EFS Position Paper
EFS Position Paper
Position Paper: Backgrounding new Guidelines for EE/EfS
David Chapman, Massey University
& Chris Eames, University of Waikato
We are pleased to offer this position paper as a prelude to the re-writing of the Guidelines for Environmental Education in New Zealand Schools, published in 1999. We have been asked to do so by the Ministry of Education and provide this paper as a basis for discussion, consultation and feedback. A consultation process follows the release of this paper and we look forward to the discussion this will involve. There are scheduled discussion meetings in Auckland (Nov 7), Hamilton (Nov 15), Wellington (Nov 15), Christchurch (date to be finalised) and Dunedin (Dec 5). Whether or not you can attend one of these meetings, we would strongly encourage you to have your say using the online submission form available at http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/consultation/. We realise this is a difficult time of year to ask for your input, but we very much welcome your involvement in this process and look forward to your contribution. Your feedback will be used to inform a brief that will guide the development of new Guidelines.
We begin by offering a context within which our position paper should be considered. It will be a curriculum document and as such must be considered in the light of the New Zealand Curriculum of 2007. This in turn has been informed by the Government's education priorities for New Zealand and so we begin with a brief examination of these.
New Zealand's education priorities
The Ministry of Education's Statement of Intent 2007-2012 (Ministry of Education, 2007) indicates how the New Zealand education system should contribute to the implementation of government themes. These themes are:
Economic Transformation "towards a thriving and internationally competitive economy with a highly skilled workforce";
Families - Young and Old, "providing opportunity and security, backed by excellent services, to family members of every age";
National Identity through "building our pride in who we are, where we live and what we do" (p.16-17).
The Statement further notes Sustainable Development and Realising Youth Potential as key foci for the future.
Within the Statement of Intent, the Ministry of Education describes three paths which contribute to the achievement of these aims:
A focus on key areas where significant improvements in presence, engagement and achievement in our schools are needed
To develop the key features of personalising learning that will support the system to deliver educational innovation and change.
To lead and support change to ensure that the education system values, respects and ensures success for all children and young people, in particular Māori, Pasifika and students with special needs.
Through these paths the Ministry of Education aims to raise educational achievement and reduce disparity. To further these aims and contributions to the government themes, the Minister of Education has placed personalising learning at the core of educational endeavour for the next few years. Placing the student at the centre of the learning process has led to a number of priority areas for action. These are: supporting effective teaching; students receiving the basic foundations for learning and knowledge; encouraging parents, whanau and family to support their children's learning; providing teachers with strong professional leadership; a focus on successful teaching and learning at secondary level; increased student engagement at school to reduce nonattendance; setting boundaries for students to reduce behavioural issues; effective resourcing of schools; and producing healthy, confident kids.
A fundamental part of this strategy has been the revision of the New Zealand Curriculum Framework resulting in the drafting of a new curriculum in 2006 and the launch of The New Zealand Curriculum on 6th November 2007.
The New Zealand Curriculum
The New Zealand Curriculum can be viewed and downloaded from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz. It is a statement of official policy relating to teaching and learning in English-medium schools in New Zealand. A separate document, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, will serve the same function for Maori-medium schools.
The New Zealand Curriculum begins with a vision of young New Zealanders who are confident and connected, and actively involved in lifelong learning. To achieve this vision it sets out Principles to guide curriculum decision-making, Values to be encouraged, modelled, and explored, and five Key Competencies that are important for living, learning, working and contributing as active members of society.
The New Zealand Curriculum mandates eight learning areas, provides descriptions of each of these areas and it sets achievement objectives for the Levels 1-8 that cover schooling from Year 1 to Year 13. It also describes a series of teacher actions that have been shown to constitute effective pedagogy for student learning. These echo aspects of the personalising learning approach discussed above.
The New Zealand Curriculum represents something of a change from the previous curriculum approach. This new curriculum places clear emphasis on the relationship between itself and what is enacted in schools and in classrooms. It seeks to be less prescriptive and to vest more authority in schools to interpret and engage with The New Zealand Curriculum in ways that are suited to students in their local context. In providing Principles, Values, Key Competencies and Achievement Objectives within learning areas, the Curriculum acts as a guide. Schools are then encouraged to interpret that guide in response to the needs, interests and abilities of their students.
Finally, The New Zealand Curriculum points to future-focused issues which encourage students to make connections across learning areas, values and key competencies. One of these issues or themes is sustainability. This issue has been taught up to now in some schools under the guise of Environmental Education (EE), Education for Sustainability (EfS) or implicitly within one or more of the learning areas. This teaching has been supported by the Guidelines for Environmental Education in New Zealand Schools (Ministry of Education, 1999a). These Guidelines are now out of step with The New Zealand Curriculum and also with aspects of the environmental/sustainability education field. As noted above, The Ministry of Education now wishes to revise these guidelines to support EE/EfS in line with The New Zealand Curriculum.
We now proceed to provide some history of the development of EE/EfS as background to issues we think should be considered in this revision process. There are three key aspects to the discussion here. One is the rising tide of worldwide concern about the impact of humanity on the environment that has been referred to as a crisis. The second is the emphasis on sustainability as a theme within the curriculum. The third is that environmental/sustainability provides a particularly suitable vehicle for achieving many of the other educational goals mentioned above.
It is not quite that simple though, as we will explain in the rest of this paper.
History of the development of EE/EfS
The field of environmental education developed formal structure in the mid 1970s through a series of international meetings sponsored by UNESCO. Although attempts have been made to trace the genesis of the field back to the late 1800s, it was the growing recognition of the impact of human activity on the Earth's life support systems through the 1960s that gave the field its real impetus.
Significant meetings in Nevada, USA, in 1968, and in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972, contributed to an attempt to establish consensus about the nature of the field prior to an international meeting of educators held at Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1975. A summary of this meeting is contained in the Belgrade Charter (UNESCO-UNEP, 1976). Following from the work at Belgrade, an intergovernmental gathering at Tbilisi, Russia in 1977 produced the Tbilisi Declaration (UNESCO-UNEP, 1978. The Tbilisi Declaration builds on the Belgrade Charter, although the language reflects its development at a meeting of governments rather than educators, as was the case at Belgrade.
Since then the Tbilisi Declaration has been the blueprint for the development of environmental education in many countries (Palmer, 1998), including New Zealand, although like most things in this complex field, it is the subject of debate and requires interpretation. Despite that, the Declaration provided Goals and Objectives for the field, and supported them with Principles and Criteria to guide environmental education development internationally. The Goals for the field put forward at Tbilisi called for "new patterns of behaviour of individuals, groups and society as a whole towards the environment" (UNESCO-UNEP, 1978, p. 3) and emphasised the interdependence between the environment and human social, political and economic activity. Like all living things, humanity depends on the environment for air, water and other resources, but humanity also impacts upon the environment, individually and collectively, in ways that are mediated through social, political and economic processes. No one aspect can be considered in isolation.
The documents from the Belgrade and Tbilisi conferences contain two central ideas. The first is that environmental education is 'transformative' in that it seeks to catalyse changed behaviour. The second idea is the notion of 'interdependence': that environmental issues are human issues and cannot be considered in isolation from social processes. Implicit in these concepts is the realisation that attention must be given, not to just solving problems arising from past behaviour, but also to living sustainably in the future.
A focus on sustainability developed in the 1980s. It appeared in an International Union for the Conservation of Nature report in 1980 (IUCN, 1980), and was brought to prominence in the concept of 'sustainable development' in a report from the World Commission for Environment and Development (WCED), Our Common Future, in 1987. The WCED defined sustainable development as that which... "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" (WCED, 1987, p. 8). This definition was also used in the material from the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and is one of the most widely quoted definitions, although the literature reports dozens of definitions of sustainability and sustainable development. The WCED definition was cited in the New Zealand report to the Earth Summit, Forging the Links (Ministry for the Environment, 1992), and is also used in the Environmental Education Policy in New South Wales, published in 2001 (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2001). Signatories to Agenda 21, the programme of action from Rio, agreed to introduce "environment and development education" as a cross-cutting theme in education in the following three years. The current Guidelines for Environmental Education (Ministry of Education, 1999a) stop short of that. We are currently in the midst of the United Nations' Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) fostered by UNESCO. The aim of the decade "is to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning. This educational effort will encourage changes in behaviour that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations" (UNESCO, 2007).
Despite all this activity, the concepts of sustainability and sustainable development remain somewhat problematic. In one sense sustainability is a simple idea with which we can almost all agree - the notion of sustaining the future of the Earth and for all who will live upon it. However, in today's world, the consideration of environmental, social, cultural, political and economic perspectives within it renders the concept dauntingly complex. Perhaps, because of this complexity, sustainability is increasingly being used in common parlance in ways that seem to focus on only one or two of these perspectives, rather than the interplay between them all. Perhaps as a result of these 'partial' interpretations, the concept of sustainable development has been the subject of debate within the environmental education literature. Central to this debate is the point that 'development' as it is currently understood, can be argued to be the cause of most environmental problems. Within this debate is the suggestion that social, political and/or economic perspectives have been privileged over environmental ones.
As a result of these difficulties with the meaning of the terminology, many educators in the environmental field have retained their allegiance to environmental education as their term of choice, or instead use terms like Education for Sustainability (EfS), or Education for a Sustainable Future (ESF). Other terms that more explicitly emphasise the environmental perspective have been suggested (Environmental Education for Sustainability or Education for Environmental Sustainability, for example).
Despite these debates, the concept of Education for Sustainability (in whatever form it is used) remains vague and mysterious in many educational discussions, both in New Zealand and internationally. We believe this is partly because of a considerable and understandable reluctance to grapple with the implications that a sustainable future has for current patterns of behaviour. We welcome the opportunity to engage with these implications in this paper.
The New Zealand Context
Events in New Zealand education show that we have, over a significant period, attempted to respond to international developments relating to the environment. 'The environment' emerged with a significant profile in the draft curriculum statement of 1988 produced under Russell Marshall's ministry (Department of Education, 1988). The environment was also included in a Learning Area heading (Science and Environment) in a 1991 draft Curriculum Framework produced under Lockwood Smith's leadership (Ministry of Education, 1991). However, in the final Curriculum Framework (Ministry of Education, 1993a), the environment lost this status. It was instead described as being included in a number of curriculum areas, particularly in science, social studies and technology.
Draft Guidelines for environmental education were written and circulated in 1995 but these did not emerge in a final form until 1999 (Ministry of Education, 1999a). Within them, the noncompulsory status of environmental education was emphasised. This status remains today, however, the landscapes have changed considerably since the development of those Guidelines. These changes include the advent of a UN Decade for Sustainable Development, a growing alarm about the impact of human activity on climate, the increasingly political profile attending the notion of sustainability, and the publication of a new curriculum in which concern for the environment and sustainability have significant mention (Ministry of Education, 2006). In this context, this paper explores the issues that might inform the writing of revised Guidelines for educators in the light of the changing environmental and sustainability imperatives of the early 21st century.
In this discussion we will at this point, for convenience, continue to use the expression 'environmental education' or EE because this is what the field has been called to date, based on the Guidelines for Environmental Education in New Zealand Schools (Ministry of Education, 1999a). Hence, this term may have most currency in the education sector and remains both widely used and widely understood in the international literature.
EE in schools
Within New Zealand (and overseas), environmental education seems, in many instances, to have focussed on nature studies (often with action components such as tree planting or action to protect local waterways), school grounds enhancement activities and outdoor experiences (Bolstad et al., 2004). This work is often undertaken by committed and enthusiastic teachers working in isolation, who often 'burn out' (Hart & Nolan, 1999). Examples of educational
practice that link human treatment of the natural world to social, economic and political issues and processes (as required in the concept of interdependence) are much less evident.
This is not surprising. Understanding these links is difficult. Teachers may lack the content knowledge required across multiple disciplines (science, economics, sociology, politics, culture, etc) to inform their teaching. Equally they may not have been trained to integrate the different ways of thinking inherent in these disciplines into a coherent pedagogical approach. Even if they have mastered these elements, school curricula, organization and assessment can provide barriers, particularly in secondary schools, which remain strongly subject-based. In addition, confronting environmental issues is controversial and therefore problematic. Further, developing the resources needed to do it in a way that explores the issues fairly and in depth requires a daunting amount of work that teachers seldom have the time to undertake.
The issue of time is a crucial one that must be seen in the light of current education priorities which do not include EE. A crowded curriculum, significant government initiatives in numeracy and literacy, and pressure from sector groups have all combined to create challenges for implementation of EE in our schools. It appears that the low priority afforded to EE is not limited to New Zealand (Chapman, 2004). In light of the relative priority of EE, we need to consider the conditions that have led, in the last decade or so, to an ambivalent shift in the language of the field from EE toward various forms of sustainability education. This shift was the substance of a debate between Huckle and Sauvé in the 1999 issue of the Canadian Journal of Environmental Education in which Sauvé (1999) claimed it marked a transition from ways of thinking that were dominant in the mid 1900s (modernity) to more 'post-modern' ways of thinking that arose late in the century. In contrast, Huckle (1999) insisted this was not simply a linguistic shift, but marked an attempt to deflect the transformative agenda within EE, and to shift emphasis from environmental sustainability to economic sustainability.
Given the difficulties and lack of clarity discussed above, it is not surprising that there is a nagging theme within the literature that insists that the realities of practice have never matched the 'rhetoric' of the field found in the foundational documents, statements from governments, and within the literature. In short, the types of initiatives seen in practice are insufficient responses to the challenges faced (Stevenson, 1986; Huckle, 1991: Fien, 1997; Lousley, 1999; Walker, 1997; Oulton & Scott, 2000). This may seem harsh criticism to practitioners but nonetheless it is hard to see that the changed behaviours called for at Tbilisi have become widely evident.
Despite this, there are some heroic efforts underway in our schools. The dedicated work of the National EfS Team (school advisers in EE/EfS) has provided not only some impetus in schools but also some capacity building in research and development in the field. The spectacular progress of the Enviroschools programme, particularly over the past three years, points to a whole school approach model that is in demand, and that appears to be having some significant impact on sustainable practices in schools. Further, countless informal interactions between environmental groups and schools are opening the door to greater understanding of our environment and the issues that we face. These interactions give us all cause for hope and are to be celebrated.
However, in sum, the impact of the Tbilisi Declaration has been, as Bolstad, Cowie and Eames (2004, p. 19) put it in reviewing the literature, rather "underwhelming", and there are complex reasons for this. Not the least of these is that in the absence of strong signals from the government and the community, teachers cannot, on their own initiative, undertake 'transformative practice' in schools, especially under current conditions. It is not surprising that, in the light of the complex and potentially controversial nature of the issues, concerned and committed teachers have restricted their practice to issues that are unproblematic in the school context.
Messages from the New Zealand Government
Messages from the Government relating to the environment have been, and continue to be, ambivalent. As has been mentioned, the emerging profile of EE in the curriculum appeared to decline between the publication of draft curriculum framework documents in 1988 and 1991 and the emergence of the 1993 Curriculum Framework. There are, however, clear statements expressing the need to protect the environment in curriculum statements in Science (Ministry of Education 1993a), Technology (Ministry of Education 1995) and Health and Physical Education (Ministry of Education 1999b). The clearest of these requires that students develop a sense of guardianship for planet Earth and its resources. Further, the strands of the Social Studies curriculum statement (Ministry of Education 1997) are completely compatible with environmental education goals, as are many aspects of the English curriculum (Ministry of Education 1994). Despite these powerful potentials within the curriculum, in the Foreword to the Guidelines for Environmental Education in New Zealand Schools (Ministry of Education 1999a), the Secretary for Education insists that the inclusion of EE in school programmes is at the discretion of Boards of Trustees. In short, EE is voluntary.
This stands in contrast to other aspects of education, for example, the emphasis on numeracy and literacy in the National Educational and Administrative Guidelines (NEGS & NAGS) of 1999 (Ministry of Education, 1999c) and since, with extensive professional development for teachers in these areas, and the more recent emphasis on physical activity in schools. Further, a recent survey of Education Review Office reporting of environmental education in schools in 2006 revealed a significant lack of recognition of school endeavour (Eames, Robertson & Bolstad, in press). On the other hand, the increased level of funding provided by the Government for three EE initiatives (the National EFS Team, Enviroschools, and Mātauranga Taiao) is a positive step.
Some ambivalence toward the environment appears to have continued in the Draft Curriculum (Ministry of Education 2006). In it, the objectives requiring students to consider the impacts of human activity on the environment in the learning areas of science and technology appeared less demanding. But, at the same time, care for the environment (although limited to the Earth and its interrelated ecosystems) was included as a value, while sustainability was included as a theme in the design of school curricula.
The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) is explored in further detail in the next section, however, the nature of practice in schools described earlier may reflect the ambivalence toward the environment evident in the messages from government. Thus, an issue central to the development of new Guidelines for EE is the status of the document within the New Zealand Curriculum and within educational priorities in general. The evidence reviewed here suggests that unless these Guidelines are emphasised in educational priorities and made more explicit, the inclusion of EE in school curricula will remain marginal.
Linking EE to the New Curriculum
Not withstanding the comments above, there is considerable potential within the new curriculum for EE to be expressed in powerful ways, and to provide an ideal contextual vehicle for achieving the integrated and higher order intentions for learning that it contains, particularly the capabilities for living and lifelong learning fostered through five key competencies. These competencies: thinking; using language, symbols and texts; managing self; relating to others; participating and contributing, are also indispensable aspects of living sustainably. We have a caveat here however; it depends on how the curriculum is read, for curriculum documents are never neutral, as the New Zealand Curriculum Framework (Ministry of Education 1993a, p. 21) acknowledges. The Curriculum could be read from the perspective that building a sustainable future is the central intention of school-based education, and it would be completely compatible with that. The future focussed themes of sustainability and citizenship fit perfectly with this notion. Alternatively, the curriculum could be read from the perspective that developing 'human capital' equipped to participate in an increasingly competitive global market economy is the central focus of schooling. This has indeed appeared to be an emphasis in curricula over the last two decades, and the future focussed themes of enterprise and globalisation could be seen as a continuation of this emphasis, although this need not be the case.
The point here is that there are tensions between these two educational intentions: a sustainable future and developing human capital for the economy. Tensions of this nature have always been clear to curriculum theorists (see for example, Eisner, 1979; Print, 1992), but they are seldom explicit in curriculum development discussions. Furthermore, caring for the environment and thinking about living in a sustainable way raise issues that ask questions about the role of schools in society that are not new (Steinhouse, 1977, cited in Gough, 1997) and that we educators seem to struggle with. Indeed, the call for "new patterns of behaviour" made at Tbilisi, especially in the light of growing global inequity and the crisis of global warming, raise questions that go to the core of our social values: what it means to be a citizen, and what we count as success.
The issues of inequity, of our core values and what it means to be successful and to be a citizen lurk behind any discussion of sustainability but are rarely brought into focus. It is unlikely that real progress is possible unless they are raised publicly and worked through in a transparent way. EE has the potential to make a real difference in our lives and for those of future generations, but it must not be given lip service or be the subject of an ambivalent agenda. Further, the issues involved need to be resolved at a policy level and not abdicated to teachers to wrestle with in local communities. Central to this position paper is an attempt to clarify some of these issues and explore their implications in the next section.
A Sustainable Future: Some Big Issues.
The issues raised by the demand for a sustainable future are dauntingly complex, beset by paradox, and contain a terrifying logic. Nevertheless, if we are serious, they demand our attention both individually and collectively. In writing this paper, we are conscious of the concept of 'interdependence' and do not wish to pretend that education exists in a vacuum, removed from the rest of society. In response to the daunting nature of the 'sustainability challenge', we would invite you to contrast the collective human effort that has been directed towards exploiting the environment, to that which has been devoted to living in harmony with it. We note humanity's ability to rise to challenges at need, and that the sustainability challenge is one we have yet to dedicate our collective effort to. We thus background some of the issues we have raised in some depth, in order to provide food for thought in considering the nature, intentions and content of new Guidelines.
Living sustainably presents our civilisation with fundamental challenges that go to the heart of our ways of thinking and acting. Postma (2000) argues that the philosophy of liberalism that underpins western civilisation sets what he calls 'second order' values, for example, tolerance and acceptance of the views of others. Liberalism thus creates a climate in which individuals pursue fulfilment in their own ways (not so easy if you are trapped in poverty). It is not acceptable within a liberal framework to tell people how to behave at a 'first order' level (eg, you cannot drive a large car). Prescription of first order values/behaviour is strenuously resisted at a political level as an erosion of personal freedoms.
In this climate, we will propose, for the sake of discussion, that a shift in values is needed, and this shift is from viewing the world as a source of boundless resources for exploitation by humanity, to an emphasis on the intrinsic value of the Earth and all the things that inhabit it and will inhabit it in the future. There is a sound argument for this that goes beyond the scope of this paper and hinges on seeing ourselves as part of the Earth and the Earth as part of ourselves. Therefore looking after the Earth is part of looking after ourselves. A shift in values of this sort has immense implications for economic activity.
One of these is that our society is predicated on the assumption that economic growth is essential and possible. Jonathan Porritt (1992, 2006) has repeatedly pointed out that human activity is a subset of life on the planet, and that the economy is a subset of human activity. A subset cannot be bigger than the set within which it resides. Infinite growth is thus impossible, and flies in the face of the 'limits to growth' literature (Meadows, Meadows & Randers, 1992, cited in Fien, 1993). This idea is exemplified in the two diagrams in Figures 1 and 2 below that show two different perceptions of the interactions between the environment, society and the economy (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2002). In Figure 1 the economy and society are seen as subsets of the environment and that they cannot exist outside of it.
Figure 1. Strong sustainability model
Figure 2 shows what is argued to be a weaker sustainability model in which the environment, the economy and society are seen to overlap. Opponents of this view argue that you cannot have society or the economy outside of the environment.
Figure 2. Weak sustainability model
There is a view that the life support systems of the planet can be managed to the betterment of people and the environment, but there are counter arguments that the planet's life support systems are not even 'knowable' let alone manageable (Suzuki & Dressell, 1999). Further, as the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE, 2004) pointed out, current economic activity does not benefit everybody, but continues to accelerate growth in inequity. Based on his figures, for everyone to live as the rich fifth of the world's population currently do would require in excess of a 400% increase in current resource use. This is clearly impossible. There is a notion that human ingenuity will find replacements for scarce resources, and while this is clearly true in some cases, it is clearly not true in general. Moreover, some commentators have it that the planet is on the brink of a major wave of extinctions, and biodiversity is not replaceable (Flannery, 2005: Thomas et al., 2004)
Related to the idea of resource substitution is the faith that economic growth can occur without the increased consumption of physical resources, but this too, is a statement of faith that is not generalisable. In the meantime, the National Geographic (Appenzeller, 2006) predicts that coal consumption will increase by 56% by 2025. Much of this increase in resource use is disguised by the separation of production and consumption. Western consumer goods are increasingly being made in Asia, in particular, in China, thus exporting the human and environmental costs of consumption. Chinese coal use will double by 2025 and of course, this use produces goods consumed by New Zealanders. Under current economic conditions it is naïve to pretend that our environmental footprint is limited to our own country.
It is here that paradoxes plague attempts to propose suggestions. One of these is that what is good for the individual is not necessarily good for the collective group, and further, that what is good in the short-term, may not be so in the longer term. It is good for businesses to shift production to Asia, but this leaves locals unemployed and weakens our economic base. Throughout New Zealand, large areas (in Marlborough, Hawke's Bay, Canterbury and Central Otago in particular) are being converted to grapes. In North Otago and the McKenzie Country, the landscape is becoming dominated by huge irrigators as the land is converted to dairying, requiring increased energy and water consumption, and in the North Island even logged forests are being turned into dairy farms. While this is clearly good business, collectively, it results in an increasingly less diverse, and thus more vulnerable, agricultural economy. So how do we educate future generations to make sustainable choices on these issues? In fact, is this really education, or is it demand for some kind of cultural evolution in response to the impact of our activity on the planet that goes beyond 'choices'.
An additional paradox here is the 'tragedy of the commons': if there is a scarce resource, it is of no matter that one, or a few, individuals attempt to conserve it, for the balance will simply be exploited by others. Therefore, decisions to use or conserve resources must be collective, and are thus political. They cannot be left to the 'lifestyle' decisions of individuals. Taken together, these issues and paradoxes throw doubt on some of our basic social assumptions. For example, the assumption that private ownership is the most efficient way to allocate resources as stated in our submission to Rio (Ministry for the Environment, 1992), or that the precondition for caring for the environment is a vibrant economy (Ministry for the Environment, 1995). Such issues illustrate the incredible complexity and inherent contradictions (including the role and activity of the state) involved in the notion of 'interdependence' mentioned earlier.
So, to summarise, the growth economy as it is currently understood, and the ever-increasing consumption that it requires, to the benefit of a minority of the Earth's human inhabitants, is argued by many to be
the environmental/sustainability issue. Global warming is only one manifestation of this, a metaphor for human impact on the planet perhaps. Confronting such issues thus goes to the core of our social and economic assumptions, as we have tried to signal. Politicians as well as environmental educators seem reluctant to face up to this wider raft of
issues for obvious reasons.
There are several important points that follow from this briefest of analyses. One is that there are profoundly different implications arising from interpreting sustainability in terms of sustaining the economy as it is, or sustaining people and the environment in a more equitable way. (We note that in the new curriculum equity is mentioned as a value to be achieved through fairness and social justice). These are fundamentally different values positions, from each of which, the curriculum would be read with completely different interpretations.
Further, there is substantive sociological argument that schools exist to reproduce society as it is, including injustices. Apple (1990) argues that schools transmit 'hidden' messages that are often at odds with what is taught explicitly. Eisner (1979) calls this the implicit curriculum, and argues that this is of more importance than the explicit curriculum being deliberately taught. In short, students pick up the difference between what they are told and what they see happening around them. The latter has more impact than the former, as the New Zealand Curriculum Framework (Ministry of Education 1993a, p. 21) acknowledges. To add to this, schools reflect society. They do not lead it, as the reconstruction of New Zealand education under the rubric of 'Tomorrow's Schools' since the late 1980 indicates very clearly. This reconstruction of education (and society in general) was politically led.
It would appear then, in the light of this analysis, that confronting the issue of sustainability is not something that can be done through schools in isolation from wider society. Further, unless the messages in schools reflect parallel shifts and discussions outside of schools, they are unlikely to have any effect anyway. Moreover, to attempt to raise issues with students, who have little power, about the way humanity treats the environment, without wider social acceptance of responsibility for action raises a number of ethical issues. Is it ethical for older generations to pass the responsibility for fixing the mess on to children and young people in schools like Dr Seuss' anonymous 'Onceler', who, having wrecked the place, tosses the last truffula seed to a child?
We take the view that it is not ethical. That sustainability is a responsibility that must be taken up by everybody. In addition to the implication of the 'tragedy of the commons', that any efforts that are not collective are largely pointless, the Curriculum Framework (Ministry of Education, 1993a, p. 21) points out that values are learned from what young people see happening around them, not from what they are told. Responses that are limited to schools will not be effective anyway, regardless of the ethics.
It is of note that our discussion of the past few pages has focussed heavily on the concept of sustainability. We return now to our earlier mention of terminology. Current debate generally centres around the historical use of EE as discussed earlier, and a trend towards using Education for Sustainability (EfS) in government and other circles. We recognise that much of what is currently happening in EfS in New Zealand fulfils what is desired in environmental/sustainability education, yet are aware that in some quarters the environment is less emphasised when mention is made of sustainability. We can see there are many viewpoints, therefore, although we have used EE to this point for reasons described earlier, we now use intend to use Environmental Education for Sustainability (EEfS). This term retains the emphasis on the foundational status of environmental education and acknowledges the clear focus on sustainability that is now required. We offer this merely as a term that brings together the best of what is implied by both terms and offer it up for consideration. We also do not wish to dwell too heavily on terminology, preferring to emphasise understanding the issues. But it is known that countries other than New Zealand have grappled with these issues and terminology and whilst time has precluded an examination of Guidelines and curriculum documents from these countries to this point, this should be undertaken as part of the Guidelines review process.
We proceed to explore the possible nature of new Guidelines in the light of the issues raised above. As we have emphasised, these are complex and paradoxical, and go to the heart of both our social assumptions and our understandings of the role of schools in society. But we consider these issues will only become more complex if confronting them is postponed. Further, we doubt the efficacy of minor additions to school curricula as a strategy for confronting the challenge of a sustainable future. We proceed in good faith, however, on the assumption that there is at last a will to confront these issues.
EEfS and the New Zealand curriculum
Whilst we acknowledge that providing definitions does not guarantee outcomes, we do believe they can provide valuable guidance. We would like to offer a tentative definition of Environmental Education for Sustainability for discussion. Given the definition for sustainable development from the WCED, cited previously, and the goals from the Tbilisi conference, and acknowledging that the material from Tbilisi has continued to inform the work of UNESCO, we propose to move forward by linking these two sets of ideas. In doing so we acknowledge the importance of deliberative cognitive activity, without which, any endeavour would dubiously claim to be educational. We also move away from the anthropocentric view to a more inclusive one that includes all living things, not just humans.
Thus, the goal for EEfS could be:
To develop in individuals, groups, and society as a whole, new ways of thinking and patterns of behaviour that meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations of all living things to meet their needs.
This definition, like any other, requires interpretation. What are needs? What is meant by compromise? Despite these questions, such a definition is easy to justify in terms of the international literature and precedents in New Zealand.
In the light of this definition, or one like it, and in the light of the Parliamentary Commissioner's call to Redesign, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2004), the whole of the proposed new curriculum can be read in a coherent way. Terms such as excellence, innovation, entrepreneurial, enterprising, critical literacy, understanding what it means to be part of a global community, and contributing to New Zealand's future economic well-being are all completely compatible with contribution to a sustainable future. As well, the principles and criteria that have traditionally informed EE are completely consistent with the pedagogical approaches and intentions in the proposed new curriculum. EEfS is an ideal and enlightened vehicle that has the potential to unify the curriculum in a way that is compelling and relevant to citizens in the 21st century.
If, however, the intent of schooling is that it continue to contribute to indefinite economic 'growth' as we currently understand it, the curriculum will remain contradictory and incoherent. Many of the terms within the curriculum that are mentioned above have different interpretations when read from the two values positions we have outlined. Unbridled economic growth is not compatible with a sustainable future. All the evidence suggests that current patterns of behaviour are not only unsustainable environmentally, but also contribute to increased inequity and are socially unsustainable. Thus, under a 'growth ethic' sustainability intentions within the curriculum become purely rhetorical and perhaps deliberately misleading by implying they are possible within a growth paradigm. This is the situation that constitutes the status quo.
A final caution is needed here though. The issue of growth is a very difficult one. Even the Brundtland report (WCED, 1987) struggled unconvincingly with it. We are hesitant to allude to it in detail because it is a very technocentric (O'Riordan, 1989) document, concerned with an economic agenda. The report acknowledged that sustainable development implied limits based on "the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities" (WCED, 1987, p. 8) but tried to suggest these were not absolute. The report went on to say:
The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries - for food,
clothing, shelter, jobs - are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people
have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life.
(WCED, 1987, p. 43)
and to add:
Living standards that go beyond the basic minimum are sustainable only if
consumption standards everywhere have regard to long term sustainability...
Meeting these essential needs depends in part on achieving full economic growth
potential and sustainable development clearly requires growth in places where such
needs are not being met. Elsewhere it can be consistent with economic growth,
provided the content of growth reflects the broad principles of sustainability and non
exploitation of others.
(WCED, 1987, p. 43-44)
We cannot explore these issues further, except to say that the question of economic growth that is compatible with sustainability principles is one of colossal significance that cannot be ignored and which powerfully and implicitly impacts upon the school curriculum.
Having raised some 'large scale' environmental, economic, educational and sociological issues relating to sustainability and the operation and role of schools in society, we also need to consider the practice of EE in the classroom. Within EEfS there has been an ongoing advocacy in favour of more democratic approaches to educational processes. These participatory approaches have long standing in the field and can be found in the Tbilisi Declaration. They have been widely advocated in the literature since that time (e.g. Tilbury 1995, Jensen & Schnack, 1997) and are almost taken for granted within the field. These long-standing approaches include crosscurricular/ interdisciplinary approaches, inclusion of values clarification and examination, participation of learners in designing and planning their learning, and critical and active enquiry into social and environmental issues (Hart, 2007). There have also been ongoing calls to examine the root causes of problems and issues as well as the symptoms and to take action to address these (Jensen & Schnack, 1997). These requirements challenge some traditional approaches to teaching and learning and can be problematic for teachers and learners, as well as the wider community (Sterling, 2001). This applies especially to the call for action in response to environmental issues, and some authors hold that the requirement of an action component has constrained the field (Oulton & Scott, 2000; Walker, 1997). However teaching and learning are construed, what seems key for EEfS is that the learner is at the heart of the process, and that EEfS can build the capacities of students so they might realise their potential and live sustainably in a future world.
Moreover, while EEfS raises questions about the role of schools in reproducing the status quo, this too has implications at a very practical level, in particular for the nature and purpose of assessment. For example, if the educational climate is such that the production of human capital for the economy is paramount, schools would be involved in assessing and providing credentials that allow employers to distinguish between prospective employees. However, if the development of an environmentally literate population with a greater emphasis on citizenship were to have a higher profile in schooling, 'credentialing' as we now understand it may have a lower priority. We note the development of new Achievement standards for use in NCEA as a significant step forward in helping secondary schools find a place for EEfS in their curricula. As NCEA in senior schooling is a powerful driver, this development has potential for inclusion of a more integrated approach to the curriculum and to learning at that level.
Furthermore, democratic pedagogies sit less comfortably with more traditional assessment practices that remain popular in some quarters. If learners are involved in planning their own learning, perhaps they should also be involved in decisions about how that learning might be assessed. If the intent of EEfS is more participatory and equitable social decision making, it is implicit that this would be evident within educational organizations and processes.
We would like to point out though, that the approaches mentioned above do not define EEfS, and we are reluctant to suggest that they are pre-requisite demands of EEfS. But there is inherent in EEfS a shift towards more democratic and holistic approaches to teaching and learning. We think that these approaches sit comfortably with much current thinking about and within education but need to signal the issue. We also consider that these approaches fit well with the proposed new curriculum's discussion of effective pedagogy and school curriculum design, and the new Guidelines would be well placed to help teachers with innovative approaches. We would urge some consideration to prevent demands that teachers make immediate changes to their pedagogical approaches from becoming an impediment to the integration of EEfS perspectives into mainstream education. EEfS could, however, help shift teacher practice and help curriculum implementation. We would also draw attention to the balance that needs to be struck between education and environmental improvement through EEfS. Whilst students can contribute to directed environmental improvement in their school or community, the role of schools is achieving sound educational outcomes. Schools cannot take responsibility for environmental problems and issues on behalf of society in general.
Finally, there are other areas of educational endeavour that may inform the development and delivery of EEfS. Such areas as global education, development education and citizenship education all hold potential to contribute to Guidelines in EEfS. This also resonates well with the new Curriculum which suggests that a principle of school curriculum design should include future-focused issues as sustainability, citizenship, enterprise, and globalisation, with the provisos
mentioned above regarding interpretation of the curriculum.
So what might new Guidelines for EEfS look like?
In now focussing on the possible shape of new Guidelines two points should be clear. Firstly, that the issues raised in the discussion above (and probably others) should inform whatever the Guidelines contain, and how they are used in schools. The tensions mentioned cannot be avoided. Secondly, and in the light of this first point, we raise these issues as a framework for discussion and debate as the beginning of a consultation process. The issues are provocative, but we do not consider we are being provocative in raising them. We have taken a position as a starting point for the discussion we trust will follow.
The central issue in proceeding, regardless of what the Guidelines look like, is a clear definition of what the Guidelines are for, as both a guide to practice and a focal point for discussion. We have proposed such a definition above and this definition has implications for all that follows. Other issues relating to the document are then about its intent, content, and implementation.
An important issue for clarification is the proposed intention of the Guidelines and how the document is to be supported. On the one hand it might be intended as a 'philosophical' statement, backgrounding what EEfS is about, supported by more practical material in other ways. Alternatively, it might be an intensely practical 'how to' document. For a number of reasons, we favour a document that provides a robust but accessible background to EEfS and what it is about. It must link to support material and processes that must accompany the Guidelines and underpin their implementation. We appreciate that there is a risk in this approach. The Guidelines will need to provide coherent curriculum direction in ways that have not always been obvious in the past, especially when there have been changes in government. This is an important consultation issue.
Despite this risk, we would firstly propose a clear statement of purpose that informs the Guidelines and a clear definition of what EEfS is intended to be. We also suggest, for discussion, that the implications and points of tension contained in any definition are briefly explored and backgrounded.
Secondly, we suggest that while the Guidelines should be strongly linked to the curriculum, that they focus on showing how environment and sustainability issues can provide a vehicle/multiple contexts for enacting the curriculum, as was implicit in the Draft Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2006, p. 26). This is consistent with the view that EEfS should be an underpinning theme or approach to the curriculum rather than an additional requirement or a separate subject. This was also the view expressed within the 1993 Curriculum Framework (Ministry of Education, 1993, p.8) and that was agreed at the Earth Summit in Rio (UNCED, 1992).
Thirdly, in the light of the format of the new curriculum, particularly its brevity, it seems logical that the new Guidelines also be as succinct as possible, and have a format that is consistent with that of the curriculum. It is envisaged that this will require resource materials that illustrate more of the 'how to' and professional development to support its implementation, as is discussed below.
Aspects of the existing Guidelines
The Key Concepts in the 1999 Guidelines remain extremely useful. The concept of Sustainability is of course foregrounded by the shift from EE to EEfS, thus, the key concepts need to be modified to fit beneath the evolving description of the field. As noted above, the two central ideas that still resound in the literature are transformation of thinking and behaviour, and interdependence. Interdependence remains a powerful key concept. We see the possibility of broadening the concept of biodiversity to Diversity - biological, cultural and economic, while emphasising the impact of human behaviour on the diversity of life on the planet and the precarious state of many species as a result of human activity. Our responsibility as individuals and groups, and of society as a whole to act differently remains of paramount importance and links powerfully and coherently with the foundations of the field. The notion of new and transformative patterns of behaviour fits within this concept of Personal and Social Responsibility for Action.
The current Aims in the Guidelines have long been recognised as what EE is about and are elaborated in the Tbilisi Declaration as Objectives. They are stated in the Goals of Tbilisi, however, and a restatement of the Tbilisi Goals in full (perhaps in a short appendix that also contained a very brief history of the field) would capture these Aims without complicating the document. It should be noted that the 'Aims' are somewhat problematic in that teaching those aims is not necessarily an assured path to new behaviours (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). Behaviour is shaped by wider social values and infrastructure. For example, it is hard to avoid using a car if public transport facilities are poor. Thus, the Aims, by themselves are not a sufficient approach.
In a similar way, the current Dimensions of 'education In, About and For the environment' may also need to be re-thought. Unless behaviours and actions are mirrored and supported throughout the school and in wider society, action can be trivial. Also, actions that confront social values are problematic for schools in the current climate. Action competence approaches have defined action in educational terms, and these approaches show potential. Actions have been shown to be a powerful motivating force for engagement of students in some schools, but as yet we know little of the long-term educational effects on the learners. Furthermore, an emphasis on action should not distract attention from the still important work of understanding About environmental and sustainability issues and the values, and forces that support them. The notions of education In, About and For the environment may thus need careful consideration. They may be subsumed within a strong definition of the field and a proper mandate for its inclusion in school programmes. The notion of action could, for example, include an emphasis on learners presenting material on environment and sustainability issues to wider community audiences. The issue of action has profound implications for the role of schools in society. To pose a question in this regard, should schools, like universities, be part of the critical conscience of society and have proper sanction for raising and exploring controversial issues?
We also consider that the Guidelines must include a Māori perspective, and links to concepts inherent in that perspective such as Kaitiakitanga (loosely translated as 'stewardship'), although we are not qualified to elaborate on this in detail. We can outline two sets of important reasons for this though. The first is obviously that Māori are Tangata Whenua and, regardless of any obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, the Guidelines would simply be incomplete without this perspective.
Further though, taking EEfS seriously requires an examination of values and behaviours. Diverse cultural perspectives provide a vantage point for examining mainstream values and behaviours and considering alternatives. We would consider it important that there exist some form of Guidelines in Te Reo, but a Māori perspective must be accessible to all learners in EEfS. Equally, as New Zealand is increasingly a multi-cultural society, we must consider the needs of a
wider range of cultures in relation to the Guidelines.
In reflecting that the new Guidelines may be briefer than the existing ones to be in line with the new curriculum, the detailed planning formats in the existing Guidelines are perhaps one element that could be contained in supporting material. However, we have aired the view that particular planning or pedagogical approaches do not define EEfS and provision of such material should not create barriers to undertaking work with learners in the field. A map of possible areas for study, topics, themes and ideas elaborating on the material that is in Appendix One in the existing Guidelines would seem an important aspect that should be developed in new Guidelines. This is in order to give teachers a sense of the possibilities and potentials of study in EEfS for the curriculum as a whole.
In addition to links to the curriculum, there are other linking issues that should perhaps be signalled in the Guidelines. One of these is links with outside agencies and organisations. This has been an important issue that was highlighted in the current Guidelines (Ministry of Education, 1999a) and was seen as very important by teachers in the 2002-3 evaluation study (Cowie et al., 2004). We are conscious that such links should be with agencies that can contribute in a positive way to EEfS and that a set of criteria for forming and evaluating such links might be appropriate.
EEfS should be a cooperative and collaborative undertaking. The Enviroschools programme, for example, emphasises whole school approaches, and this is an ideal that is well supported in the literature. While, on the one hand, we do not think this should be a requirement that constrains individual teachers making a start, on the other hand, we would suggest that ideally schools should be working cooperatively with each other on a community basis. Unfortunately,
neighbouring schools are, at present, often in competition with each other. We think the Guidelines should emphasise the need for this kind of cooperation and point out that here is another way in which thinking about sustainability challenges current practices and the assumptions that underpin them. EEfS is a cooperative rather than competitive activity.
Under this heading of 'making links', we raise the issue of assessment. Assessment in EEfS has always been problematic for a complex of reasons. Who should assess whom and about what is an issue raised earlier in this paper. EEfS is, in itself, an approach that assesses and reassesses current patterns of behaviour. It is difficult to reconcile with outputs-based evaluation in a regime focussed on developing human capital. That complex underlying tension aside, changed behaviour is a long term goal, dependent on a number of factors that are not all within the agency of individuals, and is difficult to assess regardless of the time frame. We propose for discussion, that EEfS should not place extra assessment demands on teachers and schools, but that any assessment of work in EEfS should be subsumed within normal assessment of curriculum intentions.
Finally, another matter for thought is that of 'pathways' through EEfS. How should a coherent set of messages be expressed, and outcomes planned for, throughout the education system from early years to tertiary education? How should the Education for Sustainability Achievement Standards at levels 2 and 3 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) that are currently being developed fit within a pathway for students? What do we know about student progression in EEfS, and what scaffolding is required to progress through the levels? EEfS has, for example, had an apparently minimal impact to date on tertiary education in particular (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2004; Chapman, Flaws & LeHeron, 2006). How can EEfS contribute to customised learning pathways, which employ multiple learning portals and synchronised learning platforms as are suggested in future scoping in education? Could the Guidelines play a role in illustrating these pathways, in line with calls for life-long learning in the new curriculum? Or are the ideals of EEfS at odds with this thinking?
Following dissemination of new Guidelines
A key issue subsequent to the development of new Guidelines is the provision of resource and professional development support for schools. This is a vital element but beyond the scope of this paper to explore. The provision of this kind of support is likely to be a key determinant in the impact the Guidelines have on practice (Hart & Nolan, 1999). Whilst the new slimline version of the curriculum may be appropriate for the mandated learning areas, EEfS has not been strongly emphasised in the past or enjoyed the levels of resourcing, professional development and pre-service teacher education emphasis that these mandated areas have commanded. Therefore we may need to consider carefully the form that the Guidelines may take and subsequent support for the development of EEfS in our schools.
There will be other issues too that we have not considered. In this light, we suggest that a new EEfS strategy document to replace Learning to Care for our Environment (Ministry of Education, 1998) would be timely, especially in the light of the UN Decade. This would provide a coherent plan of action to support the Guidelines and EEfS in general and be a worthy expression of the Government's commitment to a sustainable future.
Throughout this paper we have raised a number of issues relating to EEfS for discussion in relation to the development of new Guidelines, and it is not intended to summarise them all in closing. We have identified the need for a clear definition and supporting discussion regarding the implications of that definition as central to a new document, but we have not attempted to define what new ways of thinking or patterns of behaviour might be.
Regardless of the deep philosophical issues that EEfS invokes that we hint at throughout this paper, we are convinced that new Guidelines, and the discussion that informs them, must, in addition to providing a sound definition, engage with core social values and with the role of schooling in society. If the field does not fully engage with these issues and identify them in the Guidelines, the document is likely to have limited impact.
Even if the document is of the highest quality, however, it will still require an effective mandate in order to impact on educational practice. This issue requires careful attention. We would like to see EEfS as a priority within education along with numeracy and literacy in the National Educational and Administrative Guidelines. After all, what is the point of a literate and numerate population in a ruined world?
The final editing of this paper occurred in the last weekend of October, 2007. The Weekend Dominion Post (Oct 27-28) had a front page banner headline "Planet in Peril" supported by four smaller headline statements: Earth's environment is fast approaching a point of no return, putting humanity's very survival at risk, concludes a UN study; Climate change is unequivocal and will have an enormous impact; Air pollution is getting worse in poorer nations; One in three species of primates faces extinction.
"On the edge of the Abyss" was the headline above the more detailed whole page article within. The level of discussion of these issues that is now entering the public media demands that education prepares students to engage with environmental issues in depth. This consultation process and the new Guidelines it is intended to inform must face up to the issues. Rhetoric isn't enough.
Please engage in the consultation process and tell us what you think. Your comments will be analysed and incorporated in a revised position paper that will inform the revision of the Guidelines in 2008. You have until December 14, 2007 to have your say. Visit http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/consultation/ for more details.
We are very grateful for the advice and feedback already given by our generous and wise colleagues in preparation of this paper to date.
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