Promoting education for sustainable development : an environmental management systems framework for South African primary schools
De Sousa, Luiza Olim
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This study undertook to investigate the implementation of an environmental management system (EMS) to promote education for sustainable development (ESD) in a township, farm and urban primary school in South Africa. This was done by examining how the EMS is implemented in three case study sites located in the provinces of North West and Gauteng to determine and understand how environmental learning is integrated in the three schools, and by identifying key indicators of the EMS. The study then set out to design what an EMS framework should look like to promote ESD. This qualitative multiple case study research methodology was undertaken within the interpretivist research paradigm. The data was collected from documents, non-participant observations, as well as through one-on-one interviews and focus-group interviews undertaken with the participants who are role-players in each of the three schools, namely the principal; a member of the governing body, community, cleaning staff, gardening staff and administration staff; an environmental committee coordinator; a Foundation phase, an Intermediate phase, and a Senior phase teacher; and learners representative of the Intermediate and Senior phase grades. A within-case analysis of how environmental learning is integrated and how an EMS is implemented in all three schools respectively, was undertaken. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory was applied for a cross-case analysis to illustrate how environmental learning and an EMS are integrated in a township, farm and urban primary school promoting ESD. The knowledge gained was used to design an EMS framework for the primary schools in order to guide them in their teaching, learning and management toward promoting ESD, with the understanding that case study research does not generalise. An EMS framework designed for the primary schools in the case study, with guiding indicators for teachers and school management to promote ESD, includes the five environmental education (EE) objectives, together with evaluation and systems theory, and is regarded as the study’s main contribution to new knowledge. The study has also contributed to the revision of the EMS guidelines in the Education for Sustainable Living project by recommending that in South African primary schools an environmental committee consisting of the principal, heads of department and governing body representative should be responsible for the EMS. This team is responsible for the dissemination of the action plan to the participating role-players in the school. This study also contributes to knowledge regarding management since it reveals that the components of the management process play a central role in the implementation of an EMS, and that a sound management system and structure need to be present when implementing environmental management in South African primary schools. Furthermore, a whole-school approach with role-players who are aware of and knowledgeable of the EMS and united in their endeavour to promote ESD is deemed important. Despite South African primary schools not being mandated by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to implement an EMS, the results of this study will be presented to the DBE to not only inform them, but to encourage them to consider mandating the implementation of an EMS so as to aid in the promotion of ESD and aid as a tool to mitigate the effects of Climate Change. The EMS framework designed in this study contributes toward the promotion of ESD through workshops disseminating how to implement an EMS to in-service teachers, and at tertiary level environmental management modules can inform pre-service teachers. Keywords: Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, education for sustainable development, environmental education, environmental learning, environmental management system, primary schools.
- Education