facilitative as well as constraining contextual factors for ESD. Results show, for example, that learners and educators wish for significantly more ESD in educational practice than is currently the case. The educators point to a number of implementation barriers, such as missing anchorage in curricula or insufficient own expertise. The studies cover different educational sectors such as school, vocational training, higher education as well as non-formal and informal learning.

Next to questions concerning the extent and quality of ESD, there are thematic foci of the current and future quantitative studies:

  • A better understanding of the structure of deep, transformative learning processes, in the context of sustainability: What are it’s central factors of success and didactical implementations thereof?
  • The role of emotions for good ESD-practice and didactic consequences: How can learners feel enabled and motivated for action on sustainability problems, despite having insight into the magnitude of global challenges?

Recent publications:

Grund, J., & Brock, A. (2020). Education for Sustainable Development in Germany: Not Just Desired but Also Effective for Transformative Action. Sustainability, 12(7), 2838.

Grund, J., & Brock, A. (2019). Why We Should Empty Pandora’s Box to Create a Sustainable Future: Hope, Sustainability and Its Implications for Education. Sustainability 11(3), 893.


Institut Futur
Freie Universität Berlin
Fabeckstraße 37
14195 Berlin

Office of the Scientific Adviser on the Global Action Programme (English)

Overview of Publications (English)

Antje Brock (German)
Research assistant

UNESCO Program "ESD for 2030"

Telephone: +49 30 838 51883
E-mail: brock(at)

Dr. Mandy Singer-Brodowski (German)
Research assistant – Project coordination

UNESCO Program "ESD for 2030"

Telephone: +49 30 838 61337
E-mail: s-brodowski(at)

Julius Grund (German)
Research assistant

UNESCO Program "ESD for 2030"

Telephone: +49 30 838 64331

Jorrit Holst (German)
Research assistant

UNESCO Program "ESD for 2030"

Telefon: +49 30 838 69803

Janne von Seggern (German)
Research assistant

UNESCO Program "ESD for 2030"

Telefon: +49 30 838 67120