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Climate change education in Tongan secondary schools

Children are among the most vulnerable groups to the adverse impacts of climate change. They can be psychologically disturbed and rendered powerless by the magnitude of its impacts. Tonga and its island groups are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and these impacts affect the environment, the people and their livelihoods. Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) directs countries to consider education, training, and public awareness as integral responses to climate change. Climate change education empowers children to learn about how to minimise the impacts of climate change and learn to adapt and live sustainably in an environment already affected by climate change. In order to plan and design effective climate change education, it is crucial to determine students’ and teachers’ conceptions and misconceptions of climate change, their attitudes and motivations to act about climate change, and the climate change curricula in schools. This research then explored secondary school teachers’ and students’ awareness, knowledge, attitudes about climate change and their motivations to act upon it. This research also explored the place of climate change in the school curriculum in Tonga. This research also examined how talanoa as a form of interactive engagement and communication could help students to learn to understand and address climate change and its impacts. Talanoa, which is a Pacific research methodology, was used in this research to inform and guide its data collection. This study adopted a mixed method approach, in which culturally appropriate methods such as talanoa fakataautaha (one-on-one talanoa) and talanoa fakatokolahi (group talanoa) and vakavakai’i (observation) were mixed with Western methods, including questionnaires and document analysis. Talatalanoa and tālanga were the two methods of talanoa used to conduct the talanoa fakataautaha and talanoa fakatokolahi. Data were collected in two phases. Phase One involved questionnaires and talanoa fakatokolahi with Class 10 teachers and students from two secondary schools in Tonga, and talanoa fakataautaha with officials from the Ministry of Education and Training (MET) and the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) in Tonga. The document analysis included documents such as the current school curriculum and syllabuses. The findings indicated that students and teachers are aware of and worried about climate change, but they lacked a rich conceptualization of the issue and held misconceptions. Data indicated that both students and teachers in Tonga were unsure of causes of climate change but were aware of impacts. Students expressed concern, and a desire to learn more, about climate change. The findings also indicate that Tonga is lacking curriculum integration of climate change education. Teachers stated that climate change issues are not addressed by the syllabus effectively, and reported that they needed professional development to enhance their knowledge and understanding about climate change-related issues. A climate change education intervention was then designed based on theoretical principles of climate change education, students’ and teachers’ perceptions, recommendations from Government officials and recommendations from literature. The climate change education intervention was trialled with one class and their teacher at a secondary school in Tonga. Talanoa was employed as a teaching and learning approach using ideas of talanoa fakatoka, talanoa felāfoaki, and talanoa kavekavehoko. Firstly, a professional development was conducted with the teacher through talanoa and was effective in using talanoa felāfoaki or co-construction to help improve the teacher’s knowledge about climate change. Secondly, the talanoa approach sought to build relationships within the classroom, recognise students’ experiences and understandings and give voice to their concerns. The outcomes of the intervention indicated that climate change education could enhance and improve students’ and teachers’ knowledge about climate change-related issues, high student engagement, successful learning and a motivation to play a part in their own futures. Students and the teacher who implemented the climate change intervention recommended talanoa as an effective approach to teach and to learn about climate change in Tonga. The implementation of the three types of talanoa contributed to their successful learning of the topic. They helped to create an environment for learners to interact and communicate effectively. They also helped to explore learners’ existing knowledge about climate change, and areas that were needed to be addressed during the teaching and learning process. Students indicated that talanoa helped them to co-construct ideas and helped them learn more from their peers. This research contributes to an understanding of how climate change education, and use of talanoa could enhance students’ and teachers’ awareness of, knowledge and attitude about climate change, and their motivation to act upon climate change. In addition, this research indicates that climate change education could address and correct alternative conceptions that are commonly held among students and teachers in Tonga about climate change. The outcomes of this research could give urgency to the Tonga Ministry of Education and Training to re-consider the importance of including climate change education in the school curriculum and across various disciplines.
Type of thesis
Havea, ’Elisapesi H. (2020). Climate change education in Tongan secondary schools (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14011
The University of Waikato
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