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The progressive development of environmental education in Sweden and Denmark

  • Sören Breiting
  • Per Wickenberg
Publishing year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 9-37
Publication/Series: Environmental Education Research
Volume: 16
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Taylor & Francis

Abstract english

Our paper traces the history and progressive development of environmental

education and education for sustainable development (ESD) in Sweden and

Denmark. Our main focus is on work in primary and lower secondary schools as

part of a search for trends of international interest related to the conceptualisation and practice of environmental education and ESD in both countries, as well as the role and significance of democratic perspectives to their development.

Traditionally, Sweden has a more centralised approach to change compared to a more decentralised approach in Denmark. Accordingly, the interplay between the State, the individual and private initiatives has differed over the past half-century, and this has given rise to interesting effects on the development of environmental education as well as ESD. The discussion of their development in Sweden draws on historical, political and organisational perspectives, while for Denmark, we focus on how these perspectives relate to a series of challenges; for example, the

epistemological challenge of the development of environmental education that

resulted in ‘the new generation of environmental education’, and the effects of taking an action competence approach to environmental education. In both countries the links between the development of environmental education and ESD and the discourse of environmental protection and democracy are highlighted, as are the interplays between the State’s agenda on education, the actions of research institutions, and the provision of in-service teacher training. Sweden has become a world leader in initiatives for ESD promotion and joint efforts to spur innovations and clarification of ESD, while Denmark has mainly put its efforts into developing science education, and in this regard, has sacrificed the development of ESD.


  • Law and Society
  • education and sustainable development
  • Sociology of law
  • democracy
  • participation
  • norms
  • ESD
  • environmental education


  • ISSN: 1469-5871
Per Wickenberg
E-mail: per [dot] wickenberg [at] soclaw [dot] lu [dot] se


Department of Sociology of Law

+46 46 222 88 15



Professor emeritus

Department of Sociology of Law


Per Wickenberg was a primary school teacher in the 1970s - and '80s.  Since 1993 he has been working at Lund University, with various assignments based on sociology of law-research and education.

Sociology of Law Department
Lund University
Visiting address: Allhelgona Kyrkogata 14 M, 223 62 Lund, 3rd floor
Postal address: Box 42, 221 00 Lund

Faculty of Social Sciences