N. Sandström1, V. Hytti2, S. Nenonen3, K. Lonka1

1University of Helsinki (FINLAND)
2Lappeenranta University of Technology (FINLAND)
3Tampere University of Technology (FINLAND)
Conceptually, sustainability has been characterized using various different framings, including ecological, economical and social dimensions. The different dimensions have often been considered separately or in pairs. In this study, we tracked and identified relevant indicators for designing education and educational facilities, with a focus in the developing countries. We asked,
a) What are the key elements of social, digital and physical learning environment that need to be considered in sustainable educational design, and
b) What are the most relevant drivers for developing education in the developing countries?

In the first part of our study, we considered the different organizational and reflexive dimensions of sustainability. In this light, we took into consideration the whole process of searching, learning and cumulating experience.

Using a theoretical framework that we are currently developing, we identified the most important cultural and societal factors that are relevant for a holistic approach in designing sustainable education especially in developing markets. We approached strong sustainability from a broad perspective, paving simultaneously the road for considerations about the concept’s viability in different domains.

We framed and included indicators based on:
- critical literature review on the topics and existing solutions globally,
- availability of data, global statistics and reviews of existing and viable solutions and proofs-of-concept, and
- researcher and expert meetings and conceptual discussions.

Our approach was holistic and the indicators that we chose included dimensions like for example ACCESS TO GRID, GDP per capita, and GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURE per primary school student.

We plotted certain indicators as for instance access to grid/access to the internet to form an infogram, and the results were used to build a map of world’s educational field based on the chosen indicators and the information they can provide about the viability for educational enterprises.

If “sustainable development has to be interpreted as a ‘regulative idea’ which requires adequate institutions to become effective in the various areas of society” (, the question remains how the educational policy makers are taking this into consideration when planning education in general and schools in particular. In conclusion, we contribute to the field by discussing the possibilities of our method to inform educational designers and policy makers in reaching decisions that follow the guidelines of strong sustainability.