Env. Education in Israeli Schools Has Huge Gaps in Implementation
Recently we learned that schools in parts of Canada were going to be focusing on the environment by incorporating it into the curriculum at every grade level. That was clearly great news, but I pointed out that an edict from on high can mean many things in a bureaucracy as vast and complex as a school system. The biggest challenge that I can see to that initiative will come from getting teachers to actually be able to integrate it in meaningful ways into the classrooms, especially when so many people are just becoming aware of the necessity of going green to begin with, teachers included.
And now there’s a study in Israel that shows huge gaps in that country between the declarations about the purpose and extent of environmental education and its actual implementation in the classroom. According to one of the study’s authors, Prof. Alon Tal, there are substantial gaps in knowledge among pupils concerning various environmental subjects, and they are not familiar with the most basic issues. The report's conclusions state that most local pupils have not been exposed to the subjects in question in a productive way. There are very few updated materials on ecological issues, and curricula rarely include a practical component like helping to improve the environment in the school vicinity. In questionnaires given to the student body, many answered only half or fewer of the questions correctly.
But the most significant finding in Prof. Tal's view is the gap between having the knowledge and exhibiting a commitment to environmentally helpful behavior. "For example, we found that at Arab schools that scored low on environmental knowledge, environmental behavior got the highest score. There were schools in economically strong areas where the level of knowledge was high, but commitment was low." Fortunately it seems that the Education Ministry is genuinely aware that instilling knowledge of environmental issues is not enough, and plans to introduce new initiatives through which schools will adopt sites for preservation and improvement. But that’s just one piece, and it’s going to take time, and it’s going to take persistence to make it happen. It’s also going to take considerable commitment on the part of everyone from parents to businesses to help make this cultural shift happen as well. Hopefully they will all demonstrate the commitment to these issues that can so easily be misplaced when other competing priorities in a school system come into play.