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Education for Sustainability: Students Posts’ Differences Essay

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Updated: Jun 27th, 2020

A comparison of my posting with the work of other students shows several similarities as well as differences of thought on the important characteristics of environmental education/education for sustainability (EE/ES). This section uses the critical discourse analysis approach to identify and discuss these similarities and differences.

In terms of similarities, it is important to note that all postings show an appreciation of the central role that EE/ES plays in our lives and the urgency of preserving the environment for present and future generations. All the narratives demonstrate a high level of engagement with environmental issues that may lead to sustainability, with a few of the postings going further to provide an evaluation of how some of the ongoing environmental concerns (e.g., recycling, conservation) has continued to pay dividends in enhancing sustainability.

Similarly, all the narratives demonstrate a negative affect to some form of attitudes (e.g., not taking care of the environment) and actions (e.g., pollution, population explosion) that continue to affect the environment in adverse ways. Additionally, almost all the postings demonstrate a high level of anger and disdain to these activities, not mentioning that several postings demonstrate a certain level of guilt and nervousness on a wide range of issues dealing with EE/ES. All postings have an emotional component that links environmental sustainability to the survival of mankind in the universe, not only in the present time but also in the future.

While nearly all the postings underscore the importance of educational institutions in imparting knowledge about the natural environment and shifting the attitudes of people to better manage the environment, there are noted differences of opinion on how these immense tasks should be undertaken. My posting views EE/ES as a learning process by virtue of its capacity to enhance the knowledge and responsiveness of individuals about the environment and related challenges, and also as an avenue to provide people with the skills and expertise needed to flourish in a sustainable society. Others students view it as encompassing issues in environmental awareness, actions that need to be done to save or improve the environment, motivation and engagement of young people to create a better future, environmental disasters and living in peace with nature, human culture and society, and misconceptions on our natural environment.

Overall, upon careful consideration of all the postings, it is evident that EE/ES is deeply rooted in fostering the mindsets, inspirations, and commitments of people with the view to influencing their capability to engage in informed decision making and take responsible, holistic, and proactive actions on all issues related to the environment. Indeed, comparing these postings has brought into the fore the importance of EE/ES in not only providing the knowledge and skills needed to manage our natural environments and ecosystems for present and future generations, but also in raising the awareness levels of some of our attitudes, practices, and activities that leave us in precarious economic and social conditions through environmental degradation.

Analyzing & Positioning Initial Post in Theory

This section aims to analyse and position my initial post in relation to the underlying ideas presented in class and according to the available environmental sustainability scholarship. It is important to mention that the analysis and appraisal will revolve around the following topics: historical development of environmental EE/ES, environmental values education and agency, as well as environmental literacy. The justification for selecting these topics is embedded in the fact that my initial posting delved much into demonstrating the tenets of EE/ES including historical presumptions and philosophical orientations, how education can be used to enhance EE/ES, and also how institutions can be used to improve the knowledge and skills needed to manage our natural environments and ecosystems for present and future generations.

Historical Developments of EE/ES

Although the posting does not explicitly discuss the historical developments of EE/ES, it locates its importance in influencing the social and economic aspects of life and also outlines some of the factors that come into play to underscore its importance in the contemporary world. Indeed, the posting mentions the need to impart knowledge on how our natural environment and various ecosystems can best be managed as some of the underlying reasons why EE/ES has developed this far. This perspective is supported in the literature, as John (2005) suggests that the politics of the earth have over the years featured a large and mounting range of issues, with early concerns being pollution, wilderness preservation, population growth, as well as representation of natural resources. Another scholar reinforces this perspective by not only acknowledging sustainability literacy as a term that is typically employed metaphorically to imply the knowledge and skills required to contribute to a more sustainable society, but also demonstrating how the trajectory of EE/ES has developed from a constricted focus on environmental pollution and degradation towards broader concerns with how the environment can be better managed to provide basic necessities for current and future generations (Stibbe, 2007).

My posting acknowledges that the most significant characteristics of EE/ES include (1) enhancement of knowledge and responsiveness of individuals on the environment and related challenges, (2) provision of skills and expertise required to flourish in a sustainable society, and (3) fostering the mindsets, inspirations, and commitments of people with the view to influencing their capacity to engage in informed decision making and take responsible action in all issues related to the environment. While these characteristics are supported in the literature (e.g., Knapp, 2000; McKeown & Hopkins, 2003), it is important to refer to the world’s first Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education which took place in Tbilisi, Georgia (USSR), under the facilitation of UNESCO in conjunction with UNEP. This meeting came up with The Tbilisi Declaration, which not only aimed to unambiguously expand EE/ES beyond the acquisition of environmental knowledge but also locate the interests of social groups before individuals in a move destined to prioritise collective action in dealing with environmental concerns (UNESCO-UNEP, 1978).

To expand on the characteristics included in the posting, it is noted here that The Tbilisi Declaration held that the five major categories of EE/ES objectives include (1) creating awareness and sensitivity to the total environment and its associated challenges, (2) developing knowledge to assist social groups and individuals gain adequate experience in and understanding of the environment and its challenges, (3) assisting social groups and individuals to obtain a set of values and feelings of concern for the environment and the motivation for enthusiastically taking part in environmental improvement and protection, (4) assisting social groups and individuals to obtain the skills needed to identify and address environmental challenges, and (5) assisting social groups and individuals with an occasion to be aggressively involved at all levels in working toward resolving existing environmental challenges (UNESCO-UNEP, 1978).

Environmental Values Education and Agency

My posting stresses the importance of EE/ES in transforming or shifting the attitudes of individuals in taking a proactive approach to preserve the environment and address arising environmental challenges. Indeed, the presentation underscores the immense importance of ensuring attitudinal and behavioural change in how individuals view environmental issues if sustainability is to be enhanced. However, available literature demonstrates that, although environmental values education is inherently significant for EE/ES to achieve its transformative agenda of enhancing environmental consciousness and pro-environmental behaviour, care should be taken to ensure that such knowledge does not generate fear and other negatively evaluated emotions among individuals in what could be easily perceived as indoctrination (Hardy, 2011; Howlett & Raglon, 2001).

Although the liberalists suggest that EE/ES should assume a neutral approach to avoid indoctrination, my posting is firmly nested on the critical theorists’ perspective insinuating that environmental values should be openly taught in school with the view to enforcing a paradigm shift in terms of how people relate to the environment (McKeown & Hopkins, 2003). However, as postulated by Jickling (1992) in his seminal paper, the transformation should be done in a manner which will not condition minors into believing that sustainability literacy or sustainable development comprises an assemblage of ‘full-proof’ environmental viewpoints. An effective environmental values education approach, according to Hardy 2011 and Jickling (1992), should aim to provide adequate facts or evidence to enable children develop their own considered worldview and opinions on how to interact with the environment and participate in environmental issues. Consequently, as postulated by McKeown and Hopkins (2003), the concept of environmental values education should actually be interested in imparting the knowledge on the values that would not only assist children and other individuals to become aware of and concerned about the environment and its associated challenges, but also help in developing their skills, competencies, attitudes and motivations toward addressing the current environmental challenges while at the same time preventing new ones.

Environmental Literacy

My posting discusses a commonly held perception of EE/ES that views it as encompassing three main components namely education in the environment, education about the environment, and education for the environment. In my considered opinion, these components demonstrate the main tenets of environmental literacy.

According to the posting, the first component (education in the environment) exposes students to experiences beyond the classroom to assist them develop deeper insights into the various environmental dynamics using practical inquiry and investigation, while the second component (education about the environment) assists them to develop a greater appreciation of the critical issues that come into play to influence the environment in the community, national, or international level. Available scholarship on environmental literacy demonstrates that the concept is less about reading/writing and more about making meaning with and around what may be taught in EE/ES (Al-Dajeh, 02012; Robertson, 2006; Tilbury & Wortman, 2006), implying that environmental literacy is aimed at exposing students to experiences beyond the classroom for them to develop deeper insights of these experiences in line with the component of education in the environment.

Additionally, as demonstrated by Atabek-Yigit, Koklukaya, Yavuz, and Demirhan (2014), “the goal of environmental education is to educate individuals in order to make them highly environmentally literature.” (p. 425). According to these authors, making people environmentally literate entails ensuring they recognise how they are affected by the effects of environmental challenges such as global warming and ozone depletion, ensuring they realise that they are primarily responsible for the solution process, and also ensuring they develop pro-environmental knowledge, behaviours, and attitudes. This is in line with the ‘education about the environment’ component discussed in the posting, as such literacy assist individuals in social systems to develop a greater appreciation of the most important matters that come into play to affect the environment at the societal, national or international level.

The third component discussed in the posting (education for the environment) ensures that people understand what they are supposed to do not only to minimise their impact on the environment, but also to make proactive lifestyle choices that assist in maintaining and enhancing the quality of the environment. This is in line with the perspective held by Al-Dajeh (2012), that environmental literacy should not only lay much focus on ensuring that individuals have adequate knowledge of environmental issues and concerns, but should also reinforce positive environmental attitudes and ensure that people demonstrate high levels of interest on environmental issues to minimise their negative impact on the environment. The perceptions on environmental literacy are reinforced by Atabek-Yigit et al (2014), who acknowledge that the determination of the environmental literacy of individuals can be effectively employed to symbolize the value or importance that is accorded to environmental concerns by an individual or society, hence the need to provide the ‘education for the environment’ component in available environmental literacy programs.

Conclusion

Part 1 of this report has successfully used the critical discourse analysis approach to identify and the discuss the similarities and differences between my posting and other students’ postings, while Part 2 of the report has analysed and positioned my initial posting in the context of available literature and some topics already covered in class. Overall, it can be suggested that the topics covered in class (historical development of environmental EE/ES, environmental values education and agency, environmental literacy) and the reviewed scholarly works have helped in expanding my initial perceptions on EE/ES as well as on applying the relevant theoretical concepts and conceptualisations to understand EE/SS and its importance at a much deeper level.

References

Al-Dajeh, H. (2012). Assessing environmental literacy of pre-vocational educational teachers in Jordan. College Student Journal, 46(3), 492-507.

Atabek-Yigit, E., Koklukaya, N., Yavuz, M., & Demirhan, E. (2014). Development and validation of environmental literacy scale for adults (ELSA). Journal of Baltic Science Education, 13(2), 425-435.

Hardy, J. (2011). Environmental values education: A critical analysis of the representation of indoctrination in an Australian preschool. International Journal of Learning, 17(12), 307-319.

Howlett, M & Raglon, R. (2001). Constructing the environmental spectacle: Green advertisements and the greening of the corporate image, 1910-1990. In A. Fill and P. Mulhausler (Eds), The ecolingusitics reader: Language, ecology and environment (pp. 245-257). New York, NY: Continuum.

Jickling, B. (1992). Why I don’t want my children to be educated for sustainable development. Journal of Environmental Education, 23(4), 5-8.

John, D.S. (2005). Making sense of earth’s politics: A Discourse approach. In J.S. Dryzek (Ed.), The Politics of the earth: Environmental Discourses (2nd ed., pp. 3-23). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Knapp, D. (2000). The Thessaloniki Declaration: A wake-up call for environmental education. Journal of Environmental Education, 13(3), 32-39.

McKeown, R., & Hopkins, C. (2003). EE=ESD: Defusing the worry. Environmental Education Research, 9(1), 117-128.

Robertson, M. (2006). Environmental education and cultural change in a land of plenty. In J.C. Lee & M. Williams (Eds.), Environmental and geographical education for sustainability: Cultural contexts (pp. 215-227). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Stibbe, A. (2007). Words and worlds: New directions for sustainability literacy. In W.L. Filho, E.I. Manolas, M.N. Sotirakou, & G.A. Boutakis (Eds.), Higher education and the challenge of sustainability: Problems, promises and good practice (pp. 283-293). Soufli, Greece: Environmental Education Centre.

Tilbury, D & Wortman, D. (2006). Whole school approaches to sustainability. In J.C. Lee and M. Williams (Eds.), Environmental and geographical education for sustainability: Cultural contexts (pp. 95-107). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

UNESCO-UNEP. (1978). The Tbilisi Declaration. Connect: UNESCO-UNEP Environmental Education Newsletter, 3(1), 1-8. Web.

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