Australia was an international leader in environmental education, says OECD

Environment and School Initiatives (ENSI) a project of the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation


Report of the In-Depth Study of Environmental Education in Australia









  1. The Forces of Change
  2. The Challenge of Environmental Education in Schools
  3. The Business of Education
  4. The Influence of Stakeholders and the Role of Networks




  1. Background
  2. Current Developments and Distinctive Features of

the Policy Context of Environmental Education in Australia

  1. Policy Statements and Guidelines

–  The National Curriculum

–  State Systems

  1. Devolution of Decision Making in Education
  2. Contribution of Groups, Agencies, and Professional

Associations in Environmental Education

  1. Processes in Policy Making:

— Consultation

— School Level Policies in Environmental Education

  1. Major Themes, Opportunities, Problems and Prospects
  2. Central or Peripheral: the Status of

Environmental Education in Schools

— Environmental Education as a cross curriculum strand

— Environmental Education as a separate subject

— Environmental Education as a local issues-based program

  1. A question of Identity: the scope of environmental education
  2. Advocacy and Education: Controversial Issues




  1. Introduction
  2. General overview
  3. Schools Highlighted in Each State

— Queensland

— New South Wales

— South Australia

— Victoria

  1. Issues, Questions and Relevance for the ENSI Project
  2. Professional Development of Teachers: In-Service and

Pre-Service Training

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. Pre-Service Training of Teachers
  3. In-Service Training of Teachers
  4. Features Highlighted in Each State

— Queensland

— New South Wales

— South Australia

— Victoria

  1. Issues, Questions and Relevance for the ENSI style of EE




  1. Environmental Education as Cultural Development
  2. Environmental Education in the Context of “Economic


  1. Investment in Environmental Knowledge
  2. Structural Contradictions
  3. The Role of Policy in Managing Change





Environment and School Initiatives (ENSI)


Report of the In-Depth Study of Environmental Education in Australia







“Environment and School Initiatives” could be called an international attempt at curriculum development.  Set within the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation of the OECD, it counts the participation of nineteen member countries.  One of the key characteristics of the ENSI project is its grassroots, school-based focus:  each participating country has chosen a network of schools carrying out environmental education using innovative strategies.  A number of objectives have been identified as being important goals for environmental initiatives:  to link learning of environmental issues with students’ experiences of these issues within their own local communities. Students are actively involved in identifying real problems and discovering solutions, as well as using existing knowledge to analyse and understand the complexity of the environment.


The work of ENSI is carried out at three levels:  i) monitoring and evaluating school initiatives;  ii) carrying out in-depth studies of the policy context in which these initiatives develop, iii) and exploring some of the relevant “scientific” issues that have a role in school initiatives.  The “scientific” issues chosen for special attention have been the question of how to approach the problem of “complexity”;  a seminar of experts in the physical and social sciences and teachers took place in May, 1992 in Perugia, Italy on this theme.  Another seminar, on the importance of addressing the question of “economy and ecology” in school initiatives, was held in Germany in September, 1992.  In spring 1993, Scotland hosted a meeting on the role of “values” in environmental education.


A request to carry out an “In-Depth Study” of the policy context of environment and school initiatives, the third level of work, has been made by six of the participating Countries.* Australia indicated a particular interest in this issue from the very beginning.  The purpose of studying the “policy context” in-depth is in keeping with the reflective, action-research thrust of the ENSI project.  Just as action-research tries to link theory and practice, “ideas-in-action” the in-depth study attempts to examine the connections between EE policy and practice in schools.  Although environmental education is internationally considered to be an important element of the school curriculum, there has been little analytical work done on relating the “symbolic” levels of intention to the actual practices in this area.  Unlike the regular” Reviews of National Education Policies” undertaken by the Education Committee of the OECD, that consider whole systems of education, the in-depth studies of environmental education policy in selected countries are only a marginal part of the system. However, the studies are an integral part of the ongoing evaluation that has been undertaken by participants in the ENSI project as part of the development of the work.


Evaluation to be useful needs to be carried out at different levels: the local professional level, that is by teachers doing action-research; must have accountability at the local level of the school so that the knowledge created by participants may be shared with others and finally this needs to be communicated to the central political level.  In-depth studies carried out with external experts assist in bringing these levels into communication with one another, as well as sharing the information internationally.


It may not be completely coincidental that Australia was one of the participating Countries to request such an In-Depth Study of the policy context.  Australia is at the moment in the midst of major changes concerning education policy — following the Hobart Declaration on Schooling, April, 1989, the States and the Commonwealth agreed for the first time to set out “ten national goals for schooling ….  The goals are intended to assist schools and systems to develop specific objectives and strategies, particularly in the areas of curriculum and assessment.”  Among the stated goals, are a series of “skills to develop in students” notably “an understanding of and concern for, balanced development and the global environment”.  Australia, just as a number of other countries consisting of federated states, has in the past given unique

responsibility for education to the States. The timing of the in-depth study therefore seems to be appropriate as a means for reflecting on some of the challenges facing policy makers and teachers at this time.  Both the timing and the objectives of the mapping of curriculum, and particularly that of environmental education, seem to be compatible with ENSI.


The OECD study team (Prof.  Catherine Beattie from McMaster University, Canada, Dr.  Margaret Charlton from the Dept.  of Education, Victoria, Australia and Kathleen Kelley-Laine, Head of Project at the OECD) were invited to carry out consultations with significant actors in EE, and visit schools in four of the Australian States:  Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.  Given the time set for the study, it was possible to spend two days in each State and although the schedules were very well organised, with a concerted effort to arrange contact with as many of the relevant partners as possible, the boundaries of time and space have put serious limits on the data gathered by the team.  In fact the team was faced with the need to understand four different systems of education, as if it were dealing with four different countries.


These circumstances necessitate a clear statement about the basis of this report — the contents, questions, remarks, hypothesis and any critical comments are based on what we were told by the persons we met, on documents that were given to us, and on newspaper articles that were identified as being relevant.  Most of our consultations were organised by persons in the various ministry departments;  some persons we asked to meet, and a few individuals asked to meet with us as they had been informed of our visit.


It is certainly true that two days are not enough to do justice to what is happening in each State in environmental education at this time (we only looked at government systems) and cannot be representative of the variety and richness of practices in schools.  However, the paradox of such intense consultations, wherein the team is presented with various conceptions of reality in a very short time, can be extremely instructive.  It is through confronting each others understanding of what has been said, that the team constructs, piece by piece a mosaic of that reality.  The present report is the fruit of such a process.  It has no pretentions of being an objective , scientific view — it is the result of many subjectivities, opinions, perhaps even biases — it includes the voices of children and sometimes the song of birds.  It can be said, however, that the writers have been particularly careful not to reduce reality to some satisfactory simplification or “common denominator” and that they have had a profound respect for the complexity of both the content and the processes of the issues that were before them.  It is hoped that the contents of the report are not just telling Australians what they already know about policy and practice in environmental education, but that the combination of “insiders” and “outsiders” points of view can stimulate thought and be provocative enough to be useful.


Unlike the in-depth studies carried out in the other participating countries where the team was comprised of three “outside” experts and one main writer, the report on Australia reflects the composite nature of the team given the fact that one member was an “insider” and was able to provide invaluable information and understanding concerning educational policy developments in Australia.  No specific background report had been given to the team before the visit, therefore Margaret Charlton had the double role of informant for the others as well critical reviewer of policy and practice in her own country. Not an easy task, and she should be congratulated for having occupied this role so well.  It was therefore felt that the report must reflect the nature of the exercise and the three voices of the team:


— Part I outlines some of the main issues that were seen by the OECD member of the team as composing the contextual factors relevant for environmental education policy and practice.


— Part II is a critical summary of the policy context for environment and school initiatives as seen by the Australian member of the team.


— Part III concerns the actual translation of policy into practice within the schools and in teacher training. This section reflects  the observations and expertise of the Canadian member of the team. The final conclusions and recommendations, and the attempt at linking the three levels of thought, is the job of the OECD member.


The following issues reflect the main framework making up the report:


  1. Background Factors:


— environmental factors

— economic recession and shortage of resources

— social movements and community pressures

— social and cultural issues

— international and inter-State influences

— curriculum changes

— organisational factors

— the role of devolution

— influence of stakeholders

— role of networks


  1. The Policy Context for Environment and School Initiatives:


— the nature of education policies in Australia

— current developments and distinctive features of EE policy

— role of policy statements and guidelines

— devolution of decision making in education

— role of groups, agencies and professional associations in EE

— the processes in policy making

— different views on opportunities, problems and prospects

— the place of EE in the curriculum

— advocacy and education:  dealing with controversial issues


  1. The Implementation of Policy:


— in Australian schools:  reflection of study visits

— policies as applied in schools

— professional development of teachers:  in-service and pre-service



Part I




  1. The Forces of Change


A number of different winds seem to be blowing over Australia at this time in history.  Practically all persons we met mentioned the economic crisis and its effects on the education system, restricted budgets, reducing posts in the bureaucracy, and decreasing support for schools.  Some States seemed to have suffered from the crisis longer than others, and the economic issue was more readily brought to the fore as an explanation for changes in education.  The high unemployment rates of 11 per cent, and the dire effects of youth unemployment filled the newspapers and media during our stay.


The sharpened world wide awareness of the “environmental imperative” is very much present in Australia.  There is in addition a particular focus given to the nature of increasing environmental degradation of the land.  We were told in one particular State that Australia is a very “fragile” land because it is an ancient one and that the soil itself is at risk of desertification.  The land thrived under the “golden age” of aboriginal culture because the values of these first inhabitants were strongly linked to “caring for the land”. Europeans coming from a “younger”, sturdier land, were not fully aware of the long term risks of treating Australian soil as if it were just like the homeland.


A number of social issues were sited as motivating changes within the education system and impacting on environmental education.  An increased pressure from aboriginal groups for recognition is reflected in some State’s curriculum documents more than in others.  There was general agreement that aboriginal cultures have a definite contribution to make to knowledge about the environment.  Some schools were interviewing “elders”, others created “aboriginal food paths”;  one primary school approached environmental education through “story telling” and “dream-time”.


The issue of “gender” and environmental education was often addressed. Girls are generally seen to be more motivated to do things for the environment; this practical approach is also said to stimulate girls’ interest in science. During a visit to a girls secondary school gave us the opportunity to discuss this issue with the students.  They felt that the separate school gave them more of a chance to do well in science without the rowdy competition from boys. A few of the girls have already chosen “scientific” professions.  In mixed gender schools, we were told that girls get more readily involved in committees to improve the environment of the school.  In one of the States, a “gender equity consultant” is present in the work of all curriculum areas.


International influences also seem to be having an impact on Australian education and therefore need to be included in the contextual frame in which to understand policy making and practice.  One of the important targets for the year 2001, supported by the Employment and Skills Formation Council of the National Board of Employment, Education and Training is * “improving Australia’s international competitiveness” though a competency-based training system that is now being elaborated through the Mayer Committee.  The Committee has identified a series of “key competencies” that are necessary in the work place and that are not job specific.  Language skills are also high on the educational agenda — including the knowledge of foreign languages especially Asian ones.  A comparison of year 12 enrolment in in Asian languages between 1986 and 1990 showed significant increase:  Japanese 5 per cent in ’86 and 13per  cent in ’90;  Chinese 4 per cent in ’86 and 10 per cent in ’90; Indonesian showed only 1 per cent increase from 5 per cent to 6 per cent.  One of our informants seemed to think that Australia will be increasingly looking toward the “dynamic Asian economies” as partners rather than to Europe and America.


  1. The Challenge of Environmental Education in Schools:


June, 1992, a discussion paper on a Draft National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development was issued by the ESD Steering Committee. The draft strategy seeks to outline the policy framework under which individual State governments and the community will implement “ecologically sustainable development” actions.  The core objectives of the national strategy include: “a path of economic development that safeguards the welfare of future generations;  to provide for equity within and between generations;  and to protect biological diversity and maintain ecological processes and systems.”

(Draft National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development).


The document makes specific recommendations concerning education, saying that the most effective way of increasing awareness of ESD principles is to “incorporate them into curriculum, assessment and teaching practices in the school, technical and further education (TAFE) and higher education sectors”. In keeping with the Hobart Declaration and the move to a national curriculum, the document suggests that the environmental issue be taken up in areas of science, technology and studies of society and the environment, but that there be a multi-disciplinary approach.  A very concrete suggestion is also made that special materials will be developed by the Curriculum Corporation and the Curriculum Assessment Committee.


An article in the IPA Review of Summer 1991, “The Greening of our Schools” expresses some reserve about the responsiveness of policy makers to the environmental imperative.  Although environmental education is important, there is the risk that it may be just another ‘reactive’ measure:  “growing fears about the condition of the environment have led governments to respond to green activists by introducing ‘environmental education’.” (p. 31, IPA Review) The author supports this view by the fact that the news media were cited by secondary teachers as “by far the most important resources for environmental education.”


Most informants agreed that the strong “green” movement of the 80’s in Australia certainly raised the awareness of the population and influenced the fact that schools started including environmental education in the curriculum. Now that EE has reached the policy makers, including those at national level, the question to be raised, is how to take EE past the individual interested school’s initiative, to all students throughout Australia? One top official was concerned with the “mixed approach” to EE.  He said that there was more

thematic teaching around specific issues such as “stream watch” etc. but little systematic inclusion of a body of knowledge of the human organism in the environment.  A number of people felt that only an assessment mechanism would be able to guarantee the presence of EE throughout the system.  At the same time, many expressed a concern with assessment of EE:  unlike other normal disciplines, environmental education to be effective, necessarily includes the development of a wide range of skills for tackling environmental problems, it includes personal qualities such as the readiness to take responsibility,

showing dynamic qualities, being able to confront complex value systems, as well as scientific knowledge of environmental issues. Setting out relevant profiles for evaluating environmental competencies is a significant challenge for curriculum planners.


3.The Business of Education


If the ‘environmental imperative’ has played a significant role in Australian education, the ‘economic imperative’ has certainly had a strong impact on sculpting its form.  In all the States we visited, we were told of the important transformations that have taken place in the last two years concerning the State Departments of Education.  Bureaucracies have been “peeled back” the locus of power and responsibilities have often been effected by the changes and everyone makes reference to the “lack of resources”.


The name given to this new face of education is “devolution”.  The meaning of the word, however is not the same everywhere.  The critical IPA calls it” efforts to replace vast, inefficient educational bureaucracies with more decentralized administrative bodies” (P.  74 “Educating Australians). Decentralization, we were told, is essentially giving more administrative and financial responsibilities to the schools.  In all but one of the four States, this is accompanied by some responsibility for curriculum.


One of the major outcomes of “devolution” is a complete re-thinking of administrative structures and management practices.  One State’s document gives special emphasis to the management issue:  “Modern management theory suggests that hierarchically organised systems that stress obedience and subservience, that promote self-interest at the expense of cooperation, that rely on extrinsic rewards to neglect of intrinsic motivation, are inefficient and ineffective.”  (p. 37 Focus on Schools).  It would seem, from a number of accounts, that changes in the managerial structures are encouraging schools to become more entrepreneurial — raise funds through activities, buy and sell support services, obtain sponsorship from industry etc.  One informant spoke of “increasing the wealth base” of schools through marketing educational

materials; another spoke of commercialising the use of facilities and develop marketable materials through school support centres.  In the National Report on Schooling document one State reports:  “entrepreneurial activities centred around overseas students, consultancies, educational materials and educational services.  Such activities have as a major goal the achievement of a financial return that not only underwrites the total cost of commercial structures and programs, but also provides additional revenue for the enhancement of

educational services “.


  1. The Influence of Stakeholders and the Role of Networks


It is inevitable that the growing focus on environmental problems world wide and the increasing understanding of the vital importance of education, training and awareness raising in this area, will increase the number of interested parties, lobby groups, community networks, commercial enterprises, publishers, industrial partners, media, government departments, tertiary institutions etc.  involved making a contribution or making a living in this area.


We were given the opportunity in each of the four States to meet a number of “stakeholders in environmental education.” Many of them were from conservation type organisations:  Australian Conservation Foundation; Landcare, the Gould League, W.W.  Fund for Nature, Greening Australia, Trees

for Life; we also met groups from government departments such as the Dept.  of Forestry, the Waterboard, Landcare Education from the Dept.  of Industry, Dept. of Conservation and Land Management;  private organisations such as the Rotary Club, industries like BP and …..  All of these stakeholders are producing

education policies, materials, kits, videos and other resources addressed to schools.


Some people felt that teachers are being “swamped” with materials, or that often the packs and kits just stay on a shelf in the school library.  It was also said that materials without in-service of teachers would have little chance of being used.  Two environmental journalists in the “The Weekend Australian” of June 28-29, 1992 took the following approach:  “Conservationist, farmers, banks, green activists, loggers, miners have produced ever more sophisticated “teaching kits” to promote their views — and they are being snapped up and incorporated into lessons by resource-starved teachers.” (front page) We often had the occasion to discuss this issue with people in all four States;  high level officials often didn’t feel worried about this plethora of materials, having faith in the judgment of the principal of the school, the teacher and the school council, they felt that a natural selection process sorted out what was useful from any kind of propaganda.  Some of those who were actually responsible for the production of materials, especially in government departments, showed more concern for this choice for using resources.  One person had been specifically hired to remedy the non-use of a particularly costly pack.  His solution was to organise workshops with teachers, but the resources for this ran out and the costly pack was deemed a failure.  Numerous requests from schools, students, teachers, however, are increasing daily.


The demand for materials is apparently high.  One producer of environmental education materials said he tried to work with teachers and school clusters before making materials so that they coincided to specific needs.  He criticised some commercial materials for their lack of curriculum specificity, saying that often the producers didn’t know the subject.  He added that there is a commercial need to make profit and the relatively small Australian market makes it necessary to export these products — they therefore must be adaptable to other countries needs.  The danger of materials, it seems, is that of bias and of commercial interest.


Networking is a positive value in Australia from many points of view. In all the States we visited, networking was considered as both a necessary and a valuable resources; in fact the development of “networking skills” in students is a curriculum goal in some States. Networking is first of all an effective way of using resources, especially at a time of restricted budgets. With devolution, schools are forced to find their own means for increasing their budgets, especially  when it comes to environmental school initiatives that go beyond their strict curriculum.  It is therefore important to be well introduced to the different “stakeholders” and partners for obtaining grants. For example Laverton Park Primary School, near Melbourne received funds from Greening Australia for their program on ‘Rescue Patrol’.


Knowledge concerning environmental issues, just as skills and competencies are valuable resources to be shared through networks.  The different organisations, departments, community groups, teachers associations etc. build up considerable networks to share information and know how.  Schools network with the community to both disseminate and receive local knowledge about the environment. In New South Wales Regional environmental education networks have been formed wherein clusters of schools (20 to 30 schools) work with one Resource Centre and four Field Study Centres. The Centres then have their own networks with industry and the tertiary sector.  For example one Coastal Environmental Centre had a joint venture with Dupont on a project with schools.


Government Departments, for example the Forest Service of the Department of Industry in Queensland, set up networks with other Departments, the community and schools to carry out EE projects.  This kind of networking is considered as essential for getting “the truth into the schools.”  It should be noted that Queensland experienced significant citizen protests concerning the environment and teachers were highly involved in such movements in the 80’s. Inter-State networking was not raised as a significant activity, although a number of national organisations for teachers, as well as organisations such as VEEC (Victorian Environmental Education Council) hold nation wide meetings to discuss their work.  The ENSI project may be seen as an encouragement towards inter-State networking in EE given the nationwide focus including schools in different States.


Part II






Australia has a relatively small population of approximately 17.5 million concentrated on the coastal fringes of a vast and “very fragile” continent.  Environmental concerns, particularly the relationship between economic development and the environment, have emerged as a major social issue. There is an expectation that schools as well as parents and the wider community will play a role in enhancing young people’s knowledge and understanding of these complex issues.  Education authorities in the eight states or territories have, or are developing, policies governing environmental education for a total of over 3 million students in approximately 10,000 schools.  Schools are taking the initiative in developing curriculum appropriate to local concerns.  Our brief was to carry out an in-depth study of the policy context of the Project “Environment and School Initiatives” (ENSI) in four eastern states.  The challenge was to give an accurate and useful account of environmental education policies and some examples of practice in Australia that would stimulate reflection and discussion and highlight environmental education issues.


As we became engaged in the examination of documents;  the intensive series of two day discussions with Government Ministers, administrators of school systems, consultants, teachers, community members;  and visits to schools and field centres, we came to recognise that aspects of the policy process itself had implications for our work.  Four in particular should be mentioned.


Firstly it was unrealistic to proceed on the assumption that links between environmental education policies and School Initiatives in the learning and teaching of environmental education would occur in a purely rational and systematic way.  Such an assumption fails to account for the complexity of real world policy development and implementation in educational systems that have multiple goals and operate in a pluralist society where values differ on both educational and environmental issues.  Educational organisations are often said to be “loosely-coupled”, policies are made at a different level in the organisation from that at which they are implemented, by a different groups of people and not closely controlled.


Secondly, as a substantial number of interviewees pointed out, locally based, grass-roots projects, practices and concerns in environmental education were influencing environmental educational policy making at higher levels. Policy did not necessarily precede practice and had for some a symbolic rather than an instrumental function when policies formalised existing projects and initiatives as well as guiding new practice.  For example, in Queensland, exemplary school practices are contributing to the development of guidelines for environmental education which in turn will be used to revise the present statewide policy.


Thirdly policies were “nested” within other polices.  Consideration of policy in isolation from policies in related areas is incomplete.  In the case of environmental education, for example, policy lies within general curriculum policies and is related to broader governmental environmental policies. Government policy documents such as the national conservation strategy on the environment, Our Country, Our Future (1989), the Draft National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development  (1992),  the Draft National Greenhouse Response Strategy (1992)  and Protecting the Environment:  a Conservation Strategy for Victoria  (1987)  exercise a direct influence on education policy.


Finally, when gathering information about the policies and their implications for initiatives of the kind being conducted in ENSI schools, the team was aware of the different levels at which policies are developed and of the existence of implicit, informal, unwritten, unproclaimed understandings and rules that may influence the learning and teaching of environmental education. The latter, however, are limited or expanded by the range of choices that the formal policies allow.  In the main, policy was interpreted for the purposes of this in-depth study, as formal authorised and public statements of sets of principles to guide the teaching and learning of environmental education in government schools.  Statements of principles for environmental education were prominent among curriculum documents in all of the four states visited in the course of this study.


As a preliminary to the analysis of these policies and others of significance, an overview of the current curriculum and environmental education policy scene in Australia is provided.  While these factual details will be well known to many readers, they may be of assistance to those who are less familiar with policy making in education systems in Australia.  The overview is not comprehensive.  It is not meant to duplicate the information provided in the baseline document Mapping the Environmental Education Curriculum, but to draw attention to recent developments and distinctive features of the policy context of environmental education in Australia.  A general commentary on these developments based upon the information collected will then follow.  Subsequent chapters will deal with these issues in greater detail and provide case studies and descriptions of programs.


2.Current developments and distinctive features of the policy context of environmental education in Australia


The aspects of the policy context of the ENSI project in Australia that warrant particular attention are:


— The existence of recent national and state policy statements and guidelines for learning and teaching in environmental education and other curriculum areas that endorse the approaches to teaching and learning consistent with those of ENSI;


— Continued devolution of responsibility for decision-making in education to schools;


— The contribution of groups, agencies, in particular the professional  associations of environmental educators, to formulation and   promulgation of policy and support for implementation;


— The extensive consultation processes that characterise curriculum policy development in Australia.


— School level policies.


3.Policy statements and Guidelines


a){National Curriculum}


Under the federal system of government in Australia, Ministers of Education in the six States, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory have constitutional responsibility for primary and secondary schooling.  Although the Commonwealth can exert some influence through funding arrangements, state systems are autonomous.


However, from 1989 onwards a new era has emerged in which there appears to be a greater willingness on the part of the Australian States to work together to develop national statements and profiles.  States have come to agreement that what students learn ought to reflect a degree of commonalty across the states and the nation.  There is also an expectation that pooling of expertise across the country will produce quality curriculum.  Another incentive given for this co-operation was greater efficiency and effectiveness in the sharing of knowledge and scarce resources for the development of curriculum together with assessment and reporting procedures that would be available to all, rather than the duplication of such work in each state or for that matter in each school.


In April 1989 at the 60th meeting of the Australian Education Council (AEC), a body composed of the Ministers for Education in the governments of all states and territories, the Ministers determined national goals for schooling in Australia and issued the Hobart Declaration.  In this statement listing ten common and agreed national goals for schooling in Australia, Goal 6 identified ‘the need to develop in students an understanding of and concern for, balanced development and the global environment’ as one of the areas in which students were to develop skills, knowledge and understanding.


Since 1989 work has continued under the direction of the Curriculum and Assessment Committee (CURASS), composed of the Directors of Curriculum of each state system, on the development of national statements and profiles in the eight areas of curriculum specified by the council.  The national statements and profiles are designed to provide common ground at the state and local levels to guide curriculum development in the states and schools.  The eight learning areas, one of which is Studies of Society and Environment, and a brief description of the statements and profiles are shown in Figure 1.



Figure 1. Learning areas, statements and profile  in the National Curriculum



Learning area               Statement                                 Profile


English                         Each statement                         Profiles are a means of

Mathematics                 outlines the key                         summarising and recording

Science                                    understandings knowledge       achievement information

and skills characteristic            from a variety of

of each area to which all            assessment tasks

students will typically

be exposed


Technology                  Within each                             They provide a common

Studies of Society         field of learning common          framework for the

and Environment           themes or elements are            consistent recording

organised into strands              and reporting of

that define the scope and         student achievement

set broad limits to the

Arts                              learning area                            Systems schools and

teachers will continue

Health                          Universally, teaching                to use many methods to

Languages other           approaches are to encourage   assess and gather

than English                 strategies and positive              information about

attitudes in students                  student performance

Profiles are not

assessment instruments


The work of developing statements and profiles for each of the eight curriculum areas is proceeding according to different schedules for each of the curriculum areas.  The three environmental education documents completed to date are:


A national audit of the vast array of environmental education materials available to schools from a variety of resources. Support for these activities and the publication, {Environmental Education Materials: a guide for Australian Schools, is provided through the Curriculum Corporation, a jointly owned company of the State, Territory and Commonwealth governments (with the exception of New  South Wales).


Mapping the Environmental Education Curriculum covering all the States and Territories, completed in August 1991.


The design brief for the curriculum statement for the Studies of Society and Environment, completed in July 1992 by a team from the  Secondary Education Authority in Western Australia and the Senior  Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia.


While Studies of Society and Environment is one of the designated curriculum areas, the environment has also been identified as a cross-curriculum strand.  The secretariat of CURASS is currently preparing a paper on the incorporation of cross-curricula strands. The expectation that other areas especially science, technology and health will include components of environmental education is evident in the draft statements in these areas. For example, the draft technology statement emphasises the capacity of students to “appraise the personal, local and global consequences of their proposed actions”.  The brief for the health statement stresses the importance of the notion of the quality of life and participatory approaches to the development of the environment that do not jeopardise life now or in the future.


While these developments at the national level are encouraging in terms of the recognition that has been accorded to environmental education in the curriculum, states are not obliged to align their curricula with such policies, although at present they are giving every indication of doing so.



b){State systems}


Generally the over-arching statewide curriculum policy is developed by studies directorates or curriculum branches within each state and authorised by the Chief Executive Officer or Minister for Education.  All four states in this study have published and disseminated policy statements for environmental education at all year levels.  New South Wales in 1989, Victoria in 1990, South Australia in 1987 and Queensland in 1988.  Although subtle differences in emphasis are evident in the documents there is a high level of commonalty in the stated policies from state to state.  Guidelines documents to assist implementation, advise on learning and teaching strategies and provide sample units of work which elaborate these policies.  In New South Wales the policy statement includes guidelines for implementation which will be accompanied by more specific syllabuses.  South Australia has recently published Environment a handbook for teachers, providing more detailed advice for schools and teachers on implementation of environmental education policy in that state.  Guidelines for learning and teaching in environmental education are contained in the science, personal development and social education frameworks in Victoria although there is no framework for environmental education as such.  Course advice for the different curriculum areas is also being developed.  At the time of writing the Queensland draft guidelines document, P-12 Environmental Curriculum Guide, was at the consultation stage. The guide has now been released.


Environmental education policy documents and their guidelines reinforce approaches to learning and teaching similar to those specified in the literature on the ENSI Project.  The South Australian policy states “It is essential that the teaching approach selected leads students to taking action. Effective environmental education will not occur unless taking action happens as part of the learning” (Environmental Education, Education Department of South Australia, p. 17).  The New South Wales and Victorian documents refer to environmental education, “about” the environment, “in” the environment, “for” the environment, that is, gaining knowledge by learning about the environment, skills in investigating the environment and developing feelings, values and attitudes by acquiring and expressing a concern for the environment.  According to the draft of the new guidelines in Queensland ” Effective environmental education programs call for a teaching model in which the instructor serves not as the principal source of information but as a facilitate who advances student autonomy and self-direction”;  in ENSI terms, “dynamic qualities”.  It should be noted that principles such as active involvement of students in their own learning, problem solving, enquiry learning, student initiative and responsibility permeate curriculum policies in all areas and are not confined to environmental education curriculum advice.


{Years 11 and 12}


While the environmental education policies apply generally across all years of schooling, the curriculum at the upper secondary levels is governed by Year 12 certification procedures.  At Years 11 and 12, in some states in Year 12 only, students from government, Catholic and Independent sectors, choose from the range of studies accredited by curriculum and assessment boards in each state.  These boards award the formal certificates that recognise successful completion of requirements in the final year of schooling.  In two states, Victoria and South Australia, Environmental Studies is an accredited study at the senior secondary level.  Environmental education may also be included in studies such as geography, chemistry, earth studies, Aboriginal studies, health and technology studies.


{Potentially disadvantaged groups and environmental education}


Policies related to equity in education require that student groups seen as potentially disadvantaged in some ways in some aspects of schooling have the opportunities for full participation in the curriculum.  The Mapping of the Environmental Education Curriculum  document describes ways in which environmental education is inclusive of Aboriginal students, recent immigrants, students with disabilities, young people from isolated areas and girls.


During our visits the following three observations were made:


— All of the field study centres provided facilities to ensure that students with disabilities are able to participate fully in activities.


— Policy documents suggest that environmental education could be a  means of encouraging girls to participate in science.  Girls seemed to be participating more readily than boys in environmental education activities particularly in the early and middle years of secondary school.  This is an impression that needs to be empirically tested.


— Knowledge and understanding of the land within Aboriginal communities recognised as important resource for environmental education.  One of the presentations on local initiatives in environmental education described a program conducted by an Aboriginal community.


4.Devolution of decision making in education


In Australia, co-operation between schools and their communities is deemed to be vital to the effectiveness of education.  Formal mechanisms to enable schools to work closely with the community have been introduced.  In South Australia and Victoria every school has a school council composed of representatives of staff, administrators, parents and community members and students where appropriate.  Establishment of school boards/councils is progressing in other states.  Greater decision-making powers are being devolved to these bodies.  In all states government systems have been restructured to reduce the size of central offices and locate resources and services closer to

schools. All four states are at different stages in the process and differences have emerged in the kinds and extent of decision-making responsibilities devolved to the local level.


Ministerial Paper No. 6:  Curriculum Development and Planning in Victoria vested responsibility for curriculum in schools through their school councils which have develop school curriculum policy within statewide guidelines. School councils in Victoria are advised to develop an environmental education policy.


The Board of Studies in New South Wales has central responsibility for curriculum development in all curriculum areas.  The Department of School Education in New South Wales produced the Environmental Education Curriculum Statement  It is mandatory for government schools in New South Wales to ensure that environmental education is incorporated in the whole school curriculum. While New South Wales has opted for a statewide and mandatory curriculum and statewide monitoring and review of standards this state has moved more rapidly than the others towards giving schools management responsibility for their operating budget.


South Australia, where power and responsibility for curriculum rest with the Director General rather than the Minister, has followed yet a different course.  In that state “Every school principal is required to ensure that the school’s curriculum is aligned with the charter, commitment and outcomes laid down in Policy Statement No. 4, {Educating for the 21st Century:} { A Charter for } {Public Schooling in South Australia. }” (Education Department of South Australia, Nov. 1991.  This document specifically states that essential environmental skills and understandings and community responsibility are important learning outcomes for which schools are responsible.


Queensland is moving towards school self management within strong system wide policies and curriculum guidelines.


In general, across all states, there is a trend towards devolution of the management of resources, except for basic staffing and cyclic maintenance to schools.  Discretion over such matters as employment of replacement teachers, composition of school staff, professional development funds, library and teaching resources, utility charges is increasing, whereas a trend towards firmer more specific guidelines, syllabuses and course advice on curriculum is evident.


While the devolution of greater financial responsibility to the local level was seen by some as largely cost cutting exercise it has as a corollary, an increased emphasis on school management plans, whole school curriculum planning and review of progress with respect to statewide priorities.  Both New South Wales and South Australia have introduced a system of school review and monitoring of management plans prepared by the schools with particular attention to designated priority areas.


All states set priorities for statewide planning. Provision of funding and support programs such as consultancy and statewide professional development are therefore concentrated largely on programs that support the designated priorities which may or may not include environmental education in any given year.  In Victoria, for example, the introduction of the new Years 11 and 12 certificate (VCE), Languages other than English, and English and Mathematics Profiles were among the highest priorities in curriculum from 1992-4.  In South Australia environmental education is an area of the curriculum for which schools are accountable in their three year management plans.  In Queensland’s development plan one of the priorities for 1991-1995 is “active and informed citizenship” which includes an environmental education component.  The case study of the Metropolitan North Region in New South Wales demonstrates how the resources are organised and networks established to support the implementation of the Environmental Education Curriculum statement.


Although designated priorities for a given period may not include environmental education,  this area receives considerable ongoing support from systems.  In Queensland and New South Wales, field study centres in diverse locations around the state including urban areas are extensively used by teachers and students.  Queensland has 20 of these centres.  Eighteen centres in New South Wales are resourced and staffed by the Department of School Education and annexes to those are being developed.  These centres, many of which provide overnight accommodation, offer learning experiences for students, in-service training for teachers, an advisory service to schools and an opportunity for co-operation with community groups. There are five schools in New South Wales designated as Centres of Excellence in Environmental Education. South Australia is funding a “focus schools” program to support in a more systematic way school led development which was already occurring in an informal fashion.  Networks of schools and teachers will assist one another to develop professionally in many areas of the curriculum.  Eight hundred thousand dollars has been allocated over three years for centres of excellence and $36,000 for school led training and development. Twenty six Centres of Excellence in Landcare lighthouse schools in environmental education.  In Victoria, through Extension Education Services, 115 teachers are outposted to some 75 organisations of which the largest proportion operate in the fields of environmental education and the arts.  Teachers at the Zoo, Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and the Museum run comprehensive cross curriculum programs. The charter of the Victorian Environmental Education Council established in 1989 is to advise and co-ordinate environmental education across Victoria. With a budget of $A250,000 the council dispenses grants to schools and community organisations to develop local environmental education initiatives.


5.Contribution of groups, agencies, and professional associations in environmental education


Environmental education commands widespread support from community groups and environmental organisations as well as other government agencies and industry sponsors.


Among those interviewed in the four states were representatives of organisations and agencies such as the Gould League, Greening Australia, Rotary, Environmental Protection Authorities, Ministries of the Environment and Departments of Soil Conservation, Water Resources and Forestry Commissions (See

Appendix 2, list of interviews and interviewees).


A strong professional association promotes activities closely related to teaching and teacher professional development.  Members of the Australian Association for Environmental Education, and affiliated associations in some states, form a network of active, enthusiastic and committed educators at all

levels primary, secondary and tertiary across the country. They also ensure that the interests of the area are prominent in educational policy spheres.


Although overtaken in the present recession by the unemployment issue, the environment remains high on the political agenda at both national and state levels.  This has an important influence on the policy context of environmental education and on the processes of policy making.


6.Processes in policy making: consultation


Extensive consultation with the community is characteristic of educational policy making, at all levels and in all areas of the curriculum in Australia.  Typically, representatives from government and independent sectors, tertiary institutions, other government departments are involved in the development of education policy including environmental education policy at state and national levels.  Groups such as practising teachers, system consultants, school boards, professional associations, government agencies, educationalists from the private sector and industry and special interest groups are consulted.  For example, in the development of the Studies of Society and Environment statement and profiles, tenders were called for at each step in the process — the brief, the statements and the profiles.  Tenderers could include a range of agencies such as tertiary institutions, systems, curriculum and assessments boards, subject associations.  At each stage the drafts are subject to intense scrutiny and widespread debate before approval by CURASS.


These processes are democratic in intent, but may sometimes be cumbersome in practice.  Educational policy development can appear interminable.  Participation in the policy making process and opportunity to

comment do not always result in commitment of all parties to the policy that is finally decided upon, particularly by those whose point of view did not win the day. When attempts are made to reconcile all perspectives, policy may be so broad that there is little guidance for action.  Whatever the drawbacks these

consultation processes give recognition to the range of stakeholders and the plurality of values with respect to environmental issues and ensure that the implications of policies are thoroughly worked through with representatives from interest groups. Consultation is part of the ethos of education policy making in Australia.


7.School level policies in environmental education


Within the guidelines of state systems and the requirements of the senior secondary assessment boards, schools structure their curriculum, construct courses and programs and develop learning and teaching strategies appropriate to local needs and conditions.  There was no evidence to indicate that the capacity of schools to develop innovative programs in environmental education is affected by the locus of control over curriculum development. Schools in all states are encouraged to develop formal policies with emphasis on the way environmental education is to be delivered and the anticipated outcomes for students.


How far schools have progressed in this respect was difficult to estimate.  The brevity of the in-depth study precluded the collection of precise data on the extent to which schools had developed their own formal

environmental education policies. Indications were that this was becoming increasingly common.  In New South Wales a survey of the 28 schools of teachers participating in a research project, revealed that 13 had developed a school policy of which 10 had a written program.


Figure 2 gives an example of the goals statement in a school environmental education policy in terms of student outcomes.


Figure 2.  A school environmental education policy



Environmental education


  1. Student values and actions reflect the priority given to environmental education in the school management plan and in each class program.


  1. Students have developed problem solving skills as a result of teaching programs.


  1. Students are involved in first hand experiences of the environment.


  1. Students have experienced class programs that develop in students an understanding of the relationship between local and global environmental issues.


  1. Students display responsible participation in maintaining and improving the school environment and the local environment e.g. Streamwatch, bush regeneration, clean-up days, tree planting, Greening of Schools program.


  1. Students are involved in an effective recycling program.


  1. Students are involved in decision-making regarding use of the school’s energy and water consumption which is audited, monitored and reviewed.


  1. Students are involved in effective collaboration and liaison with the local community to support environmental education.


  1. Students will have an understanding of the key concepts e. g. biosphere, conservation, management, conservation for sustainable development, ecosystem, environment, degradation, environmental impact, greenhouse effect, heritage, endangered species, salination, stewardship, sustained fields.



8.Major themes: opportunities, problems and prospects


Given the variety of stakeholder groups it was to be expected that the different groups and individuals who were consulted during the course of two days in each of four states had different perspectives and expressed divergent views on such fundamental issues as what the essential elements of environmental education should be.  In the following commentary on what emerged as major themes in the discussions, the type and range of views expressed is reported.  It was not feasible, except in very general terms, to estimate the representativeness of the opinions expressed.


  1. i) National curriculum


As indicated in Figure 1 Studies of Society and Environment is one of the eight areas of the national curriculum for which a statement and profiles are to be developed.  This entails a national commitment to the inclusion of environmental education as an essential component in the education of all Australian students, and confirms, at the policy level, the place of environmental education in the curriculum.  Profiles that constitute the essential and distinctive elements of a subject have the potential to institutionalise environmental education in practice.  The form that the learning and teaching of environmental education will take will still be a local matter.


A substantial number of those interviewed who mentioned the status of environmental education in the curriculum as an issue of vital concern viewed these developments in a positive light.


The combination of studies of society and the environment in one curriculum area was not universally accepted.  One of a number of points of view expressed was that environmental education issues are driven by economic imperatives and require scientific solutions.  Therefore environmental education would be better placed science and commerce areas where they would have “a strong discipline and scientific base”.  However, the opinion that technical solutions alone were inadequate for solving complex social problems

was frequently held. Environmental education includes not only scientific knowledge, but aesthetic appreciation and social understanding.  Respondents considered that the values aspect of environmental education was more likely to be addressed when linked to social education.


Of more serious concern to those who regarded the development of national curriculum statements and profiles as a problem rather than an opportunity was that these developments are centralising in purpose, give undue emphasis to system-wide accountability requirements, and have a conservative influence.  The prospect of profiles raised fears that their use may result in uniformity and minimalist attitudes that do not provide a favourable context for local issues based initiatives.  However, as John Elliott commented (CERI/CD, 15, 8 )some feel that the environmental education will never have a central place in the curriculum for all students until systems for assessing personal qualities are developed.  Profiles allow for reporting of these kinds of outcomes more readily than other methods in use to date.


Even those who regarded national curriculum developments as an indication of brighter prospects for consolidating environmental education as a fundamental area of the curriculum of all Australian students did not understate the difficulties of bringing this about in actual school settings.



  1. ii) Central or peripheral: the status of environmental education in schools


Environmental education in the curriculum needs to be considered in the context of the way the general curriculum is conceived.  The most common formulation of the totality of learning’s (knowledge, skills, processes, values and actions) that make up the curriculum is in terms of broad domains variously

referred to as curriculum areas, fields of study, frameworks within which disciplines, subjects, studies, courses with some common characteristics are clustered. This categorisation is not consistent across states or even within one state.  In Victoria, for example, there are thirteen fields of study at Year 12, but nine Years P-10 curriculum framework areas.  As environmental education offers the opportunity to explore issues, to interrelate concerns across curriculum areas, it is also classified as a cross-curriculum area.  At

the same time, environmental topics and units occur within other subjects.


The ways that environmental education is included in the school curriculum has implications for its status as a institutionalised study to which all have access, the assumption here being that all students should have the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that allow them to be “active and informed” with respect to environmental matters.


Information gained through discussions with Ministers, officers in the Departments of Education at all levels, descriptions by teachers and students of their programs and brief visits to schools was highly consistent with the 1991 report of the mapping of the environmental education curriculum in all States and Territories in Australia.  What was described as environmental education in documents, interviews and schools visits, took one or more of the following forms:


— a separate study generally termed environmental studies or environmental science;


— a multidisciplinary study where teachers contribute to a core study or program from their own area of expertise;


— components of other subjects such as geography, science, health taught by specialists in those areas;


— studies integrated throughout the curriculum so that environmental  learnings are part of a range of subjects taught.  An application of  this was in planned programs across subjects in which environmental  topics, themes and issues were a vehicle for teaching in a real  context with motivating material;


— projects to improve the school environment such as recycling,  beautification of grounds;


— whole school adoption of an environmental “way of life” that involves  practices such as waste minimisation, energy and water conservation,  reduced use of products that are environmentally hazardous to  maintain awareness of staff and students;


— involvement in broader statewide or nationwide programs such as  Saltwatch, Landcare, Greening Australia;


— data collection on various aspects of the environment other than the  Saltwatch and similar programs and transmission to a central data  base for use in environmental monitoring;


— community action programs where the school works with community members or groups to improve the local area or to deal with threats to the environment;


— excursions including camps and visits to field study centres, farms,  zoos.


In all the states visited, progress in making environmental education an integral part of the curriculum for all students was occurring at the policy level at least.


Policies provided a supportive context for significant initiatives in schools.


However, despite these positive indications, access of all students to a coherent and systematic program in environmental education is still problematic.  The dilemmas inherent in three important ways that students might have access to Environmental education illustrate both the difficulties and the opportunities.


iii) {Environmental education as a cross curriculum strand.}


The inclusion of concern for and understanding of the environment in as many curriculum areas as possible was an ideal espoused by most interviewees. There was a consensus of opinion that primary schools had made considerable advances in the inclusion of environmental education as an integral part of the learning program, for example, as themes running though all areas of the curriculum or as a vehicle for teaching in basic subjects.  It seemed that this was more difficult in secondary schools.  At the secondary level, schools were usually said to be compartmentalised according to curriculum areas or disciplines and organised in ways that created impediments for teachers attempting to work in interdisciplinary teams. or conduct programs that do not fit easily into timetabling and other organisational arrangements.  The pressure to include an ever increasing range of other social issues and the role of schools in educating students to become good citizens leads to the expectation that cross curriculum approaches will provide solutions for incorporating all these studies.  Increasing competition for time in an “overcrowded curriculum” and duplication and fragmentation were cited as frequent difficulties.  This was not universal.  The move towards whole school planning, school reviews which in various locations are taking the form of curriculum audits, mapping of curriculum within schools, school reorganisation and greater accountability for the quality of curriculum provided, increase the incentives for schools to consider more flexible arrangements and approaches that differ from traditional practice.


  1. iv) {Environmental education as a separate subject.}


Where environmental education is taught as a separate subject, there is a danger that environmental components may not be included in other subjects such as geography, technology studies, chemistry, biology, Australian studies. As one of a number of subjects competing for time in the curriculum, environmental education as a separate subject is more likely to be provided as an optional subject for example at Years 9 or 10 or as an accredited study at Years 11 and 12 than as a core study .  Clearly this would not provide access for all students and could prejudice the inclusion of environmental education as an interdisciplinary study;  hence the reluctance by some educators to accept the notion of studies of the environment as separate subjects. Yet there are contextual circumstances not yet discussed in this report to that need to be considered.


Apparent retention rates of students to Year 12 have increased dramatically in the last five years so that there is pressure on systems to develop curricula to cater for senior students with a wide range of educational needs and provide for pathways in further education and employment other than the strictly academic courses within single institutions.  There appears to be a more instrumental emphasis and vocational orientation in curriculum policy development at the upper levels of secondary schools and certainly closer relationships and understandings between education authorities and leading commercial and industrial representatives.


The influence exerted by commerce and industry to ensure that the skills and competencies required in the workforce are acquired by students is exemplified in a number of recent influential reviews and reports, notably the Mayer Report recently released by the Australian Education Council and Ministers responsible for Vocational Education, Employment and Training.  The set of generic key competencies defined as essential for all young Australians in this report namely;  collecting, analysing and organising information; communicating ideas and information;  planning and organising activities; working with others in teams;  using mathematical ideas and techniques; solving problems;  using technology entail approaches to learning and teaching very similar to those found in environmental education curriculum statements and in ENSI literature.  The document reported an in principle agreement that “cultural understanding” is a foundation for the knowledge, skills and understandings underlying the Key Competencies.  These developments are not

necessarily antithetical to the interests of environmental education.


The topic of career opportunities for students who undertook courses in environmental studies/science or environmental education was raised in discussions on a few occasions.  It seems from some examples cited that there is merit in promoting the development of appropriate courses and career opportunities for environmental specialists in industries ranging from tourism to engineering.


  1. v) {Environmental education as a local issues}-{based program.}


“Act locally, think globally” is a motto well known to teachers and students in Australia.  Environmental issues are intrinsically motivating to students, particularly when they are immediate and local.  Ensuring that a local issues based idiosyncratic approach to environmental education is maintained as an ongoing program for all students once a particular issue has been resolved is the challenge for those schools adopting an ENSI type approach.  That this is achievable was demonstrated by one primary school visited by the team.  Prominent local issues were embedded in a whole school curriculum plan and incorporated in the school’s program in language and mathematics and other curriculum areas so that all children had the opportunity to participate and the attention given to environmental matters was not sporadic episodic nor contingent on the presence of particular individuals with strong environmental concerns.  The contribution of the principal in this school was extremely important.  Support of teachers and administrators within the school and professional development for teachers in the use of action research would seem to be important for the success of ENSI initiatives.


In gathering data on the kinds of initiatives in environmental education in schools we came across many creative programs in which environmental education was provided in a variety of ways.  Indeed, many school initiatives were at the cutting edge and were informing policy. The different ways of implementing environmental education need not be mutually exclusive provided that the aim of environmental knowledge, skills, attitudes and values for all students is paramount.


Case studies and descriptions of initiatives in a later chapters describe in detail the strategies that are being used in all four states.


4.A question of identity: the scope of environmental education


A cogent and pointed reminder about environmental education initiatives involving action by students in ENSI type programs was that the action taken be “essentially educational rather than environmental”.  With respect to the question of what is educational and what is environmental, state policy documents and accompanying guidelines provide examples for schools of the kinds of educational activities appropriate for students at different year levels.


Policy documents make another significant contribution in that they assist in defining the content of the area and the boundaries that distinguish the study of the environment from similar study areas.  In one sense a very wide variety of social concerns and activities may be termed environmental. There was general agreement that environmental education programs should be inclusive of a greater range of studies than traditional ecology or nature studies.  However, if the definition becomes too broad environmental education is in danger of becoming amorphous and in the opinion of some “lacking in rigour”.


The areas specified in the South Australian policy statement have been adopted in the national curriculum and have become the generally accepted as a succinct specification of the essential elements in environmental education in Australian schools.


Recycling programs are probably the most common activities in schools, perhaps because the activities are a practical way of introducing environmental education.  Analysis of the kinds of topics and the content of activities that were reported and described by educators and observed in schools revealed in practice an emphasis on conservation issues.  Numerous references were made to the fragility of the land, the necessity to repair damage, prevent further misuse, improve water quality and protect endangered species.  This emphasis could be partly explained by the immediacy of these problems and by the fact that land degradation is seen by many Australians as the country’s most pressing environmental problem.


  1. Advocacy and Education: controversial issues


ENSI promotes environmental education that develops “dynamic qualities” in students through action on real issues within the community.  Tensions arise in relation to student involvement in community issues.  Environmental questions engender heated debate and confrontation in environmentally sensitive areas.  Environmental issues attract a great deal of public attention, and media concentrate on dramatic events such as demonstrations and public meetings and protests.  Protagonists of environmental education would see its role as conflict reducing and would maintain that action on environmental issues is not necessarily or primarily of the confrontationalist kind. The kinds of action, appropriate for students are described in the environmental education documents.


Discussions revealed that, at times, student involvement in controversial issues raised fears of indoctrination rather than education; that undue influence may be exerted on students by educators on the one hand, or other agencies, groups in the private sector and industry and commerce and on the other.  Teachers have a unique relationship with their students. Resources and materials for use by schools are provided from many sources.  The use of sponsorship from industry and the private sector  is commonplace. Checks and balances are used to ensure that the message is in line with policies, guidelines and syllabuses and that the agenda of the sponsor is not being pursued.  The audit and evaluation of environmental education materials throughout Australia that has already been mentioned was a useful step towards establishing quality standards for materials published for schools.


At the same time environmental education and other policy documents and manuals, provide general advice for teachers dealing with socially sensitive questions and controversial issues.  The Queensland environmental education policy provides specific advice on how teachers might deal with controversial issues.  Controversial issues are not unique to environmental studies.  They also arise within other curriculum areas such as health and personal development.  The Victorian Social Education Framework makes a distinction between procedural and substantive values. According to the framework, the teaching of the values such as,  tolerance of divergent opinion, freedom of expression, fairness, respect for reasoning and evidence, co-operation and respect for individuals is desirable.  It is inappropriate for teachers to attempt to teach students “one set of values in an area in which there are widespread, legitimate differences in the community”.(Social Education Framework, Ministry of Education Victoria, 1987, 13).


Policies in environmental education that encourage action and involvement and devolved systems where learning and teaching strategies appropriate to local needs are to be adopted, do not of themselves ensure a favourable context for ENSI type environmental education in schools.  Not everyone within the community, nor will all communities agree with the approach, particularly in situations in which sections of the community are materially and seriously affected by the outcomes of an environmental debate.


Policies provide direction and some safeguards for teachers whose students are involved in action on local issues, but good judgement and professionalism of teachers is of paramount importance for the acceptance by the community and by other teachers and administrators within schools of ENSI type environmental education and the ultimate success of programs.  In discussions, teachers and others with experience in programs suggested strategies to reduce internal and external opposition to students’ active involvement in environmental problems in their communities such as selection by students themselves of environmental questions to be addressed, a scrupulously impartial stance by teachers even though they themselves may be highly committed to a particular viewpoint, dissemination of accurate, factual information on all aspects of the question to all affected by an issue.


Policies in teaching and learning in environmental education emphasise process as well as content.  Programs designed to foster positive attitudes and values, to provide for problem solving, enquiry learning, formulation of action plans and development of research skills are recommended.  ENSI also emphasises the reflection by teachers upon the quality of their teaching and continuous evaluation and adjustment of their methods to improve the quality of their programs.  The demands on teachers are great. The role of professional development of teachers in linking policy to practice is a major theme that has not been included in this section.  Pre-service and in-service education of teachers is of such importance that the issue warrants detailed treatment and will therefore be the topic of the following chapter.


Part III




Schools:  Where Policy Meets Practice




In most Western democracies, a state’s education policy is first drafted by committees which represent interested groups.  The draft is sent to a wider circle for comment.  By the time a final draft is dispatched for formal approval anything which is likely to prove a serious political liability for the government has probably been removed.  On these grounds it could be argued that close attention to the gap between policy and practice is likely to suppress rather than encourage innovation.  On the other hand, policy may well be more progressive than typical or average practice.  In that case, closing the gap could be seen as a progressive step for the system.  Ideally, policy and practice are continuously in a process of mutual adaptation.


Schools are the place where policy -often interpreted at intervening levels- and practice meet.  In the case of EE, it was suggested that policies of the 80s have been catching up to the practices of the innovative schools. That may be acceptable;  the pace of policy may be optimum for making successful innovation a norm.  But of course care must be taken to ensure that policy also enables adventurous schools to experiment.  For they represent a basis for future policy.


It would be reassuring to suppose that if we just got the policy “right”, EE programs could transform our societies into environmentally friendly utopias.  Few would credit the idea.  Indeed when Lester Brown of Worldwatch spoke at the OECD in 1992, he said that educational practice changes far too slowly to produce the effects required to avert an environmental crisis.  He may be right.  But schools have a role to play in educating future citizens for an environmentally sustainable society.


Our visit was brief;  our data base minimal.  In the schools we saw, we met with various and imaginative interpretations of EE goals as expressed in different pedagogical practices.


The purpose of this chapter is modest:  to exhibit current EE policy interpretations, drawing upon documents, people’s comments and evidence of their apparent influence upon school practice.  In section 1, an overview of policy in the four states is offered.  Section 2 is an account of highlights featured in each state.  The last section identifies issues, questions and the relevance of school policy and practice for the “ENSI style” of EE.


  1. Some General Considerations


In the fours states, some downsizing of central bureaucracies has been going of for several years, as has devolution of responsibility for decisions about how to spend the money allocated by the state for education.  However, policies on measures which may bring more decentralisation or centralisation of curriculum have varied.  Queensland has loosened up central control, South Australia has moved towards” tighter” strategies.  In New South Wales the policy is to increase central control whereas in Victoria the policy which gives significant reponsibilities to schools has been maintained.


A comprehensive “mapping” of the EE “policies, guidelines and system intentions” was carried out under the auspices of the Australian Education Council (AEC) and published in 1991.  The contents of the mapping are not reviewed here.  It is interesting to note that in the Introduction to the document it is stated that the initial intention of attempting to describe and evaluate the “the delivery of EE programs at the school level”(p.10) had been abandoned.  The team doing the mapping was advised that such an evaluation would be done at a later date.  Since the National Curriculum statements and profiles are now being developed, it seems that data on school level delivery, what I refer to in the title as the “meetings of policy and practice”, will not be available to those who write them.  That is regrettable.  It does however demonstrate that it is still believed that “good” educational policy can be formulated without reference to the situations in which it is implemented.


It was said by many people that the National Curriculum statements would be extremely general;  the states will determine how they are interpreted and connected to practice.  Given current move towards devolution in the four states visited, one may suppose that the interpretation of these statements will be left largely to the individual schools.  But the profiles of student achievement will come from central administrations.  Surely profiles will have to be based on effective knowledge of what is actually happening in schools and therefore what is reasonable to expect of student performance.


Some relevant general concerns about the current situation of schools expressed to us, and others of particular significance for EE, seem worth recording.


In all states the central and regional bureaucracies have been “downsized”.  The result is a massive reduction in the number of consultants and advisors available to assist regions and schools in interpreting and implementing policy.  Work overload for those who remain was cited as a problem for people at all levels.  It’s not surprising.  For at the same time as “downsizing” proceeds, curriculum changes are taking place.  The revisions in the post-compulsory years of schooling were cited as taking a disproportionate

amount of time and effort.


With regard to EE in particular, schools which seek to implement policy are vulnerable to criticism from the local community if they are seen to be exposing anything unpleasant.  Various interest groups are producing curriculum materials, often to promote acceptance of their particular position.  In practice the principal often has to act as the “gatekeeper” obliged to decide of their acceptability.


In an effort to give coherence to curriculum from the pre-grade one year to year 12, the most recent curriculum documents in EE apply to the entire span.  But there are clear break points with regard to school practices and timetables at grade 7 and grade 11.  Because of these, a practice which works well in one does not work well in another.  Consider project work which involves independent research and demands flexibility in the allocation of class time.  In K-6 it can be accommodated quite easily, in 11 and 12 it is more difficult, but in 7-10 it proves extremely difficult.  Integrated and multidisciplinary studies would face comparable differential problems at the different levels.


Schools are embedded in a state culture and the state’s dominant political philosophy must influence school practice in diverse and often hidden ways.  Overt expression of differences is often to be found in policy documents.  This is true of EE.


The New South Wales document lists values described as “having particular significance”;  the first is “actively supporting economic development and the conservation of heritage and the environment” (p.  16).  In the state’s framework of “broad learning areas” EE appears explicitly in “Human Society and Its Environment.” By contrast, the Queensland 1988 document which today is considered by them as rather conservative, advocated that students “review” their values.  The new “Guide” proposes that schools enable students to “develop new patterns of behaviour …  that reflect caring for the Earth, other people, and themselves.” It is also argued that “For development to be sustainable it must be just.” It is perhaps significant that Queensland put out a document devoted to EE in 1976, long before the other states did so.  South Australia was next, just over ten years later.  Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the document is the connection made between EE and action.  It is asserted:  “The action step is essential to the aims of environmental education, since it seeks to generate the view that individuals and groups can change the course of events.” (p.  18) In the document issued in 1990 by Victoria, schools are identified as one of the many agencies engaged in educating citizens on, for, and about the environment.  It also urges:  “People cannot afford to regard the environment as something which only exists to serve their interests.” (p.  7)


It may well be that the states have influenced each other in policy development.  South Australia may have “moved” the other states along to acceptance of participation by students in discussions about and actions for change.  An informant said that states tend to look to other states and territories for alternative educational policies and practices rather than to other countries.  Fears that the National Curriculum would destroy the dynamic of educational changes which differences between states has created were frequently expressed – by spokespersons across the left-right wing spectrum of political persuasion.  At school level the profiles, which one academic described as “a set of standardised, hierarchical indicators and proficiencies”, seem to have the potential to curtail school initiatives in EE.


There are initiatives being taken by schools which those most directly involved perceive as successful in achieving EE policy aims.  The reader may make some judgement on the basis of the next section.


  1. Schools Highlighted in Each State


  1. i) Queensland


A policy document recently released by the government which has been in power for only two and a half years is called “Focus on Schools”.  As a high level official put it:  “The thrust is to push things down to the schools.” The tradition of school-based assessment is to remain, even with the advent of the National Curriculum.  But that document’s seventh goal – of enabling students to become “active and informed citizens” – is to be taken up in the Department’s Development Plan as one of five priorities for all curriculum areas, from 1991 to 1995.  That’s significant for EE.  One official proposed that you can’t be an active and informed citizen if you “lack knowledge of environmental issues and fail to participate in decisions and actions to protect it.”


The official policy document on EE issued in 1989 is considered by virtually everyone as outdated.  For example it was said by one Department official:  “It’s overly technical, and needs radical restructuring and

revision.” The treatment of controversial issues was criticised: “It looks at the issues as questions of management rather than working through  difficult issues.” The new view is expressed in the “EE Curriculum Guide” which has just received official approval after a lengthy consultative process;  it was sent to over 400 people for comment.  It was said that the Guide “will be used to inform the next policy document.” It is noteworthy that under skills it includes:  “Students will co-operate and negotiate with others in order to resolve conflicts arising over environmental issues” and “will develop political skills necessary for active citizenship (e.g.  lobbying, petitioning, forming delegations, letter writing).” It ties sustainability to “social

justice” and stresses the tentativeness of our knowledge claims.


In the Guide, schools are called upon to develop their EE in a sensitive fashion;  they “need to formulate their own policy and programs at a time and pace and in a manner that is appropriate to their circumstances.”


On the basis of what we saw and heard, some schools are responding to this challenge.  However, most of the “mini case studies” presented to us at a meeting held in an EE field centre were reports of projects of individuals or departments.  They did, however, suggest that the Guide recommends what is now

considered “best practice” among environmental educators around the state.


In all, six mini case studies of EE projects or activities were presented.  All too briefly described, the activities were are follows:


  1. a) Drawing upon the “local wisdom” of an elderly “bullocky driver” students visited him on his bush property, and applied knowledge and skills of biographical writing developed in their classroom to gain insight into the driver’s world and perceptions of the land.  The biography was then printed with illustrations presented to the community.  The Centre’s director observed: “We met two agendas:  the school’s to teach the basics and ours to have the children appreciate their local environment.”


  1. b) A recently established EE centre in a wetlands sanctuary has received state funds to support a centre-school collaboration on two projects to improve skills of socially disadvantaged students. One of them involves linking mathematics and environment to help improve students’ problem solving skills

and appreciation of the place of mathematics in culture. The other is to establish a multi-purpose learning centre with EE as the focus.


  1. c) An educator employed by the state to manage EE and aboriginal programs has initiated a number of projects which tie EE studies to the development of skills they need in order to exploit local employment



  1. d) High school students, advised by an art teacher and a science teachers, formed a school Environment Committee. Over the past two years they have developed comprehensive recycling and tree planting programs.  Their studies of student attitude changes indicate that “progress” has been made.


  1. e) An international project called “Healthy Schools and Communities” was the starting point of a project which has high school students in years 11 and 12 learning research skills and then applying them to the study of local health issues. Systems of assessment have been worked out to ensure students receive

adequate academic credit. Where appropriate, in addition to in-school presentations of results, reports are made to the local Council.  The teacher observed:  “We look at subjectivity;  it gets very political at times.” Written reports of the studies are retained at the school.  In a recent case, a student chose to continue the research initiated by someone else the previous year. The teacher observed:  “It’s in our school development plan, and I’m nudging away to get more included.  But it’s getting them into action that’s the



  1. f) Educators employed by the Department of Primary Industries have developed materials for use by farmers and students. The goal is to develop “land literacy”- the capacity to recognise and address issues of soil erosion, native grasses, water quality, salinity, and soil dynamics.  One of the presenters said that “action research involving schools and the community is a strategy used….The stress is on citizenship.”


Following the presentations and the EE Centre, we visited the nearby primary school which did the unit on biography (see 1 above).  Across the whole school, EE has been “language oriented”.  The Centre’s head has provided in-service to some teachers on how to develop appropriate curricula, and they have in turn provided in-service to their colleagues.  Collaboration between Centre and school has been going on for several years.  In the current year, “The Aboriginal View of Land” has been taken as a unifying theme;  personnel from the Aboriginal Centre will participate in activities at the school.  The principal explained:  “The exciting thing is that we’re teaching the basics via these things.”


  1. ii) New South Wales


A high level official told us:  “Some years ago we devolved the wrong thing – curriculum and not the power to handle resources.” That’s now been set right.  As another official described the current policy:  “We’re pretty up-front about centralised curriculum development and devolved resources.  A centralised approach to key aspects of curriculum is fine, as long as you don’t go back to the ‘blue book’.” Of the State’s 1990 EE “Curriculum Statement:  she said:  “It is prescriptive, because it’s spelled out.” Of the National Curriculum proposal for EE she commented:  “If handled properly it will lock EE into the core.” Long term-economic goals make environmental concerns “a necessity.” She added:  “I don’t see a contradiction between the instrumental and educational arguments for EE.  Economic freedom is required for personal dignity.  It’s a distortion if you don’t push for both.”


Between the school and the centre are the regions.  One of those represented at our meetings has a “school contact” person in each school to develop EE programs, and one primary and one secondary EE advisory teacher for each cluster of 13 to 20 schools.  These work “on their own time”.  They sit on the region’s EE Committee which meets monthly.  One of the region’s primary schools has a particularly high profile;  the principal is active in state, national and international EE activities.  Although this region has an officer for EE, it seems that some others do not.


During our visits to two schools in a different region, our “guide” was Steve,  the director of a “cluster” of schools.  Among his many duties is responsibility for implementing EE policy in his cluster and in 270 schools in the region, and overseeing EE in the region’s field centres.  Each school has to have a “management plan” which it is responsible for developing and implementing.  It must incorporate the requirements of the state’s EE “Curriculum Statement”, and the “Greening of Schools” document of 1989 which includes such things a planting trees, and recycling school waste.  Steve has drawn upon the research literature on implementation to develop materials to assist principals and cluster directors in identifying levels of EE policy implementation.  Like many other people we spoke with, he stresses that EE must be tied to “key learning areas”.


At Caswell Girl’s High School, students received us in the foyer where a plaque reading “Centre of Excellence for Science” is displayed.  Built in the twenties, the school has some 900 pupils “of diverse cultures” and of “mixed socio-economic background.” Our seven student escorts took us to the school library where we heard from them and their teachers about the school’s EE activities.  Those activities identified for us included:  tree propagation and planting of indigenous trees under the direction of the Greening Australia education officer;  school recycling in co-operation with aluminium and paper companies;  participation in data collection for Streamwatch;  installation of an Environmental Monitoring Unit, purchased under the states’s Disadvantaged Schools Program, to collect data on weather and which, once fully operational, will be linked to a national computer network and integrated into a number of curriculum areas.  The school’s EE plan, a copy of which we were given, is in chart form, with headings “Guidelines”, “Strategies” and “Outcomes”.  Steve told us that the last “reflects a state-wide concern with outcomes.” The phrase “Students will….” appears throughout .


While we were in the library, the lights went off.  It seems that they are on a  timer.  Steve commented later that with the advent of global budgets for schools, more and more schools are practising such conservation measures.


At Caswell, financial support for some activities has been obtained from a service club, McDonalds, business and industry;  plans call for sponsorship to pay for additional monitoring equipment.  A conference is being planned for October by the school and a field centre to mark “World Children’s Day”.  A variety of topics will be discussed, including how Aboriginal peoples used and managed land.


Physical evidence of the school’s EE activities are impressive;  pots of seedlings in a shade house, newly fenced and installed weather monitoring equipment, indigenous tree plantings.  There was a consensus among our seven student escorts that although they do learn about environmental issues outside of schools, “Most of what we learn is inside school.”


Tarinvale Primary School is located within a few hundred metres of a river, and some 50 metres from a busy expressway. The oldest structure and the one in which we were entertained is a small yellow frame building put up in the last century.  There we met with the ‘non-teaching’ principal, some staff, a member of the community who has been an invaluable contributor to EE programs, press photographer and journalist, and some ten pupils.  Following introductions, we had a brief photo-session;  the centre piece was a platter of locally caught crab, oysters and prawns on which we later feasted.  The appetising fare was, we later learned, our introduction to the integrated study theme “The River”, currently being developed for the school.


To show us the design model for “The River Project”, previously integrated EE project work was presented by the pupils.  They unfolded a series of hinged, poster-size displays of photos, sketches, and text recording their work on “Our Fragile Planet”.  With an occasional request for elaboration from the principal, these pupils of 9 to 10 years gave a coherent and informative account of the way we use and depend upon resources, such as air and water, and the impact of our use upon them.  Photos showed parents being “taught” by pupils at the various “stations” set up for the Open House day which was the culminating event of the project work.


Preparation for the river study is being recorded as its proceeds. Enlarged photos of field trips to the river’s source and special locations along its length, and a wall-size map showing the points of interest, schools, etc., were used by the principal to convey the knowledge base they have built up so far.  The school curriculum plan for the coming year includes pages which elaborate on how “the river perspective” is to be integrated across years and subject areas;  “focus questions” to guide activities are also provided.


In collaboration with teachers and interested community groups in her own and another region within the river’s catchment, plans for a variety of curriculum activities and excursions to the river have been developed.  A “kit” containing these has been sent with a letter inviting all 207 principals in the catchment to participate in an integrated study of the river.  A highlight will be a day in November designated for a visit to the river by all participants; they will record the many aspects of its life.  The overall purpose is:  “to focus on the river as a resource and to arouse a sense of responsibility in all who live and work in the catchment area.”


Looking to the past, perhaps to the “blue book” period of the State, the principal reflected:  “Once our syllabus was centralised.  Now it’s more possible to do things locally.”


At this school, an enormously talented, energetic, and environmentally concerned principal is implementing the new curriculum policy with imagination. She is also showing others, by means of practical curriculum suggestions, how they might follow her example.


iii) South Australia


The EE document now in force, and issued in 1987, is still seen as acceptable.  It appears rather adventurous compared with those of other states. For example, it’s accepted that EE may heighten awareness of conflict (e.g. “between economic and environmental considerations” and “lifestyles”).  The

document speaks of EE as “educating in the interest of the environment” and of developing knowledge, skills and attitudes “which will help [students] to form their own judgement and to participate in environmental politics.” It is asserted that “there is no such thing as a neutral stance”, and that teachers

may need to make their values known on occasion. However when they do, they are to provide reasons for their position and give a fair hearing to opposing viewpoints.  The success of implementation “will be evident in student involvement with issues” and their assuming responsibility for the environment “by taking action.”


The potential for controversy over EE is recognised.  A high level official observed:  “There’s an ideological component to EE;  it’s a real problem.”


The number of “key concepts and understandings” called for in EE has been reduced from 26 to 8 in the 1991 comprehensive policy document “Educating for the 21st Century:  A Charter for Public Schools”.  An official said that this new document “withdraws some freedom from schools.” Another informant described the changes this way:  “Since the early 70s schools were given authority over the structure and content of education.  It did push local curriculum generation;  EE developed then..  There’s been a bit of clawing back

from that.” But there seemed to be acceptance of the change. As one official expressed it:  “It became evident a tighter plan was needed.  Now the centre does a 3 year plan.  But by-and-large schools shape their curriculum.” The belief that schools can “take the initiative in curriculum” was echoed by a high level official.


Some concern was expressed that the National Curriculum could obstruct school innovation.  For example we were told:  “The nationally developed curriculum is taking a lot of time, because we’re saying ‘this is quite contrary to a key policy in South Australia.’ For example, if there’s math with no reference to the environment then we’d say it has to be there.”


Material from the Curriculum Corporation worries others:  “Systems are going to rely heavily on national materials.  It’s a significant move, given the state’s tradition of guarding their control of education.”


Mandated in the 1991 policy is a School Development Plan which is to accommodate the policy objectives designated by the Department for the next three years.  In order to advise on and monitor implementation, the Department has set up the “Curriculum Monitoring and Effectiveness Unit”.  As one of its members said:  “We advise on -rather than do- curriculum development in accordance with policy.  We help schools to monitor themselves.” An “outside” team is to review school implementation of their “Plan”.


Within the unit are people concerned with particular programs, for example EE.  Networking schools and having them report effective programs in “Windows on Practice” has been one of the initiatives.  Another has been the identification of 26 schools, one for each education district, as a recipient of funds for in-service work in EE for teachers.  These are indicators of a more general move to make schools more responsible for financial management. The EE project officer has also co-ordinated the multitude of activities which come under the “Kids for Landcare” heading.  He also establishes contacts between schools and the the people who support Landcare activities, e.g. Greening Australia and government departments.


The documents produced for schools involved in Landcare stress things which appear in the EE policy document.  It urges among other things: integration of the work across the curriculum, the need to consider implicit messages conveyed by the school environment itself, community involvement, “active involvement” of children in decisions on their curriculum, and a whole school approach so as to reinforce learnings and avoid undue reliance on one or two dedicated teachers.


It’s believed that student interest in EE is high.  One official commented:  “I think an advantage of EE is that it can be student led.  I see a push for change from students;  I think they’re significant curriculum

innovators.” We were told that the state’s Council of Students had prepared a “Green Strategy for Schools”, with help from the Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki.


Out of 750 state schools, 400 have EE in “some form”, but it varies in strength;  200 schools are judged “strong”.  At a “Consultation with Educators” representatives from some of the “strong” schools described their EE activities as follows:


  1. a) A science teacher working with some of his high school students is seeking funds from local, state, and commonwealth levels to convert an abandoned sewage works into a nature-recreational area. Currently they, along with about 15 other classes from the same school, are taking part in a regeneration project.


  1. b) A “non-contact” teacher at a primary school takes 15 of the school’s 19 classes in which he features EE in a wide variety of Landcare projects, including: ‘Land-link” visits to farms and exchanges with a rural school, 35 “action research” projects involving students in such things as creek repair and nesting box installations and observations.  He remarked:  “All the kids are involved.  We have a principal of vision and total support from the community.”


  1. c) Two teachers from a newly built primary school, where “the focus in employing staff was to hire people interested in EE”, work to sustain an “ethos of environmental concern.” Language development is organised around such things as experiences of the creek behind the school, bush sounds, and an Aboriginal food trail.


Two visit to schools were made.


Arbury Outdoor School “would be a field centre in any other state”, we were told.  It’s the only institution of its kind in South Australia.  The information booklet given to successful applicants during their on-site

pre-planning session with Banbury staff, makes it clear that everyone is to learn from the activities which are organised. For children, increased knowledge of the environment and respect for it which is displayed thorough their actions is the overall goal.  Arbury staff are to assist, advise and encourage teachers to develop the skills they need for effective EE.  But they will also initiate projects “as a model for other schools.” Visiting teachers are expected to participate in planning not only the activities at Banbury but follow-ups to and extensions of them.  As the principal of Banbury put it: “People aren’t here to put their feet up.”


Any doubts about the truth of his assertion are dispelled after a short time in a group;  in our case in “Bird Banding” and “The Pond”.


The staff teacher, May, the classroom teacher, and 12 children have returned to record information on the birds which have been captured.  May speaks softly as she removes a bird from the cotton bag attached to a belt at her waist.  She stresses the importance of accuracy in recording the number of the band (attached when previously captured), and the bird’s weight.  She then shows a child how to hold the bird for release.  The “visitors” are invited to do a release.  The principal’s comment about the “psychological impact” of experiences at the school is confirmed.  For a moment you hold in your hand a fragile, brilliantly coloured, vulnerable creature.  You release it.  There’s a rush of emotion;  a sense of losing something precious, and a surge of empathetic exhilaration as the bird soars to the top of a nearby tree, perches, and breaks into song.


Serious research is another aspect of the school’s work.  The principal explains that the banding program has permitted them to contribute to a computer data bank on indigenous birds.  He himself has written up some discoveries, for example on the life span of some local species.  Other discoveries, for example on the type of seeds certain species like to eat, have grown out of similar activities.


A second group, studying ponds, begins the session with a staff member displaying specimens captured by an earlier group.  In everything, he says to students, and in the way he interacts with them, an underlying respect for all forms of life is evident.  He tells them:  “With 6000 kids through here each

year, we wouldn’t have any yabbies left if you killed them or took them home.”


The school’s principal believes that in some subjects you can avoid controversial issues, but he says that “EE must face them”.  How should they be handled?  He argues that “when you put something on the curriculum you’re no longer neutral.”  But he tries to show that “you need a knowledge base before adopting a position.”  He said:  “I’m not a greenie.  I’m concerned more with education than environment.  I’m not trying to make students respond as I do.” He says he provides the conditions in which students can experience nature, but how they experience it is not something he wants to control.


Our second visit was to Carrie Primary School.  Built in 1979, the current principal helped with the design.  It’s a one storey brick structure, nestled in against low hills, and partially hidden by the shrubs and trees with which it seems to merge.  Most of the vegetation to be seen in the original 10 acre grounds and in the recently acquired adjoining “Wirra” have been propagated by students working with parents and teachers.  Since they began this work in 1988, the scale of propagation activity has increased greatly. The Rotary Club’s donation of a Shade House has been a help.  Trees are now to be provided to the local Council for a Reserve being developed in the community.


The principal sees the school as embodying environmental values and preparing students “to make lifestyle decisions.” In what he said and in print material given to us it is stressed that the school tries “to present an unbiased view” and to provide students with “the processes by which they can become environmentally responsible adults”.  Each class in this school of 300 pupils has an area of the grounds to develop and keep records on. Representatives from each class sit on a school environment committee.  There’s also such a committee for parents.  The “wider” community “interacts” with the school and through all of these activities the school is seen as playing an educational role in its community.


Our tour of the school grounds included a visit to the school vegetable garden, and an indigenous bush area.  Inside, we visited classrooms displaying art produced during “Wormwatch” activities.  In the “reception” classroom we saw a large terrarium in which mice can be seen burrowing into the sand.  An

extensive display of posters and books illustrating EE activities of the past few years was provided in the gym: bird watching, sheep-shearing at a farm, stream visits.  Nestboxes built by parents were also on display.  In collaboration with a faculty member at a near-by university, students will install boxes and contribute to a data base being developed on their use.  At the end of the visit second year students involved in Wormwatch performed comic skits in a “Worm Olympics” which provided amusement but also information on how worms contribute to soil fertility.


It’s obvious that the principal, “key” staff, and committed parents and wider community have made this school an “award winner” – indeed it has received 8 awards for its EE programs between 1990 and 1992.  Our guide during our visit to South Australia said of the two schools:  “We chose them because they’re great schools in EE – leaders in the state.” It is perhaps presumptuous to play the critic on the basis of the limited observation time we had. Nevertheless, the sheer breadth of activities and range of organisations with which Carrie Primary is interacting raises the question of how much is done in depth, and whether it is possible to sustain such a demanding program over the long-term.  The long-term is on the principal’s mind;  he noted that in spite of turnover in staff (4 of the 11 from 1991 remain) the program “continues to thrive and develop”).  The school would seem to be a promising subject for a case study, perhaps by local faculty of education.  The extent to which children feel involved in all activities and the willingness to tackle “controversial issues”, would be worth investigating.


  1. iv) Victoria


School councils in the state were given a great deal of responsibility for the development of curriculum in the early 80s.  As the 1984 document “Ministerial Paper Number 6:  Curriculum Development and Planning in Victoria puts it:  “It is the Government’s intention that the majority of important decisions should be made at the school level.” The centre provides guidelines which are “broad and flexible” and schools “may include in their own educational policy additional principles which are consistent with these and which reflect the school’s needs and character.” In developing their policy, schools are advised to involve members of the school community and of the community in which it is located.  Discussion and negotiation are the

recommended means for obtaining consensus. Respect for such things as equal access, social justice, democratic processes, and critical understanding are to be evident in school policies.  But practical arrangements such as the organisation of studies into subjects or areas is left to the school.


Comments upon the control that schools possess at present suggested some ambivalence about how well the policy is working.  A visitor from a centralised system expressed surprise at the variety of practice, and was told “This is anarchy!” Another informant told us:  “Here in Victoria there’s a high degree of teacher control of curriculum and so there’s uneven access to EE.  It’s part of the tension you get when the centre devolves things – looks to teachers to do more.  Although there’s some chaos, it’s better than what we had going on 10 years ago when there was central control.” A member of the current government commented:  “Once you’ve devolved something, it’s hard to turn around and curtail it.”


The overall philosophy of the current government on how to deal with environmental issues is summed up in its 1990 document “Ministerial Policy: Environmental Education”.  It speaks of education as making a contribution to “The development of an environmentally enlightened community so that objectives of the [conservation] strategy are meaningful, interpreted critically and acted upon in responsible and creative ways.” This recent document builds upon and endorses the general principles of Ministerial Paper 6.  But the conception of EE is much broader.  In the earlier document it is highlighted in the area designated “science, technology and the environment” and mentioned within “the world and it’s people”.  Thinking has advanced since then, and EE is now seen as an across the curriculum subject, something on which a whole school policy is needed.  Environmental studies is also a recognised option for the post compulsory years, and is included in several other study designs at this level.


There has also been an enormous amount of theoretical and practical work on EE done in the state over the last decade.  Interest in and support for EE at ministerial level during that time is no doubt in some measure responsible. As the 1990 document states:  “The Victorian Government has made environmental

education a priority.”


Concrete expression of this commitment can be seen in the establishment of the Victorian Environmental Education Council (VEEC) and the support given to “extension services” such as the Gould League, Royal Botanic Gardens, and the Melbourne Zoo.  Evidence of a relatively sophisticated level of theoretical work is apparent throughout the EE policy document.  It is stated that:  “We are not separate from the natural world, but are part of it”, and acceptance of an environmental ethic which includes concern for “the welfare of people and other living things” is urged.  The need to develop in students such things as

a concern for future generations and the global environment is expressed. As is true of the earlier document on curriculum, liberal democratic principles are advocated.  For example an aim is to have students develop “an appreciation of the range of perspectives that impinge on environmental issues.” It is suggested that natural areas and ecosystems are to be valued in part because they can help us to meet “the nonmaterial needs of society.” A wide variety of approaches to EE is encouraged;  they may be “socially critical” and “action oriented” in character.


As the only state of the 4 we visited which seems to have retained without modification the policy of decentralised curriculum introduced in the 80s, it could stand to lose the most by adopting the National Curriculum statements and profiles.  An official who has been involved in the development of these argued that the schools will retain their control over curriculum. But he suggested that should the states so wish, profiles could be used to constrain schools’ control of assessment and thereby curriculum.


At present, however, significant support for school initiatives in EE is being provided.  The various organisations which support schools through the provision of in-service, materials, advice on the development and implementation of policy, and on how to integrate environmentally sound school management practices and curriculum, are very active.  As one informant put it: “Policy is not adequately dealt with by the department after it’s written.”


Grants are made by VEEC to schools and community organisations either singly or jointly, up to a maximum of $5000, to “initiate” or “enhance or develop further”, or “document or publicise”, environmental education activities.  To date 271 awards totalling $500,000 have been made.  As a member of the committee which assesses applications for the grants describes it:  “If you have a nucleus in a school (teachers students and parents) who want to address an issue, they can take responsibility and design a curriculum and run with it.  It will be professional development at the same time as it’s curriculum development.”


At the time of our visit, the first meeting of all schools identified as active in EE and appropriate ENSI Project participants was being held at Deakin University.  The Project’s pedagogical support person organised and chaired the all-day session.  Nine schools were represented, 6 of them primary schools.

Collaboration is expected at three levels: across all schools, in groupings of schools into “clusters”, and within each school.  At all of the levels it is expected that teachers will share materials and experiences with their students.  Teachers, and in one case students with their youth advisor, gave accounts of the EE activities they had initiated.  Subsequent discussions probed potential trouble spots in sustaining and extending their EE activities.


  1. a) Five primary schools making a “cluster” had somewhat different background experiences;  the common thread is a desire to systematise and develop scattered activities.  A “curriculum day” provided a “kick start”;  a resource file has been developed and shared and local issues are being identified for investigation.  One of the schools is located in an industrial area.  A teacher said:  “Our kids don’t get out into the natural environment. We’re trying to develop awareness.” In another school the issue is the school’s

own practice. A recycling program has been started;  each grade has an area of responsibility.  Long term plans – 6 to 7 years – are being developed.  Another school in the cluster reported that they’re developing “whole school initiatives”, and each teacher is “selecting topics”.  However so far they “have no coherent plan.”


  1. b) Teachers and pupils at a school in rural area “started with small things.” Later, they “moved to something larger.” Topics for EE were sought and “each grade proposed something.” From the list, one was selected for action. This was the issue, currently being debated in the community, of whether a local lake should have its water level raised.  A committee of 14 children from years 2 to 6 was set up to co-ordinate the work.  With one of their teachers they made a video to present to the ENSI Project meeting.  In the video, the historical background to the debate, and possible effects of schemes to alter the levels of the lake, are presented by students with illustrative charts. They then move from classroom to the site;  students simulated interviews with stakeholders:  farmer, conservationist, birdwatcher.  It’s clear that an attempt to represent conflicting points of view has been made.  After the video viewing, one of the teachers in the school involved with the project said:  “As teachers we’re letting them have their way and we’re just going along with it.” But another teacher describes the role somewhat differently.  He said:  “I did the filming.  They had a kid director, and the interviews were written by the kids.  If you give them their head, the teacher can be the facilitator.” A researcher working with the teachers and making monthly visits commented:  “In the country schools there’s a split.  So although the kids may be close to the natural environment, there are more tensions because their parents work there. It’s difficult for teachers.” In her view, the important thing for the students is “to become aware of an issue, see there’s disagreement, and then see how a forum works in group decision-making.  The actual resolution can be anything – it’s not necessary for them to ‘resolve’ the issue.”


  1. c) A youth worker hired by the Council to provide services for the 7000 young people in the area set up a “Health and Environment” Project, with 14 year 11 and 12 student volunteers (only 2 of them boys) from a local high schools.  So far, the main topic of discussion has been “stress and student-teacher communication.”  Asked about the choice of topic, a student replied:  “We feel the social environment is most important for us now;  we expect to get to the natural environment.” As preparation, a student said, “We went to a workshop on advocacy – how to do it.  We’re really at a basic stage.”


  1. A high school science teacher, Karl, who has been involved in a local issue for some 6 to 7 years reported on the way his work evolved.  It began as a relatively simple water quality monitoring exercise;  it became a multi-school community-wide effort to redesign a projected sewage disposal system and got coverage on national TV.  Karl said that in general the media “was sympathetic”.   But on one occasion a report “created a debate” by publishing the teacher’s views alongside conflicting assertions from a water-board official.  Certainly there were serious differences of opinion which surfaced throughout the project.  The teachers and students and a skilled technician responded to challenges with reliable data.  Karl said:  “We gave talks to the Environment Protection Authority.  When they invited submissions on the water board’s plan for sewage treatment we wrote a submission on behalf of the school, based on the work we had done, along with our proposals.  Early last year the water board received a new license;  it included some of the things we had proposed.  The work of the kids was taken seriously – it influenced change.”


Karl pointed out:  “A school principal has to be extremely careful – he wants to ensure the school image is maintained.  I always cleared things with the principal.  He was very supportive.” It’s Karl’s belief that his students benefited from this EE experience:  “The kids got so much out of it – media, citizenship – lots of tangents came off.” He advised:  “I liked the idea of working with our own school problem.  I don’t think you should feel you have to do it, it should be because you want to.” A colleague of his advised:  “Provide

opportunities for EE and jump on when an issue arises.” He went on to ask:”How much should we influence children? Should we be showing them how to tap into outside resources, e.g.  people who have a major interest?  You don’t want them just to get what the teacher has pre-selected.” In his view, EE “is bringing

people together, making them aware, and ultimately forcing change.”


A video clip from the TV coverage was shown to us.  It was clear that the teacher’s desire to see the local surfing beach free of untreated sewage wastes was shared by many.  As a youth on the beach put it:  “Ya gotta surf!”



  1. Issues, Questions and Relevance for the ENSI Study


Some issues and questions arose in only one state.  Nevertheless they may be relevant to the current situation in more than one.  On a brief visit, inquiries can be neither broad nor deep.  Readers familiar with all four states, or indeed with the context of ENSI in other countries, may wish to consider whether those identified here are relevant to EE in their schools.


It is recognised that issues and questions raised in this chapter may have been discussed in other sections of this report.  Given the inevitable interconnections among topics which are created for analytic convenience, this should not be surprising.  The purpose here is to exhibit their significance from the vantage point of the school.  In the discussion which follows, the movement is from broad and general to narrow and particular.


Centres of control over education have in the past few years undergone “earthquake” changes.  The term was used in a recent OECD country report and seems very apt for describing recent events in the Australian states visited.


An earthquake has an epicentre where the shock is greatest shock waves travel out to the periphery where they are experienced later and as less powerful.  The downsizing of bureaucracy represented a major shock for those at the centre;  people were moved out of the system or into new and very different positions.  At the periphery – schools- people discovered after a time that advisory support was gone.  As a result, teachers are working even more on their own time, it was said.  In one state a request for a diagram of the

Department’s structure brought the response: “The system has been restructured so many times people have given up drawing charts of it.” Speaking of recent changes across states, an informant said:  “Restructuring has wiped out links among educational sectors  in the name of efficiency.”


Inequities have developed in EE because of differentials in the value attached to it at regions and schools.  In one state it was noted that positions which were cut have since been re-introduced under a different title because it was realised that the workload demanded it.  In another state a person commented that he was the only person left in one of the sections, he is its “memory”.  One of his colleagues now worries about the impact of the memory’s retirement.


Is earthquake change a good thing or a bad thing?  No simple answer is possible.  The defence that it minimises opportunities for rigid conservatives to throw up obstacles to progress has some credibility.  But it’s important to ask whether what is viewed as “progress” has wide support, preferably as expressed through a democratic forum.


Is the National Curriculum being developed in a democratic fashion?  It seems that a working committee composed of the Director General from each state is in charge of the work.  The membership of the committee has remained quite stable over the years since the work was initiated even though in several

states the individual holding the position has changed. Stability of membership is due to the fact that several individuals have rotated through a number of different states.  Is a rather small group of people actually in control of National Curriculum development?  Most important, have the state officials consulted those who work in the schools?  Going back further in the process, was the decision that a National Curriculum was desirable democratically decided?  Critics from both left and right suggested that it was not;  fear that it will limit the variability in state practice which has been a healthy stimulus for progressive change.  Controversy is expected at the stage of implementation.  As one official put it:  “It’s difficult to imagine there won’t be controversy over implementation of EE;  the conflict feeds back into the political system.  Some people may try to de-politicise it, but others won’t.”


If a policy is not widely supported, it is quite possible that conservative forces will in time regain control, or that the policy will have no real impact.  In the interim, a chaotic situation may obtain during which a lot of resources may be expended to little ultimate purpose.


There seemed to be some agreement that downsizing and decentralisation are responses to economic imperatives to reduce spending.  Would it be fair to say, as one informant suggested, that policy has been disguised and sold as democratisation, then downloaded onto schools which are now held accountable

for its “success”?


At school level, devolution of financial responsibility may bring unwelcome burdens or welcome autonomy to decide where to cut costs and where to spend more.  With regard to curriculum too, some schools may welcome more control and others may not.  It is possible for new policy directions to be experienced as “nothing new” by those in schools.  The possibility that policy and practice are “disjunctive” has been widely admitted.  In one state, indeed, an informant claimed that at a time when his state had no policy on EE, the work in schools was superior to what was going on in states which had a




The ultimate question in evaluating a change is, or perhaps rather should be, “Has it improved the quality of education experienced by students?” Apparently no systematic attempt to collect evidence on this has been made in any state.  Although all states declare as an ultimate goal of EE change in student behaviour which represents concern and respect for the environment, no systematic attempt to assess whether it is happening has been made.  Will the National Curriculum profiles provide evidence on this?  It is possible.  But many seem to fear that the profiles will prove an instrument with which the centre will demonstrate its control, with the ironic twist that the periphery will have to do the costly work of assembling the evidence that this will require.


Less restrictive instruments for central control are in use.  Centrally identified “foci” for schools over a given period of years is one option.  This can impede innovation.  A teacher said there would be some delay at his school in introducing a policy on EE because “EE is for next year;  this year it’s behavioural management.” Another observer commented that in some schools “EE has had its turn.” Are the effects of such instruments known at the centre and what can be done to moderate such counter-productive responses?


Curriculum issues are experienced most pressingly at schools.  Some practical advice on what will promote or inhibit current EE policy implementation emerged during the visit.


Doubts were expressed about the very idea of mandating “active” and “participatory” EE.  It was suggested that teachers should want to do it, and so should their pupils.  The idea that you could oblige people to identify an issue to commit themselves to verged on being a contradiction.  Students on a number of occasions commented that participation had dropped off in their EE committees after the initial burst of enthusiasm.  Perhaps it’s important, as one “successful” teacher suggested, that there be some concrete pay-off at least initially, e.g.  in terms of a pleasurable activity which would be made possible if the proposed change were accomplished.  Some compensation for the


The general question is:  “Can you avoid rigidity and uniformity, and retain authenticity and ownership, if you mandate active participative EE?  If so, how do you do it?  An EE advisor in one region provides schools with a chart on levels of implementation.  The last stage is the “adaptation level”, at which time the mandated, fully implemented change is evaluated, its adequacy for the particular school circumstances assessed, and the requisite adaptations to accommodate them made.  Unfortunately it seems that people are usually burnt-out before they reach the most important level – adaptation to particular circumstances.  Perhaps the appropriate inference is that the multi-stage model is itself defective or misguided.


Support in the form of financial grants is one way to encourage and recognise EE initiatives.  The grant system in Victoria, operated by VEEC, seemed to be attractive.  The sums offered are substantial ( schools can get up to $5000 by collaborating).  In a state where sponsorship by companies is encouraged, it was said that the sponsors like to be identified with a specific school.  This raises the question of overt or covert pressures to avoid controversial issues.  It could be argued that it is important for students to experience the obstacles which are thrown up by those who stand to love from a proposal to protect or restore the environment.  Programs to beautify school grounds or recycle cans are unlikely to provide opportunities to explore methods for resolving conflict.  yet environmental issues by definition are matters on which people have taken up opposing positions.  Do years 7 to 10 need a specific subject on the environment and do years 11 and 13 need at least one EE course which is recognised for university admission?  Not all, but most informants would share the view of the teacher who said:  “You need a specific subject if you’re going to get anything to happen.”


Principals have to be extremely talented to carry out all the tasks assigned to them.  Is it too much to expect them to risk some community hostility by allowing their schools to become involved with controversial environmental issues?


In Australia, the “ENSI style” of EE is not something new.  It was quite apparent that it was conceived and developed indigenously.  The same is true of many other OECD countries.  One may infer that there are features of this approach to EE which make it appear appropriate to the subject matter and goals.  It is indeed a contemporary expression of progressive education;  a form advocated most notably by John Dewey in the early years of this century. As expressed in EE the long claimed potential of progressive education to motivate students and inspire social progress may be demonstrated.  The strategies used by educators at all levels in Australia provide ENSI Project participants with pointers on how to enable policy and practice to meet in productive ways.


  1. Professional Development of Teachers: In-Service and Pre-Service Training


A recurrent theme in discussions of teacher education in EE was the need to increase and enrich what is currently provided.  Many students and teachers want EE in school curricula and the National Curriculum calls for it.  But most teachers have received little or no preparation on how to meet these demands.


High level officials involved in the process of developing the National “statements” and “profiles” were quite emphatic:  programs to prepare teachers to implement the EE curriculum and assessment which these will entail will have to be provided.


In the past, just what counts as EE has been a contentious issue; Indeed one professor suggested that lack of agreement on the matter may have inhibited faculty from including it in their courses.  The “mapping” of EE in existing curricula, the identification of “concept” and “process” strands for the area “Studies of Society and Environment”, and the specification of an environment content within the areas of science, technology, and health, may help establish a territory for EE.


Nevertheless, disputes over what knowledge is most significant for EE and thus what teacher preparation is appropriate, will no doubt persist.  They are in fact grounded in much more profound differences, most broadly over what sort of social and political order is desirable.  At one extreme are conservative groups such as Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs.  Their spokesperson on education argues that the relevant disciplines for EE are science and economic.  He therefore advocates that teachers should be provided with in-service training which keeps them informed on developments in environmental science and environmental economics.  He criticises the emphasis in curriculum guidelines on education for as opposed to about the environment. At the other extreme is the position that knowledge, skills, and attitudes, must be developed in a holistic way, through a process which involves identifying a local environmental problem and acting to resolve or reduce its severity.


In any event, given the ubiquity of EE in the National Curriculum, virtually all teacher educators may well feel obliged to include some preparation for EE in their courses.  Those who are currently offering EE for teachers are preparing the ground for such a development.


In what follows, an account is offered of the discussions which we had about teacher preparation on EE currently available and on plans for the future being considered.  In each state some distinctive features of what is offered were highlighted during the visit;  these are described in section 2.  In the third section, some issues and questions concerning teacher education are raised, and the relevance of them for “ENSI style” EE noted.


  1. Some General Considerations


  1. i) Pre-service training


Universities are apparently seen as “the key providers” of pre-service education for teachers.  To date, they have offered few courses devoted exclusively to EE and none which are mandatory for all students.  However, EE is available as an option in B.Ed.  programs at several universities.  In training their business teachers, one university has included EE to meet a growing interest in “green business”.  A one unit course on EE has been offered by Deakin University for over 10 years within their distance B.Ed.  Program. In most universities, however, it seems that EE is included at the discretion of the instructor;  in such cases it is likely to be a small part of a subject or curriculum course – for example one class session on the state’s EE policy.


Efforts to expand EE offerings are underway.  At one university an innovative proposal to introduce a pre-service program for primary teachers which would make the environment its “underpinning”, is being explored. Faculty of the same university have initiated an ambitious project to train teacher educators for both primary and secondary levels on how “to incorporate concepts of, and strategies for, sustainable development”.  Soon after our visit, a meeting was to be held at which the project was to be outlined to 3 or 4 representatives from each university faculty of education.  Ultimately, national dissemination of the resources and workshop modules developed by this project is to occur;  attendance at a demonstration workshop would be a condition for receiving these materials.  Each of the 12 modules is to be written by a specialist on the particular topic treated;  the Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) will manage the project;  Since the Association has members in all states and territories, and from virtually all sectors of the educational community, the project could give a consistency and visibility to in-service EE which seems to be lacking at present.


Efforts to expand in-service seem to be timely.  The initiatives of university educators combined with National Curriculum policy developments could provide the impetus required to secure a place for EE in the programs of all pre-service teachers.


  1. ii) In-service training


An enormous range of programs to train practicing teachers in EE is available.  The most rigorous and systematic are probably those which are provided by universities as part of a graduate degree or certificate program. At the other extreme are brief workshops on how to use a curriculum kit, or the modelling and consultation that is offered at most field studies and teacher support centres.


Offerings of EE at universities which are explicitly and/or exclusively concerned with EE seems to be somewhat limited.  In Queensland, Griffith University has a Graduate School of Environmental Sciences and Engineering which offers a Master or Environment Education degree.  It was described as “the only such degree in Australia and the Asia Pacific region.” For those who wish to do only the course work and not the dissertation as well there is a Diploma in Environmental Education available.  It was said that the graduate Diploma Curriculum Course at Griffith has “a significant EE component”.  Deakin University in Victoria offers a distance education Master of Education degree in EE;  A flyer advertising it states that “The focus of this course is squarely on the teaching and research issues associated with developing, implementing and evaluating environmental education programs in schools”.  The master’s program in Environmental Science at Monash University offers EE as one of many options;  some of the projects done for this degree are in EE.  The tendency to separate subjects/disciplines and education which has been a feature of teacher preparation is evident in the design of the programs at Monash and Deakin.


This is not intended as an exhaustive account of what is available in the four states visited;  it does however provide some insight into the niches in which university level EE work has a home at the present time.  As a provider of EE in-service education to teachers, the university role is relatively minor.


Who are the other providers?  They include the state departments of education, as well as many other state departments, perhaps most notably those which deal with environment, resources, forestry, primary industries, parks, and conservation.  National, state and regional NGOs often include in-service activities as an important part of their programs.  In addition there are private individuals and consortia which offer in-service in EE.  Few of these providers seem to be co-ordinated across the states.  If the project for teacher educators described above and managed by AAEE is also used for in-service of primary and secondary teachers as has been proposed, it could provide a common base from which constructive and critical discussion of EE issues could evolve.


In each state, it seems that the people employed by the various interested government and non-governmental organisations are working with enthusiasm and dedication as both “community educators” and providers of in-service and materials to teachers.  When acting as expert advisers, in the schools, they are also offering in-service.  For example, “Greening Australia” personnel have provided many teachers with assistance in the propagation and planting of indigenous trees.  The Gould League, in some cases with the services of teachers funded by the state department of education, produces materials for environmental studies across the curriculum and advice on how to implement them.


It was noted by some people, with considerable regret that, often more resources and effort went into the production of materials than into hands-on work with teachers about what the materials contained and how they might be used.


An important spin-off of the in-service work done by community educators has been the promotion of understanding between diverse stakeholders in environmental issues.  For example, through the “Trees for Life” scheme, urban students and teachers have established relationships with their rural counterparts.  Farmers’ organisations have community educators who present their membership’s perspective on environmental issues and establish contact with urbanites working in the same field of interest.


Centres which offer EE to visiting classes generally consider in-service education for the visiting teachers an essential part of their programs.  This may take the form of assisting teachers in the development of EE curricula, collaboration in EE project work, and modelling of strategies appropriate in teaching EE.  Work at the centres is seen as a way of complementing the work in the classroom, not a substitute for it.


Perhaps the most significant in-service in EE for teachers at the primary level is what is offered at the school as part of a whole school plan. Although the states vary considerably in the official policy on school control of the curriculum, in practice they all allow considerable room for school based curriculum initiatives.  Such initiatives always entail in-service of a formal or very informal sort.  The various patterns of school provision and exemplars, will be described in the chapter on schools.  They are of special interest for ENSI since it is a project based on the principle that schools can initiate effective EE practices which can ultimately inform and improve policy.


Not surprisingly, given the long history of state control over education, there are some mechanisms for teacher in-service which appear to be distinctive features of the provision in each state.  A brief sketch of those highlighted for us may be of particular interest at this time, given the professed desire of the states to collaborate in their efforts to improve education policy and practice.


  1. Features Highlighted in Each State


  1. i) Queensland


Action research in its various forms is an in-service activity perhaps

more properly called “professional development” because it is usually expected

to have a pervasive effect on a participant’s practice.


In Queensland, action research is well known by educators at many locations in the educational system.  During the visit, a second congress on action learning was taking place in Brisbane;  the first occurred two years ago.  One of the presenters on that occasion was John Elliott, who has been a key contributor and advisor to the ENSI Project since its inception.  Project officers in the Department of Education, one dealing with gender issues and another with learning and teaching strategies, are using action research in their work with teachers.  At one of the EE field centres we saw material on action research which was used in the “Green train”, a display on EE taken to communities last year.  Landcare work in the state also involves action research.  Some faculty at the universities who teach EE are well-acquainted with the action research literature.  An international authority on action research in EE, Bill Stapp of the U.S.A., has strong links with EE educators in the state.  Evidently action research is part of the state education culture and is being used to improve EE.


A related noteworthy feature of EE in Queensland is the process used to develop the “EE Curriculum Guide”.  Designed to incorporate new directions in EE which are not considered in the current policy document, it has been through an extensive consultative process with interested parties.  Once it is in use, teachers will be invited to critique it and propose amendments.  On this basis, a new policy document on EE will be produced.  In this way, it is hoped that practice can inform policy.  The conception is rooted in principles similar to those which guide action research;  both advocate that educational theory/policy directives be developed from and tested in teacher’s classroom practices.


An extensive system of field centres for EE, 20 in all, has been developed over the past two decades.  An early decision to give them sufficient autonomy to develop as distinctive and innovative sites has “paid off”.  They offer a range of services which includes in-service education.  Often the teachers employed full-time at these sites will work with a classroom teacher in developing and implementing a comprehensive program.  However, the expectation is that teachers receiving such assistance will use their acquired expertise to assist their colleagues in similar development work.


A system of “School Support Centres” for regions is provided across the state.  However, it is left to the regional authorities to decide whether a specialist in EE will be available at these centres;


  1.    ii) New South Wales


At the time of the visit, the recently established Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) was involved in setting up an Environmental Education Committee.  The appointment of members is to be made jointly by the EPA and the department of education.  Through this committee, which will include teachers, pre-service and in-service EE activities for teachers will be provided.


There is experience with action research among educators in the state. For example, one of the regions reported organising an EE in-service course developed with the American expert Bill Stapp.  A representative from the water board indicated that he uses action research strategies in the Streamwatch Project which he manages.  He plans to devote more time to this in future and less to materials production.


The most extensive and promising action research venture we encountered here was a project undertaken jointly by university faculty and one of the regions.  The objective of the research was to identify effective EE teaching strategies.  Teachers were recruited to record classroom observations in a diary over a period of a month.  The results have been shared with other teachers;  in the next phase of the project a core of “talented, dedicated teachers” is expected to continue to collaborate with the researchers.


A network of Field Study Centres has been receiving special attention recently;  extending it has been described as one of the three state-wide initiatives launched in the last few years (the others are production of an “EE Curriculum Statement” and “The Greening of Schools Program”).  These centres include in-service for teachers as part of their regular program.  What appears to be distinctive in this state is the wide range of stakeholders involved in the creation and maintenance of these centres.  For example, a “Coastal Environment Centre” sponsored by “Dupont (Australia) in conjunction with the NSW Department of School Education” was recently opened.  A visit was made to one of the 15 centres listed in an industry sponsored “Guide” to the centres for teachers.  It is National Trust property donated by a private individual, and has been in operation for over 20 years;  The Department of Education pays a yearly rent for the cabins used for overnight school visits.  The specialist knowledge of the head at this centre is shared with teachers and students, for example in propagating indigenous plants.  In his opinion there is a need to increase the number of centres in the region from 3 to 4;  negotiations to do so are proceeding.  He explained that each of the four centres is quite distinctive not only in the habitat it provides for study but also in the ownership, and the way each is established and funded.  The view seems to be that opportunities of all sorts should be exploited, and that no one pattern should or need be followed.


Perhaps the most significant proposal for both pre-service and in-service education of teachers is that contained in the “Environment Education Bill 1992”.  It was passed by the Lower House and goes before the Upper House in the fall of 1992.  Included in this bill is a proposal for a Council which would “identify needs for teacher training and advise tertiary institutions”, and a call for the establishment at a university of a Centre for Environmental Education which would “assist the Council in addressing statewide teacher-training needs in environmental education”.


iii) South Australia


In this state, we were told, “Given the age of the teaching population, in-service is more important than pre-service.  Several university faculty members are involved in a Landcare/EE subcommittee.  An informant said that “there are key people educating on EE at two campuses”.  Nevertheless, it was suggested that more contact between universities, the Department of Education, and schools, was needed, and that the universities could give leadership on the development of EE in the state.  There was wide agreement with the comment that where there are contacts with universities, “it’s person-dependent rather than program-dependent”.


It seems that post-graduate studies in EE are not available.  A person who wants an EE graduate program with a science orientation said she was  obliged to apply to an institution in another state.


In-service is provided through a number of state-wide initiatives. Perhaps one of the reasons for the coherence evident in the programs is the deeply felt concern for “the land”.  It is perceived in this state as particularly fragile and in need of care, it was said.  The Landcare program, inspired by the call on a national level for a “Decade of Landcare” to span the 90’s, is a response which involves schools, community groups and a multitude of governmental and non-governmental agencies.  It is a joint project of the Department of Agriculture and of Education, although funds for it come from the Commonwealth government.  As part of the schools’ contribution, “Centres of Excellence” were identified and funds provided to them.  In-service is one of the things offered at these schools.  A key role has been played by the co-ordinator of Landcare and the EE project officer in the Department’s Schools and Curriculum Unit.


So that teachers can share examples of good practice, the results of their Landcare curriculum development work are being published in a series entitled “Windows on Practice”.  Although rapid release has been identified as a prime consideration, these booklets are attractive, well designed, and identify concepts/aims, resources, and activities for each unit.  Teachers are urged to adapt the suggestions to their “own situation”.


Many people spoke in very favourable terms of the whole Landcare program, and its multitude of imaginative projects:  “Wormwatch”, “Frogwatch”, “Saltwatch”, to name only a few.  One participant, an independent consultant who has contributed to it, observed:  “The success of Landcare is that it’s a combined approach — different agencies offer school support in the form of material, in-service, expertise, and so on”.


In the current year, schools have been invited to apply for designation as a “focus school”.  Those schools selected will receive funds for the training and development of their teachers in EE.  Another way in which teachers may have access to EE in-service activities is through their school’s “Three Year Plan”.   This centrally mandated program requires that schools identify features of their work which they propose for improvement.  In-service on EE can be a component of such a plan, and support for it obtained from the Department.


  1. iv) Victoria


In Victoria, a council was established to develop, implement, and monitor the state’s environmental education strategy.  This council – The Victorian Environmental Education Council (VEEC) — was “in full operation” by mid-1990.  Included in its terms of reference is “to advise on training programs and professional development activities for environmental education”. Thus there is the potential here for the development of a coherent and informed plan for both pre and in-service education of teachers.  At present, it was said, contact between such interested parties as universities and the Department of Education tends to depend upon individuals who happen to be active in both institutions.


Although the state has for some years had advocates for EE at high levels of the political system, at the grassroots level of teachers and community educators, as well as in university faculties of education, provisions for teacher education in EE do not seem to be particularly widely known or exploited.  For example, the state’s association for EE produced a directory on tertiary environmental education which lists university “courses with environmental content” but does not include courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels offered by the Faculty of Education at Deakin University. Yet the distance courses offered by this university were mentioned to us in other states as contributing to the training of teachers in EE across the country.


A very broad and active extension education system, consisting of some 55 organisations, includes at least 16 which are partially or entirely devoted to EE.  In-service education of teachers is seen as an important part of the programs they run.  Particularly noteworthy are the activities of the Zoological Board of Victoria Education Service.  At their two sites, the Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, they run a very full program of visits for schools and “virtually all pre-service teachers”.  These are planned and implemented by a staff which includes 18 full-time teachers.  In addition, they offer in-service programs.  For example, they ran a 2 day activity-based program, incorporating materials produced by teachers called “Kick-starting EE at School”.  It was designed to acquaint primary teachers and support persons with the state’s EE policy and resources for EE, and to assist schools to develop “whole school” EE policies and practices.


An in-service program for primary teachers has been offered by a “private consortium” of professional educators with some financial assistance from government subsidised environmental organisations.  It has been well received by teachers, and demand for it is high.  A teacher who completed it said that she and the 4 colleagues who took the course were able to develop interdisciplinary, sequential units of EE.  These have been implemented throughout the whole school, which she described as “getting stronger and stronger in EE”.  She commented that when she was looking for an EE in-service course, this one was the only one available.


This course, called “EE Programs in Classrooms”, consists of 8 sessions, 1 and 1/2 hours long each.  It is taken on a teacher’s own time, after school, and at their own expense.  Among the topics treated are those which teachers find particularly challenging when trying to implement new policy guidelines: teaching values/ controversial issues, integrated curriculum, environmental education in the outdoors, decision-making, a whole school approach.  The aims of the course, one of the developers told me, are “to give teachers the background in EE and a range of strategies to use EE in classrooms”.  He went on to note that “it assumes a willingness on the part of the teacher, but a lack of confidence which precludes their participation”.  The cycle used in the course is essentially that of action research:  a teaching strategy is proposed, used, assessed and reported on for critical assessment and revision. The cycle is then repeated.  An effort is made to have at least two teachers from any one school in the course so that “a colleague is on hand to remind, advise, and support”.  Plans to publish the materials used in the course are being formulated.


In Victoria, the professional teacher associations are important providers of teacher EE in-service, for example through workshops on offer at annual conferences.  As members of the extension services, these associations receive information about the in-service provided by other groups, and convey this to their members through their newsletters.


  1. Issues, Questions, and Relevance for the ENSI’ style of EE


Policy documents on EE have been developed and approved.  As a high level official put it:  “We don’t need more policies;  we need more programs to help it happen”.  Programs which equip teachers to “help it happen” are in short supply.  They tend to be “talk to the converted”.  Most teachers “feel bereft of EE in-service”, we were told.


What is  offered is something of a patchwork, provided by diverse sectors with little communication with those who actually develop policy.  Is this situation one of healthy pluralism or wasteful incoherence?  Perhaps it’s a bit of both.  Can more order be introduced without losing the benefits of diversity?


Universities are accepted as the appropriate agency to provide pre-service on EE.  Teachers need disciplinary knowledge to avoid “over-simplifying” environmental issues and examples of “how to present controversial issues properly”.  Should all faculty give some time to EE?  Or should EE specialists provide it?  Both options carry risks.  Many faculty may be unwilling to surrender precious time to accommodate EE, and may perceive the EE proponents as trying to “colonise” them.  But if “specialists” in EE propose compulsory courses they may be charged with empire building.  Moreover, in establishing themselves as “specialists” in the academy, they may concentrate on theoretical matters which alienate those who want to know how to cope with practical classroom problems.  Those specialists who advocate “a critical approach to EE” may attract critics who charge the approach is just a vehicle for unwarranted attacks on capitalism and conservative political values.


Some resolution of evident sources of tension were suggested. Collaboration by discipline and education faculty in designing the in-service curriculum is feasible.  Better articulation of teacher pre-service and in-service on the premise that life-long education should be the norm, could reduce the theoretical-practical knowledge divide.  Depending on the stage reached in their career, a teacher might be concentrating more on theory or practice.  The providers appropriate in each stage — universities when theory is a dominant concern and other providers when practice is primary – could co-ordinate activities to some extent.  The gap between theory and practice is of course reduced on the action research model and this no doubt accounts for the appeal it holds for diverse sectors of the educational community.


Some in-service at the university for would-be EE specialists is no doubt necessary;  it can provide the “experts” for field centres and perhaps one for each school.  But less rigorous programs are also wanted.  Could the network of field centres and extension services which already exist increase and systematise their in-service offerings?  Could the diverse community groups which have developed materials be encouraged to make in-service on how to use than a condition of access to schools?  Contracts of more than the one year currently offered to most teachers employed by government departments and NGOs would be necessary.


Schools in all states are being given responsibility for purchasing such things as in-service.  A high level official observed:  “We’re not saying they have to get their training from one source.  It could be from the tertiary level, or private sector, or — I think an enormous amount will be purchased by schools themselves.” The expertise of practising teachers is widely acknowledged.  However, some doubts were raised about the role proposed:  one teacher wondered aloud if teachers were willing to provide in-service to their peers, and whether it was considered a way to get in-service “on the cheap”.


Is some co-ordination of all these provisions desirable?  If so, the Victorian EE Council is one type of instrument for doing it, although others are no doubt available or could be devised.  Perhaps Curriculum Corporation materials on EE for the National Curriculum will provide a core around which some common in-service will develop.  But providers must be alert to the dangers of uniformity, and insensitivity to local circumstances, which anything centrally produced carries.


Decentralisation of governance and budgets to schools has ramifications for EE in-service.  Local pressure to limit treatment of controversial issues may be very effective when applied at school level.  Disparities in the funds available and the importance school principals attach to EE result in serious inequities in provision.  In one state, a department official said of such inequities:  “It’s recognised this is a problem.  A group is looking at ways to respond to them”.


Discontinuities exist in curricular practices at primary, secondary and post-compulsory levels of schooling.  A telling comment from a secondary teacher illustrates the point:  “I feel sorry for the kids who develop an interest in EE during their years in primary.  When they reach secondary there will be little project work involving action in the community”.  Can in-service provisions do something to bridge the gaps or must it be designed to accommodate traditional practice?


EE is only one area in the National Curriculum.  As an official noted, “there will be a flood of documents to support the National Curriculum and teacher education on them will have to be collaborative”.  What mechanisms or structures will be used to bring about such collaboration?


From the teacher’s perspective, the provision of EE as called for in the policy documents represents a challenge.  Integration of EE into the curriculum “takes years” one said.  Lack of time and competing demands are chronic problems.  A realistic approach is perhaps that of Queensland, where it is proposed that “each teacher will have their own PD program”.  This may reduce the likelihood of teachers being exhausted by in-service demands.  The whole school approach may also allow a coherent and fair distribution of responsibilities.  However, it won’t be easy.  An observer commented: “In-service courses impose high stress on teachers, so there’s some pressure to keep them in classrooms.  It’s not a single factor solution, such as more money for in-service”.


The “ENSI style” of EE tries to incorporate all dimensions of curriculum development within teacher professional development.  Action research is seen as a process through which teachers explore the meaning of EE as enquiry by having their students investigate and act upon local environmental issues. With the help of peers and researchers they can refine and improve their understanding and practice.  These beliefs inform the ENSI Project.  Some of the in-service provisions in all of the states we visited have to varying degrees incorporated action research principles.  Collaboration across all sectors providing in-service could strengthen this work.  If information on the results is shared, an informed assessment of the potential of action research to improve EE in Australia would be possible.


Part IV




  1. Environmental Education as Cultural Development


Culture as used in this context stands for the way people do things, their actions, especially as these express collective beliefs, values and knowledge.  The way peoples, and nations know,  value and act upon their environment is intimately linked to their culture and its expressions. Education is the production and re-production of culture – it is a given society’s means of making sure that its future members have the knowledge, the values and beliefs necessary for living, acting and becoming responsible citizens of that society.  Education is a way of building individual and collective identity.


Policy-making is an important tool for government administrations to insure that the necessary resources and actions exist for this process of cultural socialisation to be carried out effectively.  Ideally government policies exist to guarantee the translation of cultural beliefs, values, knowledge into concrete actions in reality.  Government policies are for the service of the “common good”, in principle.


In-Depth Studies of policies by teams of external experts serve the purpose of trying first of all to understand the “cultural” situation in a given country (i.e. the values, beliefs, knowledge and ways of doing things) and to try to determine whether the policies indeed facilitate or inhibit the ongoing cultural developments.  Despite the limitations of time, knowledge and access to different levels of reality, the art of these studies is to try to reflect the paradoxes, contradictions and innovations in policy-making.  It is also an attempt at identifying eventual discrepancies between policy directives and community needs.


It can be said with no hesitation that environmental education is an integral part of Australian culture.  As stated above in the different sections, the “fragility” of the land is a common concern at many levels and is exemplified through both the national conservation strategy on the environment, the activities of the various stakeholders, NGO’s as well as in education.  The various school initiatives described in Part III and the Mapping the Environmental Education Curriculum, show to what extent Environmental Education has a very real place in Australian education.  Taking care of the environment is a part of Australian identity.


Australia, like Canada and similar to the US, was built on a tradition of local democracy where the State took on considerable importance in taking care of a certain geographic area and its population.  This of course was essential in a pioneering society with few resources and great distances between cities.  In time, the States developed their own culture and of course their own educations systems with local policies to run them.  Visiting four States,  was indeed like going to four different countries and trying to understand four different sensitivities to the environment.  Parts II and III have illustrated the very local approaches to both policies and practices concerning environmental education.


The deeply engrained cultural concept of “local democracy” is very much in keeping with “caring for the environment” and one can see how the many school initiatives such as “landcare”, “saltwatch” planting trees etc. are in complete harmony with Australian culture and local habits of the population. Environmental education in this sense is not something that needs to be “forced” onto students.  A number of EE policies have been inspired by the activities of the schools.  As stated in Part II, consultation with local community partners in developing policies is very much an important process in Australian culture.


Unlike some other countries, Australia could be said to have imbedded environmental education at the very centre of its cultural development, rather than at the periphery.  Both the State policies, the National Curriculum, as well as school initiatives point to the important investment that Australia has made in this area.


  1. Environmental Education in the Context of “Economic Rationalisation”


The important winds of change blowing over Australia, as indeed over other countries  cannot be ignored when trying to understand  present policies and practice in environmental education.  Some informants spoke of “earthquake” changes (see Part III).


The new culture of “global world markets” impinges inevitably on existing cultures and their expression.  Australia, like Canada, U.S. and the U.K. were among the first to experience the changes that accompany “economic rationalisation”.  An inherent part of this new culture are of course “values”, “knowledge” and “ways of doing things” as expressed in changing organisational and administrative strategies at all levels of society, including education. The ENSI Study has given particular attention to these issues in the organisation of two “scientific” seminars: Germany hosted a seminar on “Economy and Ecology” and Scotland on the “Role of Values in Environmental Education”.


Some of the critics of the “new market culture” such as Prof. Richard Bates, Faculty of Education at Deakin University, Geelong argue that when the “market” predominates, the new value system implies re-orientation from a service ethic towards competitive self-interest and that “Buying an education becomes a substitute for getting an education.”  Educational democracy, he states, is “redefined as a consumer democracy in an educational shopping mall.”(Professor Richard Bates, Faculty of Education, Deakin University, Geelong; “The Emerging Culture of Educational Administration and What We Can Do About It” – Paper Presented to the National Conference of the Australian Council for Educational Administration, Darwin, July 1992)


Environmental issues, as environmental education, are at the very centre of the economic debate, in very pragmatic, concrete ways such as the question of the cost of pollution, the sustainability of the land and the biosphere, the cost of clean technology etc. Ernst Von Weizscker in his book “Ecological Tax Reform, A Policy Proposal for Sustainable Development”, argues that end of pipeline measures to control pollution in fact use more energy: “For all its technologies and processes, conventional environmental protection looks pretty helpless in the face of the coming world challenges.” He proposes that only fundamental economic measures such as an ‘ecological tax reform’ can provide “strong and enduring incentives to invest in new technologies geared to reducing significantly the energy and raw material inputs per given unit of output.”


The profound cultural implications and their links with more fundamental long term economic questions that are at the heart of environmental education are however, not so evident, and are in need of serious evaluation.  The following are some questions that could be raised regarding environmental education within the context of the “market culture”in Australia:


  1. i) Is the creation of a National Curriculum part of the logic of “standardisation” that is necessary for a global world market? Is this adapted to Australian culture? What are the effects on environmental education?


  1. ii) Is devolution of responsibilities, and financial resources to the school level a way of privatization of schooling.? What are the effects on environmental education in a context where it could be considered as marginal to the curriculum in a tightly managed budget?


iii) A decentralized system necessitates the development of   accountability measures – does this mean that more resources must go into the creation and application of these measures than into  developing the curriculum?


  1. iv) Within the present economic context, it would seem that industrial  partners, interest groups and various stakeholders  may become indispensable  in providing the resources necessary  to enable schools to carry out environmental projects –  What are the long run effects of this kind of “dependence” on such resources upon the  development of environmental education?


  1. Investment in Environmental Knowledge


Environmental education and the way it is defined is the indication of how a culture is ready to invest in  the future sustainability of its environment.  Knowledge is investment.


In Part II of the report it is stated that “The ways that environmental education is included in the school curriculum has implications for its status as an institutionalised study to which all have access, the assumption here being that all students should have knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that allow them to be ‘active and informed’ with respect to environmental matters.


Discussions with officials, visits to schools and field centres showed the evidence of a high investment of environmental education in  the four States visited.  In one way or other EE is included in all curriculum guides; frameworks and profiles are being established to make sure that EE is actually taught in practice.  The following questions come to mind concerning environmental knowledge:


  1. i) What is the role of the different stakeholders in defining and limiting the environmental knowledge base?


  1. ii) What significance can be attributed to the fact that the most  prominent place for teaching environmental issues is in the primary sector?


iii) Although environmental issues are in all curriculum guides, environmental education is considered as being difficult to squeeze into the secondary schools, especially during the last two years. What does this mean in terms of investing in the knowledge base?


  1. iv) What significance can be given to the fact that environmental education is largely absent at University level? What does this indicate in terms of society’s investment in the environmental knowledge base?


  1. v) Can environmental knowledge be taken seriously if it is limited to issues concerning nature conservation?  Is there the need to link   environmental questions with economic concerns, especially its  relationship with the market economy?


  1. Structural Contradictions


The  organisation, administration and financing  of schooling in Australia is undergoing significant transformations as pointed out in the different parts of this report.  These changes inevitably entail structural contradictions that have both manifest and latent consequences for education. This means that different parts of the administrative or organisational structures may contradict each others policies or practices because these have not been developed as a whole but sometimes in piece-meal fashion. Given the particular status, nature and organisation of environmental education, the way that these contradictions impinge on the development of environmental education need to be pointed out.


Environmental education is one of the few areas of the curriculum where schools become involved with the community and parents can be partners in education: “community action programs where the school works with community members or groups to improve the local area or to deal with threats to the environment.”  (see Part II).  Teaching and learning based on active pedagogy perhaps needs more training and organisation than traditional “up front” methods.  Working with the community requires motivation and good will, otherwise it won’t happen.


  1. i) Can the ” active” element in environmental education be mandated through curriculum guidelines and ensured through the use of   “profiles”?


  1. ii) In the present situation, schools are required to manage conflicting needs for resources and in-service training for teachers is not always a priority. What are the effects of the new responsibilities that schools must assume on ENSI-type school initiatives as recommended in the curriculum guidelines?


iii)  Can environmental education materials produced outside the school  be helpful to teachers when resources are scarce within the school and they wish to take on environment initiatives with the local community?  Are materials usually adapted to such local situations and can they  substitute for teacher training?


  1. iv) Working with local environmental issues often involves schools in dealing with controversial issues.  What role does external funding  and resources from stakeholders play in dealing with controversial  issues?


  1. v) Given the devolution of responsibilities to the school, and the autonomy that this implies, what guarantees can the National Curriculum provide for environmental education to occur in the ways it has been defined (including the “active” community elements)? Can  the presence of the National Curriculum give impetus for pre-service and in-service teacher training?


5) The Role of Policy in Managing Change


As described in Part II of the report, for the purpose of this study, policy is interpreted as “formal, authorised and public statements of sets of principles to guide the teaching and learning of environmental education in government schools.”


It is clear that the Hobart Declaration, and the “greater willingness on the part of Australian States to work together to develop national statements and profiles” and to pool resources across States in an area such as education that has a long tradition of State autonomy, is a policy measure directly linked to attempting to manage present changes.  This strategy is driven not only by structural, organisational and financial requirements, but also by international pressures to become more competitive.  Policy is faced with trying to resolve multi-various problems on many fronts.


The main question that emerges here is to try to evaluate how these new policy measures: national curriculum statements, use of profiles, curriculum guidelines etc. can be indeed effective as a guarantee not only of quality environmental education curriculum, but also of its survival and development beyond periods of “special focus on the environment”.  Similar to the questions confronting the global sustainable development issue and economic policy, so with education “end of pipeline” measures are not sufficient.  As tax reforms bite into the very flesh of economic policies, so environmental education policy needs to enter the heart of education.  No one would think of considering mathematics as superfluous to the curriculum because the resources are tight – are not environmental issues as vital to the vocational, intellectual, personal and social development of students as are mathematics?


  1. i) In his book on the Meaning of Educational Change, Michael Fullan states: “The shame of educational change is the squandering of good intentions and the waste of resources in the light of personal and societal needs of great human consequence. The capacity to bring about change and the capacity to bring about improvement are two different matters.  Change is everywhere, progress is not.  the more things change the more they remain the same, if we do not learn our lessons that a different mind-and action set is require.” A national curriculum and the assessment procedures that go with it will require significant resources – how to make sure that these do not end up in “squandering of good intentions”?


  1. ii) What kinds of flexible management strategies and alternative solutions are necessary to ensure that innovations in EE continue to strive rather than be discouraged by “over administration”?


iii) How can the multiplicity of innovations in EE contribute to developing policy rather than dispersing resources?


  1. iv) What kinds of support should be provided to schools, teachers and communities in order that they may lead to such institutional developments that enable them to carry positive innovations in Environmental Education?


  1. v) How can networking among schools and professionals in EE be best use in helping to manage the complexity of innovation in this field?



Appendix 1



Key understandings common to all systems


Ecosystems:         All things are interconnected and share the sam  resources from the sun and earth.


Resources:            All living things have varying degrees of access to the resources they need to survive.


Growth:                 The ability of the environment to sustain growth is limited.


Heritage:               Natural and built environments provide a sense of  belonging.


Aesthetics:            Environment is an inspiration for creativity and offers sources of beauty and joy.


Environmental ethics: Humans have a moral responsibility for the well being of  living things in the global community.


Decision making:     Effective decision making about environmental issues  requires consideration of ecological and social factors.


Participation:         Everyone should be prepared to take action for the environment.



Appendix 2



Meetings in Victoria with the Expert Review Team Kathleen Kelley-Laine, OECD Secretariat, Prof. Catherine Beattie, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, and Dr Margaret Charlton, Department of School Education, Victoria were as follows:


— Dr Helen Praetz, Director, School Improvement Branch, Department of School Education (DSE)

— Sue Ferguson, Manager, Curriculum Development Section, DSE

— Mike Kimberley, Programs Manager, Victorian Curriculum and Assessment  Board (VCAB)

— John Firth, Senior Programs Officer, VCAB.


— Prof Peter Fensham, Chair, Victorian Environmental Education Council  (VEEC)

— Steve Malcolm, Executive Officer, VEEC

— Ray Thomas, Project Officer, VEEC

— Peter Preuss, Education Officer, Australian Conservation Foundation


— David Hill, Manager, Public Affairs Branch, Department of Conservation and Environment (DCE)

— David Reid, Education Officer, Natural Resource Systems Branch, DCE

— Frank Mitchell, Project Officer, Greenhouse Unit, Office of the  Environment

— Roz Hall, Education Officer, Environment Protection Authority


— The Hon Neil Pope, Minister for School Education

— Chris Larcombe, Chief Executive Officer, Zoological Board of Victoria

— Prof Graeme Mitchell, Director, Melbourne Zoo

— Christine Hopkins, Principal Education Officer, Zoo Education Service (ZES)


— Jim Wilson, Manager, Extension Education Services, DSE

— Christine Hopkins, Principal Education Officer,  ZES

— Jaquie Kennedy, Senior Education Officer, ZES

— Neil Barker, Senior Education Officer, ZES

— Bruce McDonald,  Senior Education Officer, Healesville Sanctuary

— Bob Winter, Manager, Gould League of Victoria Inc.

— Judy Mraz, Project Officer, Geography Teacher’s Association of Victoria

— Penny Stoyles, Executive Officer, Science Teachers Association of Victoria

— Prue Broers, Research Assistant, Coalition Education Policy Committee


— Bill Hannan, Chair, Curriculum and Assessment Committee, Australian Education Council

— David Francis, Executive Director, Curriculum Corporation

— Warren Brewer, Deputy Director, Curriculum Corporation

— Adrian Stephens, Mayer Committee Secretariat

— Gerry Morvell, Department of Art, Sport, Environment and Territories, Canberra

— Maureen Cashman, Department of Employment, Education and Training, Canberra


— Prof Kerry Kennedy, Dean of Education, University of Southern  Queensland


— Ken Baker, Education Policy Unit, Institute of Public Affairs.