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A formal national EE strategy or policy though has as yet not been set up due to lack of political will (Mayo et al., 2008), even though the National Environment Education Strategy Action Group was set up in early 1996 (Department of Health Policy and Planning, 1997).
Research shows that EE has ingrained its roots in the primary educational field (Pace, 1997), where it is fairly easy to integrate cross-curricular EE in the classroom since most of the time there is only one teacher responsible for the teaching of all the subjects. In the secondary educational field, it is less easy, since different subjects are thought by different teachers and thus learning is more fragmented. Pace (1997) argued that there are three obstacles which limit the infusion of EE in secondary school curricula:
rigid subject compartmentalisation
lack of training for teaching personnel
rigid timetables and management structures
Environmental studies was introduced as a subject in the secondary curriculum, but it is not implemented in public schools where they still have separate lessons and teachers for geography, history and social studies. Still environmental issues are usually tackled in scientific subjects such as integrated science, biology, chemistry, physics and geography.
The EkoSkola programme though, in both primary and secondary schools, has successfully driven multidisciplinary EE in schools. The programme supports a whole school approach and weaves EE principles within a school's management policy and the everyday running of the school.
In post-secondary schools learning is even more fragmented with different teachers teaching not only different subjects, but also different topics within the same subject. Like in secondary schools environmental issues are usually addressed in science-related subjects. In 1994, an intermediate level certificate in Environmental Science was launched. However, the course does not provide a holistic overview of environmental issues because the syllabus panel regarded the introduction of socio-cultural aspects as an attempt to tone down the syllabus (Pace, 1997). Students aiming to enrol into university, have to follow a Systems of Knowledge course which consists of four modules. Module 4 is called 'Sustainable Development and Environment' and apart from aiming to foster knowledge on local and international sustainable development issues, it also aims to foster pro-environmental attitudes and values such as:
The value of sustainable development as a just method of dealing with environmental issues
Concern and responsibility for the environment
Commitment to actively participate in initiatives aimed at protecting the environment
(Matsec, Syllabus 2011)
The problem with this course though is that it involves a final examination and at least a pass is a requirement for university enrolment. According to Pace (1997), the course's aims are not entirely fulfilled as the learners' main concern is to obtain a certificate in the subject rather than extending their knowledge.
2.2.2 Problems with Education for Sustainable Development
Have educators responded to the need, values and methods of ESD? According to Bybee (1991), educators have responded neither appropriately nor sufficiently, but they have reacted primarily by focusing on contemporary problems separately, such as the energy crisis, acid rain or population growth, and the result has been uncoordinated, unconnected educational materials. Sterling (2001) suggests that a reason why educational systems across the globe have barely responded to the challenge of reorientation may be that there has been insufficient clarification of the changes in education that would be necessary for the goals of EE to be fulfilled. What has been missing is clarity about the vision of the education that is needed, and also a strategy of how to progress towards such a vision, bearing in mind the power of the dominant social and educational paradigms.
According to Pace (2005), though, the major problem is the tendency of educational institutions to choose the easiest way out - the relabeling of traditional practices such as Nature Study, as EE, rather than the restructuring of educational structures. This might stem from the failure of policy-makers to understand what is needed to achieve proper EE (Pace, 1992). Leal Filho (1996) suggests that this lack of understanding, confusion and slow adoption of proper EE has been aggravated by academic debates about terminology.
At this point, it is important to distinguish between education about the environment and education for the environment. The first refers to acquiring knowledge and awareness about issues and collecting data on these issues; the second refers to using education to build a more sustainable future. Education for the environment is more than knowledge building. It includes new attitudes, perspectives and values that guide and steer people towards more sustainable lifestyles.
Barriers to EE are not only present on a national and institutional level but also on a classroom level. Some barriers are external and logistic in nature such as such as lack of time (Ko and Lee, 2003, as cited by Kim and Fortner, 2006). However, there are also barriers that act more on a personal level, such as teachers' attitude, content knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge (Kim and Fortner, 2006). According to Makki et al., (2003), it is also not enough to develop and implement a curriculum in which EE is prominently represented. They continue to argue that even though an improved curriculum may provide teachers and students with lots of information, if it does not foster creativity, interest, and student involvement, the result will be lack of meaningful learning and motivation.
A vital, but generally forgotten aspect of EE is environmental political education, which teaches how changes can be achieved via political activism directed at Governments, international organisations, and even corporations (United Nations, 2004). In other words, EE should be aimed at producing environmentally responsible citizens, not just green consumers.
Environmental issues affect young people in a disproportionate way since they are the ones who have to live for a longer period of time in a deteriorating environment handed down to them by previous generations. Young people are the ones that will definitely need to provide radical solutions to the environmental problems caused by present-day actions (Bradley et al., 1999). Young people should thus be compelled to engage in new forms of action and activism that will generate effective results in the field of environmental protection (United Nations, 2004). The future of the world is, after all, their future.
The world's 1.2 billion young people aged 15-24 constitute 18 per cent of the global population (United Nations, 2007). Young people play many roles in society. They are not only learners but also consumers of many things including energy. They are understandably also concerned by social, cultural, economic and environmental issues. Young people thus have a key role to play in shaping the future, including in determining patterns of energy consumption, and other factors leading to climate change. The development of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour in youth is thus seen as very important for a sustainable future (Eagles and Demare, 1999).
The United Nations (UNCED, 1992) identified youths as key stakeholders that have a unique contribution to make towards sustainable development, and dedicated Chapter 25 in Agenda 21 to the importance of children and young people in the participation in decision making to create their own future. Agenda 21 promotes the role of young people in decision-making by defying the popular discourse that since young people are inexperienced and unqualified, they should not be considered (De Lucca, 2004). Young people have a right to be listened to and involved in the issues and decisions that affect their lives, not only today but also in the future. Also, the experience of young people living in the modern world, bring unique perspectives that need to be taken into account, and their creativity, open-mindedness, and energy enable them to seek out the change that they want to see and push for it. Therefore the involvement of young people in decision making processes will definitely influence the long-term success of sustainable development.
The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, often shortened to Rio Declaration, is a short document that was produced at the same conference (Earth Summit). The Rio Declaration consists of twenty-seven principles intended to guide future sustainable development around the world. Principle 21 concerns youth, and suggests that the creativity, ideals and courage of young people should be mobilised to create a global partnership that will guarantee a better future for everyone through sustainable development (United Nations, 1992).
These two documents (Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration) highlight the importance of youth to the future sustainability of our environment both in Malta and throughout the world.
The National Youth Policy (Parliamentary Secretariat for Youth and Sport, 2010) affirms that the State recognises 'that youth participation in preserving and protecting the environment is an important contribution towards the attainment of sustainability' (220.127.116.11), and that it should seek strategies that promote and encourage 'the active role of young people and their organisations in advocating measures to combat climate change, conserve bio-cultural diversity and improve the quality of human life' (18.104.22.168). ESD is really the key to enabling youths to achieve a sustainable future. Agenda 21 expects governments to establish task-forces that include youths and youth NGOs to develop ESD programmes specifically targeting youths on relevant critical issues (UNCED, 1992). This is because ESD is the best tool to inform and mobilise all young people, to participate actively in community activities that contribute to global sustainable development, thus empowering them to participate in societal transformation (UNESCO, 2004).
One of the aims of this research stems from the need to make ESD more available to young people, and is thus to identify some factors that encourage a change in behaviour in young people so that more effective programmes could be developed. It is hoped that more young people take the lead in sustainable development.
Youth have a major role in politics and they can use their influence as a long-term constituency to call upon political leaders to take more pro-environmental decisions (United Nations, 2003) since they are the one that will face the consequences of bad decisions, for the longest period of time. Today's young people have more power and potential to create change on global and local levels than they have had in any previous generation (Corriero, 2004). This increase is due both to the increased efforts at inclusion by decision makers who recognise the importance of the contributions of young people to decision making and to the ease of discussion and information exchange as a result of the Internet (Arnold et al., 2009).
In general, young people are often more exposed to information about the environment than do people from older generations. In part this is due to the availability of more EE in schools, at least in the developed world and perhaps more sporadically elsewhere (United Nations, 2004). Besides having been more exposed to environmental issues by means of formal, non-formal and informal education, youth have lived all their lives in an era in which these issues have become quite visible. Because youth have a stronger awareness of the issues and a greater stake in sustainable development, this should be an area in which they ought to take the lead to promote more awareness and to bring about concrete changes.
Young people certainly rose to the challenge at the COP-15 of the UNFCCC in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. At COP-15, world leaders met to negotiate the protocol that will follow the Kyoto Protocol, upon its expiration. The goal was to agree on new binding agreements to mitigate climate change. As those with the most to lose, millions of youth from around the globe gathered forces and campaigned, lobbied and protested to let their leaders know that they care for their future and that it must be protected.
Despite the importance of youth engagement in sustainable development, there has been little research conducted on young people who are leaders in environmental action (Arnold et al., 2009). This type of research will enable informed efforts to engage young people in environmental issues. Such engagement could have implications for their interest and involvement in environmental action throughout their lives.
The young people involved in this study have, for a number of reasons, developed a deep concern for the natural environment, so much so that they have become part of an organisation that speaks out for the environment. They strive for the capacity to make changes in those processes of society which they consider to be hindering its sustainability.
2.4 Research into Attitudes and Behaviour
It is clear that the attitudes, knowledge, and concerns that young people have about the environment will directly and indirectly affect present and future decisions concerning the environment and sustainable development. Therefore, if we examine young peoples' attitudes, knowledge, and concerns about the environment around them, we can have a better understanding of the direction we are headed. It is also important to learn about the direct contributions that they are making to sustain and support the environment, and to celebrate the examples of good practice. Young leaders of change can act as role models for other young people.
Human behaviour is seen as an important contributor to environmental problems and their solutions (Gardner and Stern, 2002; Nickerson, 2003), and education aims to shape human behaviour (Hungerford and Volk, 1990). Thus behavioural theories have been widely used to inform and develop EE. Ajzen and Fishbein's (1980) model of reasoned action is one of the most frequently cited. According to their theory, intention to act has a direct effect on behaviour, and can be predicted by attitude. Attitude is formed by subjective norms and beliefs.
From its inception EE sought to encourage pro-environmental behaviours and in the beginning this was based on a behavioural change model that hypothesised a linear relationship among knowledge, attitude, and action (Hines et al., 1986-1987; Hungerford and Volk, 1990). Environmental educators and researchers thus thought that any knowledge gained about the environment and environmental issues would result in the development of a pro-environmental attitude, which in turn would lead to pro-environmental behaviour. This assumption is still present to some extent in the education community. Working under this assumption, early EE researchers sought to find out what knowledge and experiences characterised people that held pro-environmental attitudes. The underlying assumption was that if this knowledge and these experiences could be replicated through EE, pro-environmental attitudes would be fostered amongst the general public, and pro-environmental behaviours would then result.
Corraliza and Berenguer (2000) define pro-environmental attitudes as people's predispositions, to pay attention to, be concerned about, and, ultimately, to act in the name of environmental protection. According to Kraus (1995), attitude is one of the most important determinants of behaviour. Thus, understanding the basis of an attitude is important if one is to try and facilitate behaviour change. Since a clear goal of EE is to change behaviour, Pooley and O'Connor (2002) suggest that it would be advantageous to first understand the basis of environmental attitudes and then use that understanding to facilitate changing environmental behaviour. Attitude research could thus also be a useful vehicle for ultimately designing EE programs (Newhouse, 1990). Some studies support the relationship between pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours (Dunlap and Van Liere, 1978; Kaiser et al., 1999; Meinhold and Malkus, 2005; Oskamp et al., 1991).
Various other studies though, have concluded that the environmental attitude-behaviour association is unconvincing (Axelrod and Lehman, 1993; Barrett and Kuroda, 2002; Kaplowitz and Levine, 2005; Kraus, 1995; Mogensen, and Nielsen, 2001; Newhouse, 1990; Schultz and Oskamp, 1996; Tuncer et al., 2005). Even though these studies report a high level of knowledge and positive environmental attitude, behaviour is reported to be not so positive. This was confirmed to be true to the Maltese islands as well. Mifsud (2008) reports that the overall attitude towards the environment, of students in post-secondary education appears to be strongly positive, but students generally seem to perform little positive action towards the environment. Similar results were found in other studies (Grima, 2008). So, even though many people view themselves as 'environmentalists' (Pieters et al., 1998), they do not translate their attitudes into pro-environmental behaviour. One reason may be pro-environmental behaviour often does not result in an immediate individual profit but in a long-term collective profit, which is often not appreciated by the individual. The individual benefits obtained from travelling by car and consuming incessantly, without consideration of negative environmental impacts, not separating waste, and not conserving energy, are immediate, whereas the negative environmental effects of such behaviours are often uncertain consequences in the future.
Another reason for this gap between attitudes and behaviour might be the way in which we are delivering EE. The formal education system is strongly knowledge based and it is clearly not leading to the desired outcome. This clashes strongly with the proper aims of EE which focus strongly on a change in behaviour and lifestyle. What is the benefit of EE if there is no action? Environmental problems endangering ecosystems and societies are due to human activities. To be reduced, they thus require changes in human behaviour (Pawlik, 1991). It is thus very important to study other factors rather than knowledge that foster a change in behaviour. This will help us to rethink education and find new avenues of involving young people in positive environmental actions.
There is in fact a large and constantly growing amount of literature that deals with the question of how human behaviours that impact the natural environment can be explained and fostered. To successfully promote pro-environmental behaviour, a better understanding of the various factors that influence people to engage in such behaviour is important. Future EE efforts will definately benefit from a closer consideration of deterrents to and motivators of pro-environmental behaviour. It is not always easy though to determine such factors as sometimes, even if the behaviour has a positive impact on the environment, it might be performed for other reasons than to protect the environment, for example, conserving energy in the household to save money or using a bicycle instead of a car to get some exercise. On the other hand, maybe we should not try to eliminate these factors but consider them simultaneously with the 'purely' environmental reasons. After all to understand and practice sustainable development we need to integrate environmental, economic and social aspects.
2.5 Research on the Factors that Foster Pro-environmental Behaviour
It is often suggested that environmental attitudes and environmental behaviour are related to people's values (Poortinga et al., 2004; Schultz and Zelezny, 1999; Stern, 2000a). Values are ingrained personal standards that guide us through decision-making in life. Values are therefore at the root of our attitudes and behaviour. It has been argued that environmental problems are largely ingrained into the traditional values, attitudes, and beliefs of a given society (Deng et al., 2006). According to Johnson et al. (2004) different populations with specific social practices and cultural traits are likely to hold different values