Environmental Monographic Education in primary

By George Crawford,2014-05-13 18:33
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Environmental Monographic Education in primary

People’s Republic of China

    Education for Sustainable Development in Primary and Middle School in China

    Professor Wang Hongqi

    School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875

    Abstract: Education for sustainable development (hereinafter ESD) in

    primary and middle school in China has been developing from social

    advocacy activities to normal lessons in classes, forming a sustainable

    developing educational system combining thematic education and

    permeating education. ESD has been carried out in other subjects by

    supplementing with relative contents and ideas on environments. Along

    with the deepening of the 8th national curriculum reform cause, the

    Ministry of Education promulgated and implemented the Syllabus of

    thematic education for Sustainable Development in Primary and Middle

    school and Guidebook for Implementing Sustainable Education in Primary

    and Middle School in 2003. At present, the thematic education for

    sustainable development has been carried out widely and successfully in

    primary and middle school. The Thematic ESD, combined with

    research-based learning practices, are organized effectively in classroom

    according to the so-called principle “ spiraling up on the main theme, two

    dimensions and four phases.

    Keywords: China ESD Thematic Education for sustainable


    In modern China, due to the deterioration of natural environment and

    increasingly severity of development issues, people pay more attention to

    education for sustainable development. In 1996, the National Bureau for

    Environment Protection, the Central Bureau for Publicity and the Ministry of

    Education collaboratively issued an important document named The Guideline

    for Advocating Education for Sustainable Development in China. From then

    on, the ESD is carried out widely throughout the country just like the growth

    of bamboo shoots after spring rain. What needs to be mentioned here particularly, is that the ESD was called Environmental Education at very

    beginning and the target was just to protect our natural environment and make

    people live better. Thanks to the exchanges and communication with other

    countries, the concept of Environmental Education” (EE) was gradually replaced by Sustainable Development Education to include more contents and ideas with a view to promoting harmonious development between the

    human kind and the nature.

    In 2003, the 10

    th National Peoples Congress put forward the Strategies of


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    Sustainable Development and Rejuvenating the Nation With Science and

    Education. In the same year, the Ministry of Education launched the Syllabus of

    Thematic Education for Sustainable Development in Primary and Middle

    school and the Guidebook for Implementing Sustainable Education in Primary

    and Middle School to promote ESD in the formal education system.

    So far, China has founded a dozen ESD centers in 12 teachers universities

    in order to help carry out the Green School Program” in primary and middle

    schools. So far, about 16,933 Green Schools have been established in our country, which lay a solid foundation of sustainable education in the future.

    These institutions deserve special honors for their excellent performance in

    promote ESD. What is more, the program also inspired a lot of Publishers to

    publish a series of creative reading materials for ESD.

     In China, education for sustainable development in primary and middle

    school plays an important role in citizenship education. Especially, the ESD has

    started and grown with the development of environmental protection. For the

    last two decades, ESD in primary and middle school has been evolving from

    non-formal advocacy activities to classroom as an important part of formal

    education, which would be delivered in the thematic ESD lessons or in other

    subjects combining ESD content.

    1. Development of ESD in primary and middle school

     In China, ESD started in late 1970s in primary and middle school, and has lasted about 20 years so far. The development of ESD could be divided into

    four stages:

(1) Starting period (1973-1983): At first, ESD was defined as Environmental

    Education (EE). The 1st National Conference on Environmental Protection was

    held in 1973, where the official document entitled Decisions on Protecting and

    Improving Environment was released. EE has been started after the

    conference. In 1981, the State Council stipulated, Knowledge on

    environmental science should be popularized in primary and middle schools.

    Then the content of environmental protection education was included in the

    national syllabus and curriculum.

(2) Developing period (1983-1992): the government announced that

    environmental protection is a cardinal national policy in China in the Second

    National Conference on Environmental Protection in the year 1983. In this

    period, EE has been expanded from some experimental schools to many

    primary and middle schools countrywide. The objective of EE became clearer.

    The environmental content have been integrated into related subjects and many

    reading materials on EE were published for optional use.

(3) Reorientation period (1992-1997): In 1992, the former State Education


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    Commission has promulgated the National Curriculum Plan for 9 Years

    Compulsory Education for Primary and Middle school. The content of EE was

    widely expanded from knowledge on environment and nature, technology to

    solve environmental problems etc. to the harmonious interaction between

    environment and social development, the concept of sustainable development

    and effective participation of people in environment protection. At that time,

    the concept of ESD was getting popular.

(4) New period (1997- ): Initiation of the National Green Education Program in

    primary and middle school has changed ESD from social advocacy activities to

    formal lessons in classrooms. in primary and middle schools

    2. Status quo of ESD in primary and middle school in China

    ESD is conducted in three approaches in primary and middle school as


    The first approach is thematic ESD lessons in classroom, the second is

    other subjects in classroom incorporating ESD content, and the third is the

    extra curricula activities around the topic of ESD. According to a study report

    on ESD in primary and middle school, there are 71.2% primary and middle

    schools bringing ESD into their teaching plan in 1994. 21% of these schools

    included the thematic ESD in their curriculum. By contrast, the second

    approach mentioned above is the most popular vehicle for ESD. Accoording to

    their survey, ESD was mainly delivered in subjects of Nature (60.8%),

    Geography (23.8%) and Moral/Social Study (13.8%) in primary, while in

    subjects of Geography (66.2%), Biology (18.8%) and Chemistry (10.2%) in

    middle schools(Fig 1 and Fig 2). In addition, 86.8% of total schools have

    developed environment education activities after school.






    Fig1 Status of ESD in primary

    schoolsFig2 Status of ESD in middle



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    Taking middle schools in Beijing as an example, research shows that at present ESD is delivered by combining with other subjects. Though most of the

    teachers immerse the content of ESD into their subjects in accordance with the

    requirement of syllabus, most teachers only did a little (Fig 3).


    d80.00% ge70.00% v60.00%e edo more50.00%xl t40.00%do littleoe 30.00%pdo nothing n20.00% it10.00%n 0.00% GeographyChemistryBiologyPoliticsChinesePhysicsMathematics


    Fig.3 Extent of ESD developing in each subject (from the perspective of teacher)For the past dozens of years, ESD in China have been integrated with other subjects by immersing the ESD contents into other subject matters. And

    this is the dominating model for ESD. Based on the model, the thematic ESD

    lessons have been gradually developed specially for ESD as a whole. At

    present, the thematic ESD lesson plays a supplementary role in ESD. At the

    same time, in order to improve the teaching effects, interactive and research

    teaching methods are also well received by teachers and researchers.

    Fig 4 education system for sustainable development in primary and middle


3. Implementation of Thematic education for sustainable development in

    primary and middle school in China

    3.1 Curriculum Orientation of Thematic education for sustainable

    development in primary and middle school in China

    Thematic education for sustainable development has the character of being an independent course. Based on the permeating education, students are

    supposed to synthesize all their experiences and achieve the comprehensive

    understanding of humankind, society and environment. Moreover, they are

    supposed to consider deeply the relationship and interaction of environmental


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    factors. Through Thematic education for sustainable development, we can help

    students enjoy and love nature, pay attention to the environmental problems

    concerning family, community, country and the world, understand the

    relationship between people, society and nature, and finally obtain the

    necessary knowledge and skills to live harmoniously with nature.

    3.2 Design of Thematic education for sustainable development in primary and middle school

    To embody the characteristic of Thematic education for sustainable

    development, we design the syllabus according to the so-called principle

    spiraling up on the main theme, two dimensions and four phases (Fig 5),

    which could be elaborated in details as follows:

    teaching idea

    content of konwledgeteaching objectgeneral object

    attitudes and values

    object of each phaseprocess, method and skills

    content criterion of the first phasea main outlinesustainable development

    content criterion of the second phase

    content criterionconcerning environmentcontent criterion of the third phaseand environmental problems

    two dimensionscontent criterion of the fourch phasecultivating of environmentalbehavior, attitude and value


    Fig 5 Designing sketch map of Thematic education for sustainable

    development synopsis

    (1) The main theme refers to the sustainable development. The ESD will

    particularly emphasizes the balance between the environment, society and

    economy in social development. In the teaching process, responsibility of the

    human kind would be a focus for protecting the natural environment. And

    students are guided to realize and analyze the environmental problems

    comprehensively and synthetically, and at last to form the idea of sustainable

    development in their mind.

    (2) Two dimensions”: One dimension is the learning activities with

    environment as the objective of learning; the other is the cultivation of

    students habits and attitudes on ESD.

    The Dimension No.1 mainly focused on the content of ESD, i.e.

    understanding the origin, the process and the future trouble of some strains of


    People’s Republic of China sustainable development. The content is arranged according to the cognitive

    developing law, that is, from the near to the far, from the environment nearby to

    community, region and even global environment problems. The specific

    perception will develop to comprehensive understanding of environment and

    exploration of cause of effect relationship, and that will be the foundation for

    pondering on how to solve the environment problems.

    The Dimension No.2 is about the cultivation of behavior, attitude and

    values concerning the environment. The arrangement of the teaching content

    reflects the laws of the forming and developing of behavior and attitude. It

    began with the practice of environmental protection that help establish habits of

    friendly behavior toward environment. Then, evaluation of our own behavior

    and the behavior of others are made so that students can independently choose

    the ways of behavior friendly to environment. Furthermore, students can reflect

    on the restricting factors and understand the significance of peoples

    participation in environmental protection and sustainable development, thus to

    form the sense of social responsibility for the whole environment.

    (3) From primary school to Grade 11, the teaching content would be

    organized into four phases, and in each phase there will be four learning hours

    on average. The first phase is from Grade One to Grade Three in primary

    school and there will be 12 hours in all. The second phase is from Grade Four

    to Six and also 12 hours in all. The third phase is from Grade 7 to Grade 9, 12

    hours in all. The fourth phase is from Grade 10 to 11 in senior middle school , 8

    hours in all.

    (4) Content belonging to the same dimension could reappear in different

    phases, but would be more difficult gradually and spirally. A step-by-step

    model could vividly show that students in different age group could deepen the

    knowledge and ideas on ESD continuously (chart 6). At first, students know

    little about sustainability. But after study and exercises, the knowledge volume

    gained at each phase will increase remarkably and there will be a great leap in

    the final. In chart 6, the height of the taper represents the depth of knowledge

    and cognition, and the bottom area indicates the extension of knowledge. The

    model shows that the accumulation of knowledge in each phase is based on the

    that of the previous phase. At the same time, horizon of the students will be

    broadened phase by phase, and their emotion and consciousness will be

    enriched also. In one sentence, it shows the development idea that along with

    the augmentation of the tapers volume from nearness to farness, knowledge,

    attitudes and values of students are also accumulated and developed step by


     (5) Design of the four phases could be explained as follows:

    The first phase: Observation of students on various environmental phenomena

    and problems is superficial and there are no deep knowledge

    and consideration, and thus a punctuation mark of full stop

     is use to indicate this stage..


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    The second phase: after a period of learning students will have strong sensation

    for good or bad phenomena and elementary skills for

    judgment, an exclamation mark“!”is used to indicate this


    The third phase: Students have rational thinking for environment phenomena

    and problems and would like to enter and know society with

    questions, a question mark“?”represent this phase.

    The fourth phase: In this phase, students will gain the desire and ability to

    explore the infinite potential of sustainable development,

    the mark of dots“……” indicate this phase.

    Knowledge area

     Fig 6 Step-by-step model for ESD in primary and middle school

    3.3 Teaching Objective and Content in the four phases of Thematic

    education for sustainable development

    According to childrens cognitive development and the step-by-step model,

    we divide the course of Thematic education for sustainable development into

    four phases: the first phase is from grade one to three in primary school, the

    second is from grade four to six in primary school, the third phase is the junior

    middle school, and the fourth phase is the senior middle school. Each phase has

    a different theme suitable for the students age and ability. Through the study of the different themes, students learn to care for the living environment, master

    the life skills to live harmoniously with nature and choose the lifestyle which is

    helpful for the sustainability..

1.The first phase Age: 7~10 years old

    Orientation: Children of 7~10 years old are full of curiosity with all kinds

    of phenomena. They always learn through intuition because of the limitation of

    cognitive and understanding ability. So direct observation and perception are


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    the main methods of learning for this age group and they accords with

    childrens feature of image thinking.

    Teaching objectives: Students get close to, appreciate and cherish the

    nature; notice the developing problems nearby; think about the relationship

    between daily life and the environment and then accept simple behavior

    criterion of sustainable development.

     Knowledge Points: get to know common environmental phenomena

    and problems nearby and realize basic

    developing factors.

     Emotion and Attitude: Approach, appreciate and cherish the nature

    and enjoy the beauty of nature while feel

    disagreeable for the bad environment.

     Process and Ability: get to know things from multiple perspectives

    and have the ability to observe and express the

    differences and changes of the environment.

2. The second phase Age: 10~13 years old

     Orientation: Students from Grade Four to Six will have certain knowledge

    storage and wider world view. They have gained primary skills of judging and

    evaluating. Although the recognition of complicated things is still superficial

    and obscure, their cognitive development is toward the rational direction. So

    recognition and imagination are the necessary approaches to strengthen the

    understanding of what is sustainability. It accords with childrens more mature


     Teaching Objectives: Understand the definition of sustainable

    development and probe those problems of the community; apperceive the

    relationship between nature and people.

     Knowledge Points: Know the basic factors of the community

    environment; understand the characteristics of

    local environment; recognize the existing

    environment problems and the relationship

    between people lives and environment changes.

     Emotion and Attitude: Taste the harmony of the nature; analyze the

    direct or indirect affection of their and others

    unfriendly behavior to the environment; foster a

    sense of responsibility for the environment


     Process and Ability: Have the ability to judge and evaluate peoples

    behaviors; can raise questions about

    environmental problems.

3. The third phase Age: 13~16 years old


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    Orientation: Students of 13~16 years old will have accomplished the

    elementary education and entered junior middle school. In this period, their

    cognitive feature and mental structure will have great changes accompanying

    with the birth of radiation thinking and ability of exploration. They will be

    concerned at the environment with thoughtful thinking and will understand the

    close relationship between environment and people. Their outlook will be

    wider and more comprehensive. In a word, deep concerning and thinking are

    characteristic of this age group.

    Teaching Objectives: Understand the main problems in sustainable

    development and their probable aftermath for some region and the entire world;

    consider the relationship between environment and societys development;

    understand that man must choose the way of sustainable development; choose

    the friendly behavior towards environment on their own will.

     Knowledge basics: Understand the origin, process and aftermath of all

    kinds of environmental problems; critically

    consider the regional and global environmental

    problems; know the interrelationship and

    interaction between people and environment and

    the necessity of choosing the way of sustainable


     Emotion and Attitude: Consider the influence of our daily

    consumption activity; realize that to cherish the

    environment is to cherish ourselves; choose the

    lifestyle friendly to environment.

     Process and Ability: Take explorative thinking on environmental

    problems; have the ability to collect, organize

    and verify information on the basis of

    observation and assumption; give evaluation and

    orientation on people activity.

    4. The fourth phase Age: 16~19 years old

    Orientation: Students of this age group will gradually set up the right idea

    of sustainability with accumulation of knowledge and more life experiences,

    and they will have the ability to use knowledge and experience to reflect on

    sustainable problems. The manner of their thinking will turn to the rational, and

    they will have infinite appetency and conditions to explore problems they are

    interested in. In a word, exploring with enthusiasm and wisdom will be the

    prominent feature of the group.

     Teaching Objectives: Recognize the complication of developing problems;

    understand the needs of great efforts from all

    social sectors to solve the problems; consider the

    role of policy and law in the solving process.


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     Knowledge Points: Understand the role and value that people

    activity have played in solving environmental

    problems; explore how to solve the sustainable

    problems; consider the necessary ethics and

    values to realize sustainable development;

    consider the role of policy and law in solving

    environment problems.

     Emotion and Attitude: Students should know that individual has the

    responsibility to contribute for protecting or

    improving environment through participating

    public activity.

     Process and Ability: Cultivate the interest and the ability of doing

    research on environment problems; set about to

    solve surrounding problems; have the ability to

    design the problem-solving plan. 4. Conclusion

    At present, education for sustainable development has been carried out in

    primary and middle schools all over the country and obtained significant

    success. As we all know, it is important to popularize the knowledge about

    sustainable development and improve people awareness. However, for a long

    time, ESD in primary and middle schools in china has paid more attention to

    impart the relevant knowledge while much less to the cultivation of attitudes

    and skills, especially the right environmental ethics and sense of social

    responsibility which are necessary for the future citizen. So we should respond

    to the eighth curriculum reform for the basic education and bring education for

    sustainable development into the curriculum of primary and middle school. We

    should implement Thematic education for sustainable development completely

    and cooperate with the ministry of education that is committing itself to the

    curriculum reform ,especially to the comprehensive practice and

    research-based learning. We shall cultivate the students awareness of

    difficulties and foster the idea of sustainable development. To begin with the

    nearby environment problems they are concerned about, students are supposed

    to obtain right concepts of population, environment and development and take

    active actions to create a future of sustainable development.


[1] Ministry of Education in P.R.C. The Implementation Guide for Education of

    Sustainable Development in Primary and Middle School (Trial Implementation)

    [M]. Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press, 2003.

    [2] Ministry of Education in P.R.C. Thematic education Scheme of Education


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