Environmental Education in Singapore: An Analysis of Environmental Knowledge in the Lower Secondary Geography Curriculum, pp. 5 of 9

The issue-based framework contains six geographical issues contextually relevant to Singapore (see CPDD, 2014b, p. 18). Each issue is guided by a set of GQs, statements from the syllabus, specifically, the knowledge learning outcomes from the six issues are identified. Knowledge learning outcomes are guidelines for teachers to deliver the relevant core content. It is to be noted that concession is made to consider learning outcomes on ‘value and attitudes’ for EK4. The selected statements are compiled and presented in Table 2 to represent the findings for this study as they reflect the nature of EK in the LSG.

It is acknowledged that the positionality of the author may present challenges to the credibility of the study’s results. This is because the analysis is subjectively made by this author who is a geography teacher in training and a future MOE employee. However, she has constantly reminded herself to avoid assertion of her own beliefs about EE and the geography curriculum, and instead to bring in insights from her relevant knowledge and experiences learning about geography and EE when interpreting the LSG curriculum.

Findings and Interpretation

It has been found that while the LSG curriculum reflects positive strides towards the incorporation of EK where there is an emphasis of EK1 and EK2, the focus on EK3 and EK4 is less strong. The next few paragraphs will elaborate on these findings.

From Table 2, EK1 is found to correspond to the first three GQs of the syllabus. Hearteningly, the syllabus attempts to extend students’ knowledge beyond the facts of environmental issues, whereby students are expected to learn about “Which part(s) of the world is/are affected by the issue?” as part of the EK1’s system knowledge. The curriculum encourages the application of geographical skills such as map reading and data organisation as students examine the severity of the issue across different places. Such skills application can help to illuminate the concept of ‘interconnectedness’, which is relevant to EE. For one, students are able to extend their understanding of relationship of places to that of the relationship between the human and the environment, and secondly, the emphasis of place provides a sense of learning relevancy for students (Baerwald, 2010; Roberts, 2011).

In the analysis of EK1, it is also observed that the knowledge of effects corresponds to GQ3, “How does the issue affect human society and natural environments?” It is expected that there would be opportunities for students to examine impacts of the issues on both the human and natural settings. Yet, the supposedly holistic coverage of impacts is inconsistently reflected across the six issues. From Table 2, only issues 1 and 5 explicitly highlight both human (social and economic) and environmental impacts. Issue 2 solely focuses on the former while issues 3, 4 and 6 indirectly mention the latter. For instance, issue 4 expounds on two direct social consequences of housing shortage – “homelessness” and “proliferation of slums and squatter settlements” (see CPDD, 2014a, p. 25). “Environmental pollution” is then explained as one of the indirect consequences under the latter. The tendency to highlight challenges of urban societies with negligible mention of how the environment is impacted by human activities might not be effective in bringing across the idea that the impacts on human and natural environments are often interconnected. Such inconsistencies could unintentionally promote a sense of environmental determinism (Almeida & Vasconcelos, 2013; Huckle, 2002) among students.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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