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Student perceptions and contexts for civic learning of issues related to environmental sustainability

Mon, April 15, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview A


Education for sustainable development (ESD) has emerged as an important focus area in an increasingly globalized world which faces many pre-existing and newly emerging environmental, economic and socio-political and sociocultural challenges (see, for example, APCEIU, 2017). The global significance of ESD is formally recognised through its inclusion under Target 4.6 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) (United Nations, 2015, p. 17).
While the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) has not explicitly focused on ESD, content relating to environmental sustainability is well represented in the ICCS 2009 and ICCS 2018 assessment frameworks (see Schulz et al., 2008; Schulz et al., 2016). This is consistent with the observation that topics regarded as within the scope of ESD can be well represented in existing CCE curricula, although this can be without explicit mention of ESD or GCED as curriculum imperatives (see, for example, Cox, 2017; Parker & Fraillon, 2016). ICCS 2016 and ICCS 2009 collected information relating to environmental sustainability through the student test, student questionnaire and teacher and school questionnaire (completed by the school principal or delegate).
This paper will first report on the conceptual representation of ESD in ICCS particularly with reference to students’ perceptions of potential threats to the world’s future relating to ESD and school approaches to ESD-related education topics. These include: students’ reported learning about and participation in school-related activities associated with the environment; teachers’ reported participation in activities associated with environmental protection with their students; teachers’ reported preparedness to teach and participation in professional learning associated with teaching about the environment and environmental sustainability; principals’ reports of student participation in activities associated with environmental protection and of school practices relating to environmental protection.
We will then discuss ICCS 2016 results of students’ perceptions of global threats with respect to student background and its association with student civic knowledge. Selected aspects of the school contexts in which ESD is developed will also be presented.
Results showed that majorities of students across countries viewed pollution, water and poverty as major threats to the world’s future, although large variations with regard to these perceptions suggest the influence of local contexts (Schulz et al., 2018). Furthermore, most of the schools in the participating countries reported having developed at least some initiatives related to environmental sustainability, and, “according to teachers, the target-grade students were participating in activities pertaining to the environment mainly inside their schools” (Schulz et al., 2018, p. 145). Across countries over 80 per cent of teachers indicated that the felt well prepared to teach about issues relating to the environment and environmental sustainability. A majority of principals reported that their schools had adopted environmentally-friendly practices, however, there was also considerable cross-national variation (Schulz et al., 2018, p. 166).