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Introducing a new subject: The case of environmental education in Taiwanese junior high schools

The introduction of environmental education in schools has been the focus of a long campaign worldwide since the late 1960s. The difficulties in teaching environmental education, including the choice of curriculum models, and the obstacles to changing contemporary schooling patterns have been well documented. The traditional process of new subject emergence has been detailed in the literature; whether or not environmental education should or could follow this traditional pattern of subject emergence in schools is the focus of this thesis. In Taiwan, the introduction of environmental education in junior high schools occurred as part of a nationwide curriculum change in 2002. This research used an interpretive approach to explore the views and practices of staff in three typical Taiwanese junior high schools at this time. The focus of the research was to study what happened at the level of classroom teaching and school development. The research program was designed to interview both administrators and teachers before, during and after the first year (2002 school year) of curriculum implementation in each of the three case study schools. Three rounds of interviews were conducted over a period of three years (Sept. 2001 - June 2004). As well as interviews, national and school documents were collected; and announcements and decisions from the Ministry of Education and schools were documented. Also, because the reform encouraged the development of school-based curriculum, a questionnaire was given to the one school which chose environmental education as their school-based curriculum in order to better understand the emergence of environmental education in this school. The findings show a paradox in Taiwanese junior high schooling: although each school placed considerable value on environmental education, the data showed that the introduction of environmental education via an infusion strategy during a time of national curriculum change had minimal impact in the three Taiwanese case study schools. A cross-case analysis indicated the reason for this failure was the lack of effectiveness of eleven supporting themes often discussed in the emergence of a new subject: the possibility of gaining external examination credit and entry to a university department; the prioritising of the subject in school timetabling and programming; the development of a systematic syllabus; the presence of proactive support from central government leadership; the provision of teacher professional development; the inclusion in the informal as well as the formal curriculum in a school; the inclusion of environmental education in non-formal education in society; the presence of clear subject characteristics and definition; the presence of substantial school-based material interests; the gaining of support from an external constituency, especially parents; and the presence of an emergence process that couples internal value evolution with external compulsion. The Taiwanese case studies raised three particular and additional themes for the emergence of environmental education, specifically: the need to set up long-term partnerships with local groups that have an interest in or responsibility for the local environment (e.g. societies, agencies and non-governmental organisations) to achieve local environment involvement; the need for a whole school approach through curriculum integration to achieve the transformative nature of environmental education; and the need to build up a sound cooperative network that includes people at all levels of the education system and society to achieve a national cooperation network. These three particular themes derived from the nature of environmental education as a holistic, integrative and interdisciplinary subject. In summary, the findings not only confirmed the themes important for the emergence of environmental education and other contemporary school subjects, but they also raised particular themes pertinent to the emergence of environmental education. When these three particular themes are not taken into account, the effective emergence of environmental education in contemporary schooling, as exemplified by Taiwanese junior high schools, will be difficult to achieve in mainstream education.
Type of thesis
Yueh, M.-C. M. (2007). Introducing a new subject: The case of environmental education in Taiwanese junior high schools (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2656
The University of Waikato
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