The double-edged sword of environmental education : a quasi-experimental study in China

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The double-edged sword of environmental education : a quasi-experimental study in China

 

Author: Lam, Ki Wai Lianne
Title: The double-edged sword of environmental education : a quasi-experimental study in China
Degree: D.B.A.
Year: 2013
Subject: Environmental education -- China.
Environmental education -- Social aspects -- China.
Sustainable development -- China.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Faculty of Business
Pages: xii, 168 leaves : illustrations ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2825672
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/7989
Abstract: The traditional way of increasing the public's awareness of and commitment to environmental protection is through education, as it is able to nurture an ethic of sustainability for future generations. The two educational approaches environmentalists and NGOs generally adopt to alter attitudes towards the environment are: Environmental Education (EE) -the predominant approach with a focus on providing scientific education to raise environmental awareness, and Education for Sustainability Development (ESD) -an emerging approach that integrates the concepts of sustainable development with EE to incorporate economic, social, and environmental factors to bring about solutions for sustainability (McKeown & Hopkins, 2003). Nevertheless, there is a continuous debate regarding which approach brings better educational results among students. The theoretical debate extends to tackle with the fundamental conflict between sustainability and development (Yang, Lam, & Wong, 2010). However, the debates are limited to the conceptual stage without empirical evidences to support the arguments.Earlier literature on environmental education only focused on learners' attitudinal and behavioral changes towards environmental conservation, without addressing any possibilities of the programs creating the undesirable side-effect of fostering learners' hidden rejection of economic development. Considering the fact that ultimate goal of the environmental education programs is to achieve a sustainable future, and yet the programs may have a substantial impact on its participants' choice between conservation and development, it is necessary to investigate the impact of EE and ESD on conservation and development.This study sets forth to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of the EE and ESD programs among Chinese students in an experimental setting, by focusing on giant panda protection as a mechanism to stimulate attitudinal changes towards (1) environmental conservation, (2) economic development, (3) the contention within sustainability development, i.e. the choice between sustainability and development, and (4) understanding how socio-demographic factors, namely, place attachment and economic pressure, affect students' perception.
This empirical research was conducted in a typical Chinese rural village with both a conservational and a developmental focus. After validating the content by a pilot test,747 students were randomly assigned to attend two different education workshops. Analyses were conducted based on the attitudinal changes of each individual student, and a conclusion was drawn along with a qualitative analysis on the post-event focus group discussion conducted three months after the education interventions.The research results suggest that EE is a radical educational approach with the potential of creating biases among its recipients towards economic development. On the other hand, ESD is an effective educational approach that motivates pro-environmental attitude change. Moreover, the results identify that being "Poor" and "Non-native" in EE group, and female participants with high place attachment in the ESD group may have a stronger tendency to develop favorable attitudinal changes towards economic development. This results in an intense increase of inner contention gap between conservation and development.The present study extends from prior environmental education research with quantitative evidences that distinguish EE from ESD by their impacts on students in China. The findings based on socio-demographic variables also address the literature gap between education and attitude. From the practical perspective, this study serves as a reference to NGOs to compile project evaluations, and makes it possible to more effectively recruit advocates for sustainability development initiatives in China by selecting student groups suggested in this research. The study also alerts the government and NGOs of the need to plan and implement their future charity campaigns with caution.

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