EE – perspectives from policy 1

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates

Here's my second set of comment on the new research on EE in secondary schools from King's College: Understanding Environmental Education in Secondary Schools. Where is it, what is it and what should the future be?   In this, I focus on Report 1: The Policy Perspective whose recommendations were:

  1. In lieu of varied weakly framed references, a coherent national policy which sets out a vision for environmental education in secondary schools should be established. The policy would shape future National Curriculum reforms and national assessments.
  2. The national policy should recognize the multiple dimensions of environmental education (eg about, in and for the environment) and ensure that all dimensions are given equal footing throughout a student’s school career.
  3. Young people should be given the opportunity to think broadly about local and global environmental issues and encouraged to develop a sense of ownership and agency. In other words, students should receive a democratic pluralistic education about the environment whereby they have the capabilities and resolve to mitigate environmental inequalities.

So: my first thought is that there is much in this report to welcome (and I'll say more about this tomorrow).  Meanwhile, here are a few initial thoughts about the recommendations:

1. In lieu of varied weakly framed references, a coherent national policy which sets out a vision for environmental education in secondary schools should be established. The policy would shape future National Curriculum reforms and national assessments

I cannot see the point of a focus on the national curriculum in secondary school curriculum reform when only a small minority of schools need to take any notice of it any more – and I'd say that a vision needs to inform the policy.

 

The national policy should recognize the multiple dimensions of environmental education (eg about, in and for the environment) and ensure that all dimensions are given equal footing throughout a student’s school career.

I've noted before that I don't see any point in the equal footing position, especially when all that's going to be equal is the in / about / for mantra so beloved of environmental educators.  Setting aside the complex matter of what 'the environment' is or isn't (and how it differs from nature), we should be thinking much more clearly about all this instead of hiding behind language that just confuses most people.  No wonder we have trouble explaining what we do to those outside the environmental educator secret garden.

Just to be clear, for me, ‘education in the environment’ always has to have an environmental focus if is to count as environmental education – otherwise it’s just education / learning outdoors – which might be fine, but it's not environmental education.  I know that not everyone agrees, but see this for an explanation.

 

Young people should be given the opportunity to think broadly about local and global environmental issues and encouraged to develop a sense of ownership and agency. In other words, students should receive a democratic pluralistic education about the environment whereby they have the capabilities and resolve to mitigate environmental inequalities.

There are some nice words in here: ownership / agency / democratic / pluralistic / capability / resolve.  However, although you might think it easy to go along with this, I'm not happy to do so entirely because of what's implied.  Just consider the implicit learning outcome in all this: students have the capabilities and resolve to mitigate environmental inequalities.  The problem with this is that it supports and helps propagate two unhelpful ideas: [1] that it's individual behaviour change that will sort out all our problems; [2] that young people will have to do this because adults can't / won't / ...

To take these in reverse order: [ii] young people cannot do this because they are not (yet) in positions to do so; and [i] the world's biggest problems are not amenable to being resolved through individual agency and change, although they are capable of being resolved through collaboration and social / political action – and not just by the young.

More tomorrow on the reports' analyses.

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates

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