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An exploratory study into the status of the cross-curricular approach to teaching environmental education at South African schools.
Johannesburg, Univ., M. Ed. (Environmental Education), 2011
Abstract: This study emanated from my observations and experiences as an educator into the teaching of Environmental Education at school. Environmental Education was infused into all Learning Areas, as per the Revised National Curriculum Statement. However, the teaching and learning of environmental issues and topics seemed to have been addressed very superficially. The indifferent attitude displayed by learners was also an area of concern. These observations were the motivation for this research. There is an abundance of research in support of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching Environmental Education. Research has also supported the use of a holistic and systemic approach to the teaching and learning of Environmental Education. This study attempts to report on the status of the integration of Environmental Education in the Revised National Curriculum Statement (RNCS) across Grades 7 to 9 in South Africa, through the lens of systemic and holistic thinking. Following a study of the different models available to depict the teaching and learning of Environmental Education holistically and systemically, I have elected to use the Van Rooyen Model as it supported a more holistic understanding of environmental issues, in accordance with global trends. The mixed methods research design was most appropriate to explore how Environmental Education was captured in the RNCS and to determine how teachers have interpreted these policies in classroom practice. The first stage of the sequential exploratory design was undertaken, informed by an in-depth qualitative study of the RNCS policy documents, learner textbooks and teacher′s lesson plans. An analysis of the RNCS policy documents in all Learning Areas in C2005 was carried out to determine how Environmental Education had been incorporated using the principles of systemic and holistic learning. Data that emerged indicated that there tends to be a disjuncture between the macro, meso and micro planning on the part of policymakers. The infusion of EE, which is done by policymakers (macro planning) and which filters through to the different Learning Areas (meso planning) and finally down to individual teacher′s (micro planning), has shown how Environmental Education content has become quite diluted. The teaching of environmentally related content was done according to broad umbrella topics, with topics being addressed very minimally in accordance to holistic and systemic teaching. The cross curricular approach to teaching Environmental education was implemented by curriculum planners with an assumption that teachers were equipped with the vi necessary knowledge, skills and values to teach Environmental Education effectively. This therefore informed the second stage of the sequential exploratory design within the mixed method framework. Taking into consideration the overall findings of this research, the study recommends that future curriculum planning to incorporate Environmental Education should be done with much more deliberation and in accordance to holistic and systemic principles. The study also highlights the need for Higher Education Institutions involved in teacher training to incorporate a compulsory Environmental course in their programme, thereby equipping all teachers, irrespective of subject specialization, with the necessary knowledge, skills and values to teach Environmental Education meaningfully.