History recognition in the UN Conference on

History of
Environmental Education (EE) in Schools

Environmental Education is a learning process
that increases people’s knowledge and awareness about the environment and
associated challenges, develops the necessary skills and expertise to address
the challenges, the foster attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make
informed decisions and take responsible action 1.  In the literatures, it was attempted and aimed
to “producing a citizenry that is knowledgeable concerning the biophysical
environment and its associated problems, aware of how to solve these problems,
and motivated to work toward their solution” 2.

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Over the years, three major declarations
structures the objectives of Environmental Educations that were made by the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and
the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 


In 1972, EE gained international recognition in
the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Sweden.  The Stockholm Declaration was the first
declaration of EE.  It was the outcome of
the first international forum that was intended in tackling the global
environmental challenges.  It was the
first time that a document was formally recorded and suggested that education
about the environment should be integrated in schools.  After 3 years, UNESCO and UNEP together with
60 representatives of different countries announced in the International
Environmental Workshop in Belgrade Yugoslavia the Belgrade Charter.   This
charter states:  “Environmental
Education, properly understood, should constitute a comprehensive lifelong
education, one responsive to changes in a rapidly changing world.  It should prepare the individual for life
through an understanding of the major problems of the contemporary world, and
the provision of skills and attributes needed to play a productive role towards
improving life and protecting the environment with due regard given  to ethical values.  The goal of Environmental Education is to
develop a world population that is aware of, and concerned about, the
environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, skills,
attitudes, motivations, and commitments to work individually and collectively
toward solutions of current problems and preventions of new ones.”


After the Belgrade Charter, UNESCO organized
the world’s first intergovernmental conference on EE in cooperation with UNEP
and 265 delegates and 65 representatives adopted the Tbilisi Declaration in
1977 in Tbilisi Georgia.  The declaration
noted that there were unanimous accord in the significance role of EE in the
preservation and improvement of the world’s environment, as well as in the
sound and balanced development of the World’s communities.  The conference established recommendations for
a wider application of EE in formal and non-formal education.  It also recognized that, in addition to
aiming the development of critical thinking and problem-solving and
decision-making skills in environmental issues and improving the quality of
life, the students should also “be actively involved at all levels in working
toward resolution of environmental problems” (UNESCO, 1978). 


The objectives of the Tbilisi Declaration were:

Awareness – to help social groups and individuals acquire an
awareness and sensitivity to the total environment and its allied problems.

Knowledge – to help social groups and individuals gain a
variety of experience in, and acquire a basic understanding of, the environment
and its associated problems. 

Attitudes – to help social groups and individuals acquires a
set of values and feelings of concern for the environment and the motivation
for actively participating in environmental improvement and protection. 

Skills – to help social groups and individuals acquires the
skills for identifying and solving environmental problems.

Participation – to provide social groups and individuals with
an opportunity to be actively involved at all levels in working toward
resolution of environmental problems. (UNESCO, 1978). 


These objectives are important to this study
because they demonstrate the importance of environmental awareness and
attitudes.  In this study, environmental
awareness and attitudes will be solicited. 


The following key development that focuses on
the objective of EE appeared in the publication of the Brundtland Report, Our
Common Future (World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED),
1987).  In this report, the EE’s focus
shifted to sustainable development, economic growth, environmental protection,
and social equality.  This report also
given materials for the publication of the Agenda 21 that focused specifically
on environmental education for sustainability in the 1992 Earth Summit. 


Agenda 21 is one of the most important
documents in EE.  It was declared in Rio
de Janeiro at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) or the
1992 Earth Summit.  This summit
emphasizes the need to integrate the complementary disciplines of development
education and environmental education (UNESCO, 1992).  Also, “Agenda 21 of the Summit called for the
re-orientation of environmental education towards sustainability” (Tilbury,
1995).  The reorientation of EE towards
sustainability is seed as one of the UN’s highest priorities, along with improving
the quality of EE (Macknzie, 2006).


Agenda 21 also emphasized the need of a general
perspective to be reflected in the circular approach to EE for sustainability
(EEFS).  It highlighted the necessary
need to include the concept of sustainability into all the learning areas.  Agenda 21 defined EEFS as a basis for
environmental actions.  Personally
involved with environmental issues was identified as the most effective method
in improving the action skills of students to participate in the resolution of
environmental problems.  EEFS recognizes
that “I is not sufficient to encourage students to make judgments; they must
develop a variety of action skills to participate in the resolution of these
problems” (Tillbury, 1995).


Environmental Education
in School Curriculum

Environmental Education in formal education has
been reported as initially coming into school curricula in the early 1970s through
science education (Gough, 2002). The origins of EE can also be traced further
back to the promotion of nature studies and later to the conservation movement
(Stevenson, 2007).  He also discusses
that, although the objectives of nature studies and conservation education can
be easily accommodated in the goals of a system of a school, improvement on
environmental behavior among students is still a more challenging task for


In the 1980s, the role of EE in school
organization was meaningfully developed by increasing public environmental
concern, giving a stronger impetus to schools to implement EE (Tillbury,
1995).  In the Agenda 21 – Chapter 36, it
highlights that “EE should be incorporated at primary and secondary schools and
that is should be in responsibility of educational authorities to promote all
kids of programs for continuing education in environment in the move towards
sustainable development (UNESCO, 1992). 


Schools can provide the largest organized base
for EE, and for students whose minds are still developing, schools may offer an
effective instrument for embedding in them desirable environmental ethics
(Nagra, 2010).  EE in schools can provide
students with a forum to voice their opinions, not only in regard to what they
are learning about the environment and what they want to achieve, but also for
them to offer insights into how they believe EE could be more effective in
empowering them to achieve change (Prabawa-Sear & Baudains, 2011).  EE in schools is seen as an important strategy
for achieving environmental improvement (Loughland et all 2003). 


In formal EE programs, school students are
often considered to be the most appropriate targets because they are in a
period of life which can significantly shape the way they approach and interact
with the environment that surrounds them and develop a desire for lifelong
learning (Mackey, 2012).  EE in schools
therefore tries to sensitize the young minds of students to environmental
problems and concerns and to develop environmental attitudes and behavior
towards the environment (Thapa, 1999). 
Secondary school students, especially 13-17 year olds, seem to be the
most appropriate targets for fostering ethical and ecological appreciation of
the natural world (Kellert, 1985).  “Student’s
responsibilities in the future are clear – they are the future leaders, policymakers,
consumers, and voters.  Therefore, they
will be responsible for ‘fixing’ the environment (even though they haven’t
caused the problems), and they will be the ones who must be convinced to adopt
and pay the costs of future environmental policies.  Therefore, EE in schools is essential for
making students aware of the environmental aspects (Bradley et al. 1999).  IN addition, the awareness that students
develop about the environment at school can affect the habits of their
family.  For instance, students who learn
about recycling can encourage their family members to do so (Ballantyne,


Many have debated such as teachers and policy
makers on how to implement EE inside the schools curricula.  In the 1980, two models dominated such as
(Yueh, 2007):

Multidisciplinary Model – It is a model that introduces EE
into the existing school subjects according to its relevance to the teaching
content of each school subject.

Interdisciplinary Model – It is a model that is an
independent teaching unit containing materials from every school subject.

The multidisciplinary approach shows to have
been most commonly used with classroom based EE programs, with EE concepts
incorporated into independent subject areas such as biology, Chemistry,
geology, and geography in secondary curricula (Hart &Nolan, 1999).


Whichever chosen approach, it is important that
the goals of EE be included in the educational practices in schools.  Also, the Tbilisi Declaration (1978)
established the guidelines for teaching the strategies and pedagogical
approaches.  In these guidelines, it
focuses on learners to work individually towards the resolution of current
environmental problems.    (Stevenson,
2007) points out that the teaching and learning are planned to be a joint
process of inquire into and action on the real environmental issues.  He also claims that this process demands the
students to be actively in a real situation that needs critical thinking with
regards to the real problem at hand.  The
curricula of the school should be designed on ways it can help generate the
students environmental awareness and also improve their critical thinking about
environmental issues and what actions to be considered with these issues. 


The meaningful orientation of EE in schools
would be one where the experience of the students will be explored and then
challenged (Loughland et al., 2002).  But
for school children to participate in environmental conservation activities,
they need to have qualities of thought, feeling and action that develops in the
students through a learning process in which the key feature is what they understand
and how they will react (Toili, 2007).


“If the fundamental aim of EE is to help
students understand, appreciate and care for the environment, then educational
authorities and policy makers should know the impact of schools’ programs and
identify the types of learning experiences that help to develop active and
accurately informed minds (Said et al., 2007). 
Likewise, school plays as an important role in the formation of the
students’ opinions on the environment. 
The students’ observations can show that the different composition may
play a part such as family background, ability of their teachers, school
curricula contributions, and social climates (Tuncer et al., 2005).


EE will be more likely be effective if the
schools will look past on how students’ gain knowledge but try to promote and
focus on the use of practical activities as the tool for teaching and
positively developing awareness and attitudes towards the environment.  Environmental awareness is necessary to succeed
in achieving environmental protection and restoration.  Students must understand environmental problems.  EE rest in the hands of the new generation
that will be educated by their communities. 
Hence, this study investigates the environmental awareness and attitudes
of secondary
students in an International School in Kuwait. 
I think it’s important to explore the opinions of the students. 


Environmental Awareness
of Students

For so many years in Kuwait, environmental
issues related to climate change, loss of agriculture, loss of biodiversity,
air pollution, water pollution and all environmental destruction that the gulf
war has caused have increased and has been a major concern.  From an environmental point of view, I think
that the lack of environmental awareness of people and students will make this
environmental issues unresolved. 


students acquired levels of environmental understanding of different issues
such as ecology, economics and even technology, they can prepare their own
views on how each of these aspects can influence and help environmental
concerns and policies (Bradley, 1999). 
This study wants to investigate the level of environmental awareness of
the students because I think it is an important component of Environmental
Education which according the to the objectives of EE in the Tbilisi
Declaration.  The interconnection between
awareness and knowledge is considered. 


a lot people think that awareness and knowledge maybe the same, they are
different.  Awareness is to know and feel
the event that is happening, while knowledge is the familiarity and
understanding of a subject.  Environmental
knowledge is a precondition of environmental awareness and the emotional
involvement is what shapes environmental awareness and attitudes (Grob,


have tried to define the meaning of environmental knowledge.  The knowledge of ecology is defined as an
ecological conceptual basis for resolving environmental issues (Hungerfod and
Vold, 1990).  They have also added that the
knowledge of ecology does not necessarily produce environmental behavior, but
is significant for decision-making.


environmental education used in a scientific approach is mostly concerned with
knowledge of the effects of environmental problems.  Its focus is on students gaining knowledge
about environmental issues that might only affect them (Jensen, 2002). He also
argues that this kind of information and attitude does not necessarily lead to environmental
behavior and might lead to lack to the relationship between awareness and
behavioral change. He suggested that if ever this happen “the environment as it
is taught in school is not in essence action oriented … and students have not
been afforded the possibility of actively appropriating and internalizing that
knowledge”.  Students will know the
effect of environmental problems and issues but will never be able to
understand the causes and how it may be resolved or address.  Some researchers have implied that such
knowledge may create the sense of worry to students, may somehow disempower
them with overwhelming information about environmental issues and at the end
will not help them in trying to solve the issues.  This feeling can even lead to the feeling of
hopelessness about our world’s environmental situation. PISA 2006 findings
indicated that the environmental awareness with students is high but the
optimism towards resolving them is low (Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development OECD, 2009). 


kind of knowledge should students need in order to lead them to environmental
action? Jensen (2002) argued, “If the main goal of environmental education is
the development of the student’s ability to act and effect change, it follows
that associated knowledge and insight should in essence be action
oriented.  This has significant
consequences for the kind of knowledge that will be in focus of planning,
implementing and evaluation teaching and learning in environmental
education”.  Thus, to be able to inform
environmental awareness, change of behavior should be developed in order to
inform environmental awareness. 


researchers have emphasized the importance of developing environmental
awareness.  IN the Tbilisi Declaration in
1977, has described that the awareness of the local environment is a necessary
foundation to environmental stewardship. 
Environmental awareness is later defined as the student’s ability to
understand and evaluate the impact of society ion the ecosystem (Gambro and
Switzky, 1996).  Recognizing
environmental issues as well as understanding its origins and consequences
reveals on how to discover environmental awareness.


awareness and attitudes may be influenced by environmental decisions and
behaviors.  Many studies have confirmed
that awareness is an successful variable for environmental responsible


environmental experience that brings positive impact to a student may be a
fundamental in improving long-term awareness. 
Number of researchers noted that the influence of Significant Life
Experiences (SLE) such as walking or biking in the park, hiking, camping or
simply having picnic and experiencing nature may give in a pro-environment
behavior.  The family or the school can
help in providing the opportunities to students to have a positive experience
with nature to develop environmental awareness and attitude.  Outdoor learning and connecting with nature
will give significant and positive educational advantages to students.   Outdoors learning may promotes a good
relationship with the natural environment and can lead to deep environmental
knowledge and understanding of the world that surrounds us.  Urban and rural living may also affect the
environmental awareness and attitudes of students. 


with nature is not only the factor for environmental awareness and attitudes;
it can also be from other influences such as teachers, schools family
background.  Research found out that
“Student’s knowledge varies according to the school ethos, the teacher, and
their access to information through books, media such as television, computer
games, and other social activities. 
Thus, when children are exposed to situations that involve environmental
dilemmas, their reactions vary according to four major factors: culture,
experience, affiliation for a particular animal, and school ethos” (Barraza and
Walford, 2002).  Also, the type of school
management, private or public, and cultural differences also have impact on
environmental awareness of students is argued by Shobeiri Et Al (2007).  Gender difference is another factor that may
influence the environmental awareness and attitudes of students. 


Environmental Attitudes
of Students

Attitude is defined as an individual’s state of
mind towards a person, a place, a thing or an event in which influence the
individual’s thoughts and actions.  If
environmental education will be able to change the student’s behavior into a
better future, then environmental learning must go beyond awareness to nurture
environmental attitudes  (Hungerford
& Folk, 1990).  Redclift (1992),
suggested that we need to study environmental attitudes into a deeper level to
find out environmental perceptions of human agency.  Environmental attitudes refer to a feeling
towards ecology and the environment, feelings and concern for specific
environmental issues, and feelings towards acting to solve environmental
problems (Pe’er, Goldman & Yavetz, 2007). 
Having these feelings will mostly affect by personal opinion, which can
be developed through your personal life experiences and education from your
family or at school. 


An environmental attitude is a group of beliefs
whether to the liking or disliking of some aspects of the environment.  One of the Tbilisi Declaration’s objectives
is to specifically focus on helping students and different individuals to have
acquire favorable attitudes to protect and improve our environment (UNESCO,


Understanding the current environmental
awareness and attitudes of the students could inform the future development of
Environmental Education in Kuwait