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IX. 1. Definition, characteristics and goals of environmental education

The ‘classical’ definition of environmental education is as follows:

‘Environmental education is the process of recognising values and clarifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary to understand and appreciate the inter-relatedness among man, his culture, and his biophysical surroundings. Environmental education also entails practice in decision-making and self-formulation of a code of behaviour about issues concerning environmental quality.’ (IUCN, 1970)

The characteristics of environmental education include:

  • It is a life-long process,
  • It is interdisciplinary and holistic in nature and its application,
  • It is an approach to education as a whole, rather than a subject,
  • It concerns the inter-relationship and interconnectedness between human and natural systems,
  • It views the environment in its entirety including social, political, economic, technological, moral, aesthetic and spiritual aspects,
  • It encourages participation in the learning experience
  • It emphasises active responsibility,
  • It uses a broad range of teaching and learning techniques, with stress on practical activities and hands-on experience,
  • It is concerned with local to global dimensions, and past/present/ future dimensions,
  • It should be enhanced and supported by the organisation and structure of the learning situation and institution as a whole,
  • It encourages the development of sensitivity, awareness, understanding, critical thinking and problem-solving skills,
  • It encourages the clarification of values and the development of values sensitive to the environment,
  • It is concerned with building on environmental ethic.

(The above set of statements is based upon the Tbilisi Report Recommendation 2 UNESCO, 1977)

It can be concluded from the above list that the characteristics of environmental education and PBL have a lot of features in common. It is the reason behind the fact that PBL is frequently applied in environmental education.

The goals of environmental education were determined on the occasion of the Tbilisi (Georgia) conference in 1977.

The final report on the Tbilisi Conference set out three goals of environmental education. These goals are the major foundations of national environmental curricula all over Europe.

Environmental education is

1. to foster clear awareness of, and concern about, economic, social, political, and ecological inter-dependence in urban and rural areas.

2. to provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment and skills needed to protect and improve the environment.

3. to create new patterns of behaviour of individuals, groups, and society as a whole, towards the environment (UNESCO, 1977.)