Exploring the implementation of environmental education in Grade R : a case study of selected Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres

Hebe, Headman Ngilosi (2015-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Planet Earth is plagued by a myriad of problems which have been on the increase in recent years. These include, among other things, e–waste; reduction in biodiversity, air pollution, global warming and many more. Undoubtedly, the greed of human beings more than the quest to satisfy needs has been at the core of these problems which threaten the sustainability of earth’s ecosystems. For some years now, Environmental Education (EE) has been acknowledged and, consequently, employed as the vehicle to offset the impact of the challenges which continue to degrade Planet Earth. Hence, many levels of education, especially formal education; have been making some inroads towards empowering people to change their behaviour and help others through the integration of EE in learning and teaching activities. Unfortunately, the early childhood stage of human development has been neglected when it comes to education issues, in general (Calman and Tarr–Whelan 2005; Davis 1998), and in the context of this study, in issues concerning Environmental Education (Davis 2009). For example, Davis (2009) conducted a literature survey for the period 1996 – 2007 with a focus on environmental education/education for sustainability and childhood education and discovered that little research had been conducted in this area. Hence, she laments, “in general, early childhood education researchers have not engaged with environmental/sustainability issues, and environmental education researchers have not focused on very young children and educational settings” (Davis 2009: 229). Accordingly, this study was undertaken in response to Davis’s (2009) outcry and the realisation that, indeed, even in the context of South Africa, there is paucity of research in the areas identified by Davis (2009). The purpose of this qualitative–interpretive paradigm guided inquiry was to investigate the extent to which Environmental Education is integrated in Grade R teaching and learning activities at selected Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in the North West Province of South Africa. In order to gain in–depth information and multiple perspectives (Creswell 2007) on the subject of inquiry, the maximum variation strategy, a subtype of purposeful sampling (McMillan and Schumacher 1997) was used for case selection.Consequently, four Grade R offering ECD centres with diverse characteristics participated in this inquiry. From each of the selected centres, one Grade R classroom was selected for investigation. Likewise, the Grade R teachers whose classes were selected together with their principals participated in the investigation. Three data generation strategies were used in this inquiry, namely; participant observations, semi–structured interviews, and document and artefact analysis. And, in order to assign meaning to generated data, two data analysis strategies were utilized, namely; constant comparison (Leech and Onwuegbuzie 2007) and domain analysis (Neuman 2011). Evidence from this study suggests that, to a very limited extent, some Grade R teachers do integrate environmental issues in their activities. However, this infusion of EE is done, mainly, in the form of teaching about the environment with little or no teaching in/through and for the environment. Hence, viewed from Kopelke’s (2012) perspective, this integration of environmental issues can be considered to be environmental studies. Likewise, hindrances to the integration of EE in selected Grade R classes were identified. These included the following: classroom overcrowding, underfunding, inadequate teacher training and lack of resources. On the other hand, the following were some of the factors identified as enablers of EE infusion: collaboration among the Grade R teachers, well–designed Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) and, enabling curriculum frameworks. The study makes the following recommendations, among other things: the prioritisation of Grade R teacher training and remuneration, on–going and meaningful professional support for Grade R teachers, adherence to the norms and standards for Grade R funding and empowerment of School Management Teams and Senior Education Specialists to adequately support the Grade R teachers. Additionally, studies of similar nature are recommended and the study is rounded off with some guidelines on the integration of EE in Grade R.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Planeet Aarde word deur ontelbare probleme wat in die afgelope jare verhoog geteister. Hierdie probleme sluit in, onder andere, e–afval, vermindering van biodiversiteit, lugbesoedeling, aardverwarming en nog meer. Sonder twyfel word die gulsigheid van die mens liewer as die voorsiening van behoeftes as die kern van hierdie probleme, wat die volhoubaarheid van die aarde se ekosisteme bedreig, beskou. Vir ’n paar jaar word Omgewingsopvoeding (OO) erken en gevolglik gebruik om die effek van die voortdurende uitdagings om Planeet Aarde te degradeer en te neutraliseer. Gevolglik het baie vlakke van onderwys, veral formele onderwys; deur die integrasie van Omgewingsopvoeding in leer= en onderrigaktieiteite vordering t.o.v die bemagtiging van mense gemaak om sodoende hul gedrag te verander en ander mense in die proses te help. Ongelukkig word die vroeë kinderfasee van menslike ontwikkeling in die algemeen, verwaarlos waneer dit by onderwyskwessies kom (Calman en Tarr–Whelan 2005; Davis 1998), en veral in die konteks van hierdie studie, spesifiek die kwessies van Omgewingsopvoeding(Davis, 2009). Davis (2009) het ’n literatuuroorsig vir die tydperk 1996 – 2007 met die fokus op omgewings /opvoeding vir volhoubaarheid in kinderonderwys gedoen, en ontdek dat baie min navorsing in hierdie gebied gedoen is. Dus betreur sy die feit dat “in die algemeen navorsers in vroeë kinderonderwys nie die kwessies van volhoubaarheid aangeraak het nie en die navorsers in omgewingsopvoeding nie op baie jong kinders en hulle opvoedkundige kontekste gefokus het nie” (Davis 2009: 229). Gevolglik is hierdie studie onderneem in respons op Davis (2009) se verweer en ook die besef dat, inderdaad; selfs in die konteks van Suid–Afrika, daar ‘n gebrek aan navorsing in die areas wat deur Davis (2009) geidentifiseer is bestaan. Die doel van hierdie kwalitatiewe–interpretatiewe ondersoek is om die mate waarin omgewingsopvoeding, in Graad R–onderrig en leeraktiwiteite by Vroeëkindontwikkeling (VKO) sentrums in die Noordwes Provinsie van Suid–Afrika geintegeer is, te ondersoek. Ten einde, in–diepte inligting en veelvuldige perspektiewe (Creswell 2007) oor die onderwerp van ondersoek te verwerf, is die maksimum variasie–strategie (McMillan and Schumacher 1997), wat ‘n sub–kategorie van doelgerigte steekproewe is as keuse vir hierdie gevallestudie gebruik. Gevolglik is vier VKO–sentrums, met uiteenlopende kenmerke, wat Graad R aanbied by hierdie ondersoek betrek. Uit elke gekose sentrum is een Graad R–klaskamer vir ondersoek gekies. Terselfdetyd het die Graad R–onderwysers van die gekose klasse en hul skoolhoofde aan die ondersoek deelgeneem. Drie strategiee is gebruik om data in hierdie ondersoek te genereer naamlik; deelnemer–waarneming, semi–gestruktureerde onderhoude en die analise van dokumente en artefakte. Twee strategiee is gebruik om data te analiseer en betekenis daaraan te gee, naamlik; konstant–vergelykings (Leech and Onwuegbuzie 2007) en domein– analise (Neuman 2011). Bewyse uit hierdie studie dui daarop dat, sekere Graad R–onderwysers tot ’n baie beperkte mate, omgewingskwessies in hul aktiwiteite integreer. Hierdie integrasie van omgewingsopvoeding sluit hoofsaaklik onderrig oor die omgewing in met min of geen onderrig of/deur en vir die omgewing. Dus, vanuit Kopelke (2012) se perspektief, kan hierdie integrasie van omgewings–kwessies in aanmerking geneem word by omgewingsstudies. Daarbenewens is ook, hindernisse tot die integrasie van OO in gekoste Graad R–klase identifiseer. Dit sluit die volgende in: oorbevolkte klaskamers, swakbefondsing, onvoldoende opleiding van onderwysers en ’n gebrek aan hulpbronne. Andersyds is die volgende faktore identifiseer as geleenthede wat die integrasie van OO kan bevorder: samewerking tussen die Graad R–onderwysers, goed ontwerpte Leer en Onderrig Ondersteuning Materiaal (LOOM) en bemagtigende kurrikulumraamwerke. Die studie maak onder andere die volgende aanbevelings: die prioritisering van Graad R–onderwyser- opleiding, deurlopende en betekenisvolle professionele ondersteuning aan Graad R–onderwysers, voldoening aan die norme en standaarde vir Graad R–befondsing, en die bemagtiging van Skoolbestuurspanne en Senior Onderwys–spesialiste tot die effektiewe ondersteuning van Graad R–onderwysers. Daarbenewens word, studies van soortgelyke aard aanbeveel en word die studie met ’n paar riglyne oor die integrasie van OO in Graad R afgerond.

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