Academic Paper Review: Arnfalk, P et al (2005) ‘Education for sustainable development and the Young Masters Program’, Journal of Cleaner Production, 1107-1112.

Arnfalk, et al’s paper (2005) reviews the effectiveness of the young masters program (YMP). It considers the concept, content, outcomes and challenges of the program in order to highlight the importance of education for sustainable development (ESD). The paper stands out to me as a university student, hoping to pursue a career in teaching, as it not only emphasises the importance of ESD, but it also provides an example of how to teach ESD in schools. This is something I feel most literature surrounding ESD lacks, and therefore I found the paper very insightful to read.

Arnfalk et al (2005) consider two main areas within the paper, including ESD and the YMP. The first section discusses ESD, highlighting the importance of it within society. The paper describes ESD as a framework to tackle issues such as ‘climate change, water and air pollution, mountains of waste, and diminishing biodiversity’ (pg.1107). It also suggests that ‘education is crucial to expand understanding skills and motivation to shift society towards sustainable development’ (pg.1108), highlighting the relevance of the program to ESD. Although this section of the paper is effective in explaining why education is important for sustainable development, it lacks insight into why sustainable development is important in the first place. For example, the paper would benefit from considering the importance of sustainability, encompassing David Orr’s idea that ‘it makes far better sense to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet than to attempt to reshape the planet to fit our infinite wants’ (2004, pg.9). This would force the reader to comprehend the importance of sustainability, which in turn will emphasise the need for ESD.

The second section of the paper focuses on the YMP, discussing the concept, content, outcomes and challenges. Arnfalk et al (2005) describe the participants of the YMP consisting of ‘298 people spanning 72 countries… [including] students between the age of 15 and 18 years’ (pg.1108). Although these statistics were recorded in 2005, the YMP (2014) states ‘more than 20,000 students from over 110 countries have participated in the YMP’ signifying the development and ongoing relevance of the program to education.

The paper describes the process of the YMP by splitting the objectives into two areas, one to help students understand environmental and sustainable issues and the other, to bring insight into schools in order to promote ESD throughout their whole school. I feel the description of the program is detailed and clear, supported by figures on pages 1108 and 1109. The figures assist understanding of the YMP’s content and although they are mainly text based, they create a contrast in visual layout, helping to break up the text and maintain the reader’s attention.

This is a strong piece of work, written in a professional, mature manner. Not only does the student understand, and demonstrate, what is required (an outline of the contents of the paper, plus comments on it, justified with reference to other sources and/or personal experience), but makes the writing really accessible and personal in doing so. Both personal and academic/professional views are taken into account, and nicely balanced, which is encouraging in a Level 3 student.

This extract contains good use of secondary sources, as one would expect in a piece of academic writing; the student makes use of correct in-text 'et al' references. The writing is also methodical and describes the paper under review in a logical sequence, giving definitions of key terms where this is helpful.

Function: Describe

Nice clear introduction, using the small word budget (1000 words overall) well.

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Description of the form of the paper under review, and a justified judgement on why this is effective (or not).

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Quality: Voice

A nice early statement of the student's personal position, and an insight into what we will be reading in the rest of the piece.

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Quality: Authority

Good use of secondary sources to justify comments. Orr is an excellent, authoritative source.

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Good to see that the student has checked to see whether claims made in the original piece are still valid, by getting some up-to-date statistics from the original source.

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Function: Analyse

Here the author recognises some of the strengths and value of the paper being reviewed, but also highlights some limitations, which is good analysis and demonstrates a high level of understanding

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Function: Evaluate

Here they conclude the point being made, justifying their comments with a potential impact, the 'so what' that connects the analysis to their argument

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