On my watch : a review of the environmental education literature with particular reference to South Africa, and South African teenagers

Murray, Robin Anne (2015-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: About half a million students matriculate from South African high schools each year, with limited environmental education and an underdeveloped capacity to live sustainable lives. This does not seem to be the case in some other parts of the world, where many high school students appear to be receiving education that is relevant to the socio-ecological crisis. The rationale of this thesis was to understand this phenomenon and explore what could be done to improve the situation for South African teenagers. This was a desktop study based upon systematic literature review methodology. The primary research objectives were to describe the local context of the study, explore emerging environmental education theoretical themes and detail a number of practical initiatives from around the world. The research process culminated in the fourth objective, which was to consolidate the work into key learnings for South Africa, with particular reference to South African teenagers. A backdrop to environmental education was provided that included a discussion on the global socio-ecological crisis, development and sustainable development in South Africa. The definition and use of the term “environmental education” was justified. In this instance, it is an inclusive definition that incorporates eco-literacy, ecological learning and education for sustainability. In addition to this, a brief comparative history of sustainable development and environmental education has been tabulated. Key theoretical themes in environmental education cluster around the centrality of place. Six themes are presented, namely space and place, trans-national education and third-culture kids, claims of transformation, principles of environmental education, institutional innovation, and the sustainability researcher. Three kinds of practical initiatives emerged in the literature review. These are “green fields” environmental education (brand new institutions), “moving train” environmental education (adaption of existing organisations) and “plug-in” environmental education. Eight initiatives are described, providing examples for all three of these groups. The key learnings for environmental education in South Africa and South African teenagers conclude this thesis. Among other key learnings, the value of the radical perspective is presented, as well as the benefit of perceiving environmental education through different lenses, including a historical one. The link between environmental education and food is explored. It is suggested that the theory and praxis of place-based education exerts a gravitational pull on many aspects of this work. It seems that place-based education provides a “holding space” for environmental education in South Africa, and a starting point for future research or practical application.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Ongeveer ’n halfmiljoen studente matrikuleer jaarliks aan Suid-Afrikaanse hoërskole. Hierdie leerders beskik oor beperkte omgewingsopvoeding en ’n onderontwikkelde vermoë om volhoubare lewens te lei. Dít blyk nie die geval te wees in ander wêrelddele nie, waar baie hoërskoolleerders oënskynlik onderrig ontvang wat met die sosio-ekologiese krisis verband hou. Die beweegrede vir hierdie tesis was om hierdie verskynsel te verstaan en te bepaal wat gedoen kan word om die stand van sake vir Suid-Afrikaanse tieners te verbeter. Die navorsing het bestaan uit ’n lessenaarstudie op grond van ’n stelselmatige literatuuroorsig. Die hoofnavorsingsdoelwitte was om die plaaslike konteks van die studie te beskryf, ontluikende teoretiese temas op omgewingsopvoedkundige gebied te verken, en ’n aantal praktiese inisiatiewe van oor die hele wêreld te beskryf. Die navorsingsproses het uitgeloop op die vierde doelwit, naamlik om die studieresultate in kernlesse vir Suid-Afrika, bepaald met verwysing na Suid-Afrikaanse tieners, te verwerk. Eerstens word die agtergrond van omgewingsopvoeding geskets, wat onder meer bestaan uit ’n bespreking van die wêreldwye sosio-ekologiese krisis sowel as ontwikkeling en volhoubare ontwikkeling in Suid-Afrika. Die omskrywing en gebruik van die term ‘omgewingsopvoeding’ word ook geregverdig. In hierdie geval word die term inklusief gebruik om ook na eko-geletterdheid, ekologiese leer en onderwys vir volhoubaarheid te verwys. Daarbenewens bied die studie ’n bondige vergelykende geskiedenis van volhoubare ontwikkeling en omgewingsopvoeding in tabelvorm. Die vernaamste teoretiese temas op omgewingsopvoedkundige gebied draai om die kernrol van plek. Ses temas word aangebied, naamlik ruimte en plek, transnasionale onderwys en derdekultuurkinders, bewerings van transformasie, beginsels van omgewingsopvoeding, institusionele innovasie, en die volhoubaarheidsnavorser. Drie soorte praktiese inisiatiewe het uit die literatuuroorsig na vore getree, naamlik “braakland”-omgewingsopvoeding (splinternuwe instellings), “bewegende trein”-omgewingsopvoeding (aanpassing van bestaande organisasies) en “inprop”-omgewingsopvoeding. Agt inisiatiewe word beskryf, wat voorbeelde van ál drie hierdie groepe bied. Die tesis bied ten slotte die belangrikste lesse vir omgewingsopvoeding in Suid-Afrika en vir Suid-Afrikaanse tieners aan. Dit sluit onder andere in die waarde van die radikale perspektief, sowel as die voordeel daarvan om omgewingsopvoeding deur verskillende lense, waaronder ’n historiese een, te beskou. Die koppeling tussen omgewingsopvoeding en voedsel word verken. Die studie kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat die teorie en praktyk van plekgebaseerde onderwys ’n soort ‘beweegruimte’ vir omgewingsopvoeding in Suid-Afrika, sowel as ’n wegspringplek vir toekomstige navorsing of praktiese toepassing, bied.

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