Apiianga no te oraanga akapuapinga e te taporoporo i te ipukarea : education as sustainable development : Mangaia, Cook Islands : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Sustainable development (SD) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) became
prominent in the 1990s. Problematically, these western centric constructs have sometimes
been used to justify greater economic growth despite concern about the environment.
Simultaneously, greater awareness of the pivotal role culture plays in development has
demanded the rethinking of SD in terms of culturally responsive and contextually relevant
‘alternatives to’ development.
Using the case of Mangaia in the Cook Islands the aim of this research was to draw out
Mangaians own visions for SD and their consequent expectations for the type of ESD
delivered to students in the classroom. Situating the research within a hopeful postdevelopment
framework a culturally responsive, open ended, critical research methodology
was used to gain an understanding of what constitutes a Mangaian SD worldview. Using
participatory semi structured interviews underpinned by Mangaian uriuri manako (reflective
problem solving) preliminary frameworks for Mangaian SD and ESD were co-constructed.
This thesis highlights that to Mangaian people SD is complex and multi modal consisting
of an indigenous development centred on oraanga Mangaia and alternative modernities,
embedded in culture, operating at the margins of the global economy. This Mangaian view
of SD, interacting with externally driven development, is continually reinvented by the
Mangaian people using both indigenous and western knowledge, in response to issues of
The study argues that current western centric ‘Education about’ and ‘Education for’ SD
programmes do not reflect the cultural and contextual reality of SD in the Global South.
Instead, Education as Sustainable Development (EasSD) is presented as a novel concept,
which embraces learning taking place within culture and is able to respond to the context
and dynamism of hopeful post-development settings: it is argued that this approach would
provide students with the knowledge to be able to fashion community-based sustainable
futures. An EasSD approach would expose students to a broader range of livelihoods
options and have the ability to strengthen a student’s language, culture and identity while
potentially improving their academic outcomes. A strength based implementation that
draws on the support of all development and education stakeholders offers the best chance
of actualising EasSD and so empowering students with the ability to participate in, and
lead, their own communities’ SD.