International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Development and Social Change (IDSC)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Dr. Nigel Brissett

Second Reader

Dr. Jude Fernando


This paper uses the analytical approach of critical discourse analysis (CDA) to examine the dominant discourse(s) surrounding sustainable development and education that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) espouse. Focusing on SDG 4, which aims to “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all and promote lifelong learning,” I analyze the extent to which SDG 4 promotes a utilitarian and/or transformative approach to education, and what the implications of such approaches are on achieving sustainable development. I use the official United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development policy document as the basis for my analysis, as well as previous global education policies, academic articles, and books on discourse analysis and education policy to build my argument. My findings show that despite transformative language used throughout the Agenda, the SDGs primarily espouse a pro-growth model of development and a utilitarian approach to education. I conclude that for SDG 4 to truly contribute to sustainable development, there needs to be a shift in the dominant educational discourse such that issues of social and environmental justice are placed at the heart of educational priorities, and that the notion of ‘quality’ education be challenged and expanded to encompass more than a focus on economic outcomes.



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