In 2015, the UN announced the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. Many of the 17 goals are related to environmental education, and touch upon teaching, oceans, land resources and access to clean drinking water.
In Taiwan, the 12-year compulsory curriculum also includes many topics related to environmental education. Educating the public about ecology and the environment has become a trend.
Since about 2000, natural ecological education and sustainable education centers began to open their doors to promote environmental education in Taiwan.
However, there have been problems regarding their implementation.
One major issue is that the institutions fall under many different authorities. Some are under an environmental protection department, some are de facto managed by schools, some are managed by an education department and some even by the Forestry Bureau.
This makes developing and coordinating their curriculum, and regularly attracting students and parents, difficult.
A second drawback is the shortage of funds. Institutions established after 2000 often have no allocated budget, making environmental maintenance and hardware repairs challenging.
Finally, there is a shortage of expertise, with most activities organized and run by ad hoc task forces. Although some counties and cities have set up environmental education guidance groups according to regulations, they mainly assess the implementation of environmental education in schools, whereas there are no regular discussions or consultation meetings on the environmental education provided.
Local governments should strive for consistency by facilitating communication and coordination. For example, a local government could assign its education department to manage and maintain the jurisdiction’s environmental education center, and designate a neighboring school to take charge, with its principal acting as the institution’s director.
The center could then provide basic environmental maintenance and teaching aids, such as access to pools to cultivate aquatic plants for students’ field research.
Collaboration with industry is also necessary. The institutions could look for companies or universities to provide support — be it financial or in terms of labor — for hardware repair and maintenance. Surplus equipment of the companies and universities could also be used by elementary and secondary schools for science classes.
Finally, there should be coordination with ongoing government initiatives, such as the recruitment of retired natural science teachers or lecturers to develop teaching materials and conduct on-site demonstrations to enhance education methods.
Local governments could also involve local social education institutions. For example, institutions in central Taiwan, where the National Museum of Natural Science and the Endemic Species Research Institute are based, could organize exhibitions in collaboration with local research centers to facilitate greater community interaction and involvement.
The environment of each locality is different, and each has its own unique features. Coordination of resources can have a multiplier effect. Effective marketing can create recreational destinations that also contribute to environmental education. This should resonate with the “environmental stability” cited as necessary in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025.
Liu Yung-chien is an educator.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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