Environmental Education in Singapore: An Analysis of Environmental Knowledge in the Lower Secondary Geography Curriculum, pp. 6 of 9

While the proposed EK framework distinguishes between EK2 and EK3, the syllabus classifies them under the same GQ, “How should it (the issue) be managed?”. The two learning outcomes in GQ4 are organised such that students first learn to “Describe and explain the measures …” (referring to EK2) and subsequently “Describe the benefits and challenges…” or “Describe the advantages and disadvantages…” (referring to EK3). However, as recommended by the EK framework, EK2 and EK3 should be given comparable amount of attention and rigour, which is not evident from the LSG syllabus. The author’s personal insights from her secondary geography education reveals the tendency for teachers to list the pros and cons of various strategies for change as part of GQ4’s learning outcome. This differs from the purpose of EK3 according to Kaiser and Fuhrer (2003), whereby the application of evaluation skills in assessing the relative effectiveness of different environmental strategies should have been the focus. This could be due to how the learning outcomes are phrased. For instance, the command word “describe” used in the second learning outcome does not suggest the need to make use of evaluation skills. As such, GQ4 that combines EK2 and EK3 might not prove effective to empower students to act for the environment. The provision of a range of environmental strategies from EK2 lacks a strong follow-up to critically engage students to examine which environmental strategies that are best suited for a local context as required for an effective delivery of EK3.There is no apparent inclusion of EK4 as examined from the knowledge learning outcomes in the syllabus for the purpose of this study. However, through a thorough analysis of the various statements from the issue-based framework, an allowance was made to include statements from the ‘values and attitudes’ learning outcomes. It is important to note that values and attitudes are not considered ‘teachable knowledge’ but can be developed and instilled among students when the right kinds of knowledge are delivered by teachers (Chang & Pascua, 2016). As identified in Table 2, the learning outcomes of issues 3 and 6 are phrased generically such as “Respect(ing) the views and opinions of others that may not be in agreement with one’s own” while issue 1 specifies it as “Respect(ing) the different perspectives people have about rainforests.” Through teacher guidance, students can draw on how individuals and groups from other societies view and resolve environmental issues and subsequently create their own ideas and visions of how the environment situation in their respective localities should be like. As such, issues 1, 3 and 6 potentially promote some form of moral responsibility among students as environmental stewards as they are prompted to conduct perspective taking. On the other hand, issues 2, 4 and 5 might appear to promote a narrower perspective as the respective ‘values and attitudes’ learning outcomes prompt students to appreciate how urban problems are overcome and how humans can better utilise natural resources (see CPDD, 2014b, pp. 36-50). Hence, these issues’ statements of learning outcomes are not included in the framework, which only seeks to select relevant statements aligned to EK4. The inconsistency of the nature of EK4 across the issues is a similar problem highlighted previously in the analysis for EK1. Overall, there is no explicit inculcation of the development of alternative visions among students and the TLG lacks the relevant pedagogical recommendations. Students at most are exposed to the knowledge of alternative strategies for change (EK3). The presence of EK4 is subjected to students’ understandings and/or teachers’ beliefs about the importance of developing students’ ability to envision alternative futures of their environmental context.

The above findings reveal two points about the LSG syllabus, between and within the knowledge dimensions. Firstly, there is a diminishing emphasis from EK1 to EK4, with a strong focus on EK1 and EK2 and an under-emphasis of EK3 and EK4. Secondly, the same EKs exist with differential quality across the issues. Specifically, inconsistencies are found in EK1 and the ‘values and attitudes’ learning outcomes for EK1 and EK4 respectively across the six issues. To overcome some of the possible subjective analysis above, the TLG is analysed. While each issue is equally allocated 10 periods (each period lasting 35-40 minutes, see CPDD, 2014b, pp. 15-16), different GQs are allocated different number of periods for the different issues (see CPDD, 2014b, p 239-244). As established in Table 2, GQ1 to GQ3 corresponds to EK1, which would hence be allocated 6-7 periods whereas EK2 and EK3 (covered as GQ4), supposedly the knowledge dimensions that would more significantly affect environmental behaviours, are to be covered in 3-4 periods. As EK4 is not taught as a form of knowledge per se in the curriculum, no recommended periods are given. Clearly, this analysis supports the earlier findings above, whereby the bulk of teaching and learning is focused on EK1, which might unfortunately suggest the diminished emphasis and importance of EK2 to EK4. Hence, this paper believes that there is a lower than expected integration of the cognitive aspect of EE into the LSG curriculum.

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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