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Home > Special Topics > Colloquium Last Updated: 15:15 03/09/2007
Colloquium #40: December 8, 2003

Environmental Education:Part 5
- Environmental Education in some European and Developing Countries in 1990s

Jack Hiroki Iguchi (Professor, Graduate School of Environmental Sciences, Aomori University, Japan)

Environmental education in some European and the Third World countries are discussed in the following sections, which comes from a Development Centre workshop organised by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in April 1992, and includes 10 case studies of educational programmes in Africa, Asia and Latin America which are designed to promote sustainable development (OECD, 1993: 7)

The Project on "The Environment and School Initiatives "under the auspices of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and CERI (Centre for Educational Research and Innovation) was aimed at school-related research and development of environmental education. Broadcasting media were the main vehicles of environmental information available to the general public. Other innovative features were recognized as essential to the effective promotion of environmental education. These included opportunities for field work; quality control of teaching materials; small class size; environmental education across the curriculum (Dunlop J. 1993:84).

In the early 1990s, the Italian education system has made significant progress towards environmental issues and problems. In order to give support to teachers in this field of study, organisations such as Centro di Iniziativa Democratica Degli Insegnanti (CIDI) have arranged both national and international seminars on the theme of environmental education. The growth of environmental education in the Italian education system suggests that the development of teaching strategies and materials support are in considerable demand (Ibid: 85).

Until the mid-1980s, environmental education in Dutch schools was tentative and haphazard. Dunlop relates that any materials were untested and used by teachers in a completely random manner. Since the mid-1980s, the National Examination System had been revised and, as a result, the three science subjects chemistry, physics, biology and geography now include environmental topics. However in primary schools, no systematic environmental education exists. Some teachers ventured to cover well-published global issues such as acid rain or the greenhouse effects, but such topics were either taught very superficially of badly owing to the teacher's lack of knowledge. Many Dutch NGOs try to assist schools but the quality of their educational materials does not fit schools' curricular practices. To be successful, the entire system needs to be reformed (Ibid: 86,87).

The Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs aimed to make environmental education interdisciplinary in all subjects within the education system. The implementation of training programmes is the responsibility of many bodies such as County Directors of Education, County Education Committees, school boards, State Colleges of Education, adult education institutions, teachers' organisations, schools and individual teachers. One of the notable features of the Norwegian approach to environmental education is that it involves the mobilization of teachers, and seeks to find ways of helping countries, schools and teachers produce their own local plans for the environment (Ibid: 87).

The most critical environmental problem here is probably land degradation. Only one fifth of Kenya's total land is arable, but, according to the National Environment Secretariat (NES), 28.7% of this area is severely affected by desertification, or shows signs of deterioration. Also deforestation constitutes another major problem. About 19,000 hectares of forest are destroyed each year due to clearance for firewood. As a result, almost three-quarters of the country's original natural forest has already been destroyed.

The Kenya Energy and Environmental Organisation (KENGO), which was established in 1982, addresses the above problems and functions as a national network of local group and NGOs. Since its creation, KENGO has been active in the field of environmental education, mainly in the field of tree planting and energy conservation. KENGO's efforts in the area of environmental education are complemented by educational materials, such as pamphlets, posters, a quarterly newsletter "KENGO News", a journal and technical books. Illustrated publications with simple step-by-step explanations have been very useful for various grassroots communities (Munene M. 1993: 123,125,127).

Until the early 1990s, this country has relied heavily on the export of crops such as rubber, palm oil and cocoa as well as minerals like tin and iron ore. More recently, manufacturing activities such as electronics, textiles and even cars have developed. Logging is still an important industry in some states. Such trends of rapidly developing industrialization have not been friendly to the environment. Major environmental legislation was enacted in 1974 the Environmental Quality Act (EQA) and the Pesticide Act (PA).

Formal environmental education has existed at the university level since the late 1970s and the school curricula from the mid-1980s. A major problem for environmental education is the diverse ethnic composition of the population, made up of Chinese, Malay and Tamil Indians, so four principal languages are used: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. The Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia (EPSM) was established in 1974. It has advocated the prudent use of environmental resources and has paid special attention to issues connected with policy and regulations. It has worked closely with the DOE (The Department of Environment) and NGOs to plan and conduct studies to raise the public's environmental awareness. Especially, as the method of non-formal education for adults, in the future, mass media like TV is regarded as important to achieve changes in attitudes (Gurmit Singh K. 1993: 165,166,174).

Depletion of the rainforests, destruction of habitats and massive air and water pollution are Brazil's present serious environmental problems. Despite the seriousness of these problems, very few resources have been available to increase the level of environmental awareness of the people. The major, most effective agencies are mass media, i.e. TV, radio, and in particular newspapers. The Brazilian media are well-developed among developing countries. 314 registered daily news papers and 17 news magazines are published. The contribution of the press can help people to understand the increasing process of environmental degradation seen in the country (Water D. 1993: 1992-201).

All in all, through the experiences on environmental education in some countries, both formal school education and non-formal education by NGOs and mass media are indispensable in helping develop people's awareness of the environment.


One of the most successful schemes of environmental education has been conducted by WWF UK. It has initiated a wide range of curriculum development and community projects using over 200 resources published by WWF for home and school to give people the skills and knowledge for learning environmental issues. During the past 10 years from the mid-1990s, WWF UK developed an extensive, collaborative, international network of people and institutions. As a result, it is now able to provide a comprehensive consultancy service in environmental education to a wide range of target audiences, including Education Trust; Aid Agencies; NGOs; and overseas Governments who are involved in promoting environmental education (WWF, 1995: 1).

Another typical successful schemes of environmental education might be carried out by the Institute of Education in the University of London which is the biggest postgraduate institution in the UK. In particular, the Geography 16-19 Project has produced several useful teaching publications, mainly written by geography teachers in the schools, such as "The Rural Urban Fringe"; "The Impact of Manufacturing Industry"; "London's Green Belt"; and "Human Impact on River System". Almost these resources directly concern with local environmental problems. That project's major contribution has been to focus its curriculum Framework (Naish et al, 1987) on people- environment questions, issues and problems and this approach has been taken on widely.

Also The Remote Sensing in Geography National Curriculum Project is based at the Institute. Through this project, teachers are encouraged to use aerial photograph, weather an other satellite images, and are given opportunities to investigate changes in human and environmental geography (Kent et al, 1993).

One of the most effective activities on environmental education in USA could be the "Earth Day". The objectives of this event are to focus on earth issues, to make people understand what they can do to look after the earth stewardship - and to develop educational projects. In 1990, for example, the event on 20th Earth Day were arranged all over the USA and each state had a coordinator, and many organisations and firms cooperated. There were many activities which school children enjoyed without any stress. The examples are listed as follows.

- Plant trees in the school yard.
- Grow trees from seeds.
- Set up an organic garden at school with a compost pile.
- Survey how many different kinds of plants, animals and insects live in the school yard and draw pictures of them.
- Organise a clear-up of the school yard or a local park.

- Organise a school recycling program with collection bins.
- Set up a paper recycling area in the classroom. Paper with one good side can go into a box to be reused as scratch paper. Another box should be used for no-reusable white paper and a third box for coloured paper.
- Have the students draw up and circulate a petition asking the administration to use recycled paper.

- Have students use creative, non-polluting transportation methods to get to school during the week prior to Earth Day. Biking, roller skating, using a pogo stick, riding a unicycle, etc.
- Organise a toy car or boat race operating on solar energy.
- Build a solar box cooker and use it to have a cook-out.
- Adopt a local stream and protect it from pollution and development.

- Organise an environmental picture contest, dramatizing the best (beauty) and worst (pollution) of nature.
- Make a paper tree on the classroom wall with each leaf giving a tip on how to protect the environment.
- Have students perform a play or puppet show with an environmental theme.
- Sing song about nature.
- Organise a parade of students dressed as their favorite endangered species.

- Visit a dump and a recycling centre.
- Arrange for a tour of a wind farm, a geothermal power plant or a building that uses solar energy.
- Survey what kinds of garbage washes up on an ocean beach or a lakeshore. Then organise a clean-up.
- Visit a nature centre, a natural history museum or wilderness area.
- Take a trip to a local organic farm that uses natural methods to grow food.
(Earth Day 1990)

These activities can be useful for environmental education in schools in any countries, even as museum activities.


Dunlop J., 1993. Lessons from Environmental Education in Industrialised Countries, Development Centre Documents Environmental Education, OECD: 84-87.

Earth Day, 1990. The Earth Day 1990 School Ideas, USA, (leaflet).

Gurmit Singh K.S., 1993. Practical Experiences with Environmental Education and Awareness Raising in Malaysia, Develop Centre Documents Environmental Education, OECD: 165,166,174.

Kent W.A.et al, 1993. Remote Sensing in the Geography National Curriculum, Institute of Education, University of London, flyer.

Munene M.J., 1993. KENGO: A Case of Environmental Education and Awareness Raising at the Grassroots Level, Develop Centre Documents-Environmental Education, OECD: 123,125,127.

Naish M., Rawling E. & Hart C., 1987. The Contribution of a Curriculum Project to 16-19 Education, Longman.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), 1993. Development Centre Documents, Environmental Education: 7.

Walter D.S., 1993. Using the Press in Environmental Education: A Case from Brazil, Develop Centre Documents Environmental Education, OECD: 199-201.

WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), 1995. WWF Educational Catalogue: 1.

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