Environmental Education in Singapore: An Analysis of Environmental Knowledge in the Lower Secondary Geography Curriculum, pp. 8 of 9

Suggestions for Future Actions

To overcome the pessimism that many Singaporean youths experience towards the environment (Tan, 2013), prompt and decisive changes must be made to the geography curriculum and support for teachers’ empowerment in delivering EE need to be enhanced.

Given teachers’ reliance on and the influence of the syllabus and the TLG document, changes to the recommended teaching periods for each GQ and hence, the EK dimensions, should be made in accordance to the proposed EK-dimension framework. This means that EK1 needs to be streamlined to focus on the necessary scientific knowledge needed to attain other EK dimensions. This can be supported by the development of relevant resources and pedagogical strategies in the teaching of EK2 and EK3. Slight modifications such as an inclusion of higher order command words to the learning outcome of EK3 could garner greater attention in teaching and learning of this knowledge dimension. As for EK4, explicit and consistent learning outcomes would be required. This can be expressed as statements that require students to formulate an environmental goal for the issue or topic, with which they can then apply the relevant EK that they have previously acquired as they work towards the said vision.

However, while the recommendations call for a change in the LSG curriculum, they are unlikely to be realised if the education system remains one that is strongly oriented towards assessment and examination that largely bases itself on the convenience of objective measurements. Still, the author is optimistic that the LSG curriculum has great potential to accommodate changes, considering it is not part of the national examination. In addition, as Chang (2014) critically points out that despite inclusion of EE in the curriculum, the translation of the curriculum into practice might not be as straightforward due to teacher subjectivity. This points to the need to enhance teacher training more holistically. Cognitively, professional training programmes should assist teachers in enhancing the depth and breadth of their knowledge content on current environmental issues according to the knowledge framework. On the pedagogical aspect, teachers should be provided the space to critically examine their perceptions on the purpose of EE and be made aware of the array of pedagogical strategies and resources that they can employ. In this way, teachers would too feel empowered and equipped to engage EE in a more holistic way, thereby facilitating the translation of the curriculum and policy at practitioner level.

Conclusion

In this study, a four-dimension EK framework has been proposed to assess the cognitive nature of the LSG curriculum. A disproportionate emphasis of EK is identified, with the focus skewed towards EK1 and EK2. The under-emphasis of EK3 and EK4 could interfere with the holistic learning of environmental issues that is needed to instigate the right kinds of environmental actions and behaviours expected of students. Such findings are believed to be attributed to the heavy stress on objective assessments present in the larger educational context in Singapore. This influences the perceptions of teachers towards the EE within the geography discipline, and further affects students’ competence as not just the discipline’s learners, but as citizens and environmental stewards of their nation. It can be postulated that the failure to deliver an action-competence EE in the school curricula might result in the persistent gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ among youths in the environmental context of Singapore.

The scope of this study is limited to the analysis of the cognitive aspect of the Singapore’s LSG curriculum, which may mask insights from the possible hidden curriculum that might surface during actual lesson implementations. By adapting the proposed framework presented in this study, future research can look to conducting empirical studies that examine how the LSG curriculum is appropriated and delivered by teachers in the classroom, and how they are received and internalised by students. This should bring more substantive conclusions on how geography education can develop a greater stake in promoting responsible environmental stewards. Another aspect of research that merits further investigation would be to consider the possible influences of assessments on the pedagogical choices of teachers in the teaching and learning of the different EK dimensions. This would allow for a more holistic evaluation of how effective the incorporation of EE is in the curricula.

 

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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