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Nature Conservation Education in Bhutanese Primary Schools

  • The Kingdom of Bhutan’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) emphasises the need to balance sustainable economic growth with environmental conservation, promotion of cultural heritage, and good governance. In consonance, Bhutan’s Constitution entrusts every citizen with the sacred task of protecting the natural environment and preventing all forms of ecological degradation. Moreover, given the increasing global crisis of degrading the earth, climate change, resource depletion, and species extinction, the urgency of nature conservation in school education cannot be ignored. The need to articulate clearly how nature conservation education should be promoted in Bhutanese primary schools is, therefore, becoming increasingly urgent. While some elements of nature conservation education are included in the school curriculum, not much is known about educator perceptions, school curricula, teaching and learning processes, and the role of school concerning nature conservation. Hence, this empirical study was necessary and timely to understand how nature conservation was perceived, taught and practised in Bhutanese primary schools. Social constructivism with an ethnographical research design was employed for this study. Relying on participant observation techniques for data collection, perspectives of 15 educators and 105 students of four Bhutanese primary schools were gathered. Three data collection tools, namely, a semi-structured interview, an open-ended questionnaire and field notes were used. The study brought out a number of significant findings. Although Bhutan’s unique features, such as being heavily forested, traditional farming practices and spiritual practices, are advantageous to nature conservation education, gaps and inconsistencies were seen in the school curriculum and practices. Firstly, the educators and students who participated in the study misunderstood nature conservation as environmental conservation. Secondly, the curriculum textbooks on nature conservation generally represent Western perspectives of nature conservation rather than the Bhutanese spiritual and cultural beliefs that are primarily influenced by Buddhism. Findings also showed that children in the four primary schools had limited opportunities for direct experiences with nature during their lessons on nature. Lastly, the role of schools in nature conservation education lacks clarity. The findings from this study have direct implications for the Ministry of Education, teacher education colleges, and other primary education stakeholders in the country. Several strategies are suggested to address the gaps identified. These include professional development programmes for teachers to enhance their knowledge about nature conservation education. The next strategy is reviewing the science and social studies curriculum to integrate the Buddhist values of interdependence and harmonious living with nature. The study also flagged the need to create rich natural environments on school campus, including using the community forests for children to play, study and develop connection with nature. Lastly, the study recommends developing reading materials for children on themes of nature.

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Author:Sangay Biddha
Publishing Institution:Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg
Granting Institution:Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg, Fakultät für Natur- und Gesellschaftswissenschaften (Fak. III)
Date of final exam:2023/11/29
DDC classes:300 Sozialwissenschaften / 370 Erziehung, Schul- und Bildungswesen / 372 Primar- und Elementarbildung
900 Geschichte und Geografie / 910 Geografie, Reisen / 910 Geografie, Reisen
Tag:environment; nature conservation
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Referee:Klaus-Dieter Prof. Dr. Hupke, Alexander Prof. Dr. Siegmund
Advisor:Klaus-Dieter Prof. Dr. Hupke
Year of Completion:2023
Release Date:2023/12/06
Page Number:XVII, 229
Institutes:Fakultät für Natur- und Gesellschaftswissenschaften (Fak. III)
Licence (German):License LogoVeröffentlichungsvertrag mit Print-on-Demand