Building an Environmental Education System

for Peaceful Global Community

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Mitsuyuki Ikeda

Director of Okayama UNESCO Association

3-1-28 Hokan-cho, Okayama-shi 700-0026, Japan

E-mail: ikd@mxt.mesh.ne.jp

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Introduction

It has long been said that the global environment has deteriorated into such an extent that the people of the world need to work together to improve the situation and contribute to the solution of the problems, paving the way for a sustainable development of the communities world over.

We are also aware of the fact that we, citizens of local communities, societies, business entities find themselves very difficult to put their environmental awareness into action to help improve the environment in our daily life, albeit they know that they need to do something about it.  In order to improve such a stagnant situation, I propose to introduce educational programmes to be implemented at public schools and at the other institutions for life-long education that enhance the awareness that studies for our environment are vitally important and that we can improve our environment in our daily life.  I call this the Environment Study System, in which pupils, students and ordinary people of young and old can take part.  In the system well-planned programmes will be provided so that the participants obtain knowledge and put it into practice for preserving the environment on a day-today basis.  This System could be established in cooperation with inter-governmental and governmental agencies, non-government organizations, business entities, and citizensf groups, incorporating knowledge and know-how of these organizations in its educational programmes.  Due consultation among such concerned parties should be required in order to share the information, exchange views and find out about suitable ways and approaches to the problems.

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Background

The following are the examples of some educational programmes carried out in Okayama, Japan, which I would like to introduce as background information for the System.

It is my general impression that the environmental education should now be regarded as the one that enriches our lives through joining the programmes and especially through actually carrying out some concrete measures learnt in the education in our daily life.

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1. Introduction of "Period for Integrated Study" to the Japanese School Curriculum1

It has been decided that the Japanese Government will introduce a new curriculum called "Period for Integrated Study" in the Japanese primary schools from the year 2002 (Curriculum Council, 1998).  This curriculum attaches importance to pupilsf own self learning, self investigation, experiences using full five senses, workshops and cooperative activities.  It is intended that the pupils have more opportunities to go outside their schools and to make use of the information directly obtained from local public facilities and the people who are working at various social or business organizations.  The preliminary introduction of the curriculum has been implemented at some schools and various efforts and improvements have been made to prepare for the full implementation.

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Example 1  (Case report at a school)

Hirafuku Primary School, Ashimori Junior High School

Hirafuku Primary School invited me to give a lecturer on environmental studies, and this practice of inviting lecturers outside the school has started only recent year of 1997, which was followed in 1998.  Since then, I have been assisting teachers and pupils of the school almost individually, helping them to achieve their goals of environmental studies.  My advises to individual pupils have extended to a level that we exchange e-mails extensively.  I believe this is a very good experience for children, as they can directly communicate with professional advisors.  The Ashimori Junior High School has held annually a meeting called the eEnvironmental Conventionf participated by all the students, teachers and people from the local community on the Earth Day (22, April) since 1988.  I have found that the students have become more serious and the number of presentations and questions made has increased each year.  I believe this event has a great significance in sharing, learning and influencing one another the information, knowledge and experiences and working together for preserving the environment by the students and teachers, parents of the students, experts and the local people in the community.

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Example 2  (NGO and Networking)

Asahi River basin Network (ARNet), Okayama UNESCO Association (OUA)‚Q

The Asahi River is one of the longest of three major rivers in Okayama Prefecture.  The river basin area includes cities and villages of twenty three municipalities.  ARNet is comprised of eighty organizations in these cities and villages that include NGOs, schools, communities, business associations and municipal offices.  The ARNet hosts outdoor study programmes in which schools in lower stream area and upper stream area can jointly participate in, learn about different environments and work together.  ARNet holds Summer Camps for school children instructed by experts, NGO members, governmental bodies and people in the community to support the educational camp.  It has been reported that the people in the community where the camps were held have become more aware of their environment and expressed their wish to preserve it through supportive works for holding the summer camps.  Now, the people in the same river basin area are feeling that it is important and effective to have the organizational links among schools and communities for more comprehensive and extensive environmental study programmes, which are based upon sharing the most important and commonly shared natural resource of water from the river.

The Okayama UNESCO Association (OUA) to which I belong attaches importance to a seminar called the eStudies on Global Environmentf which has been held annually since 1994 (Okayama UNESCO Association, 1994-2000, 1995; Ikeda, 1999).  The seminar is open to public so that ordinary people can obtain professional knowledge on the environment of the world.  The participants are also guided to go outside to help preserve the environment.

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Example 3  (Municipal Government)

The Okayama City government

The Okayama City government has held an annual educational event called the Environment Hall since 1996, which is intended for all the citizens to learn about the environment through actually experiencing some related activities during the summer holiday period (Environmental Assessment Center Co., Ltd. West Japan Enterprise, 1996-1999).  Inside the Hall there are panel displays, books on environment, a video theatre for environmental studies, live animal displays, an environment studio where participants make some devices, a corner to experience some different natural environments, a classroom for studying environmental problems, a corner for using computers to learn about the environment, etc.  This is one of the best opportunities to learn comprehensively about the environment related questions, problems and issue, to which as many a family member as possible may be invited so that parents and their children can share the same level of knowledge and understanding and help improve the environment in their daily life.  This also is one of the most effective ways to help promote a life which is environmentally friendly.

The Okayama City government has started an Environment Partnership Project since April, 2001, which supports the citizens when they actually carry out some environment protective activities.  This project is in line with the commemoration of fiftieth anniversary of Japanfs joining the UNESCO, showing the cityfs positive attitude toward supporting UNESCOfs main purpose of establishing peaceful symbiotic society based upon mutual understanding and cooperation.

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2. Comprehensive Environment Learning Programme by Ministry of Environment

The Ministry of Environment of Japan has designated four regions of different natural environments as study fields for their Comprehensive Environment Learning Programme (Environment Agency, 1998, 2000).  The participants can carry out a variety of environmental study tours within distance of one-day travel.  There are eighty-four base facilities in the regions and the operation of the facilities are managed by concerned municipal governments or NGOs.

The objective of the programme is to support the environmental education by providing study fields and facilities in different kinds of natural environments within a distance of one-day-trip for any schools in Japan.  Naturally, the programme is closely related to the introduction of the "Period for Integrated Study" by the Japanese government for its new national policy.

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3. International Networking by NGOs

The slogan of the Earth Summit in1992 was gThink globally and act locallyh and I believe this is suggesting that people of the world today must have a global perspective and the environmental education for them must have the scope for connecting one another going beyond the national boundaries and sharing knowledge and understanding and act accordingly.  It also help promote peaceful coexistence of all the people of the world.

In Okayama an international meeting by NGO representatives called the Okayama NGO Summit for International Contribution organized by the Okayama Topia for International Contribution (OTIC), an umbrella organization of NGOs and NPOs in Okayama area, has been convened annually since 1994.  The purpose of the Summit is to exchange information, views on actual situations of the regions the participants come from, discuss and think together possible ways to solve the problems raised in the meetings.  In the Summit we have had the International Environmental Network Meeting since 1997, to which not only specialists on environment from abroad and in Japan but also local students, citizens, NGO representatives, government officials participated (Okayama Topia for International Contribution, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000; Okayama UNESCO Association, 1999, 2000).  Workshops have also been carried out and new networks connecting each of the participant to the summit were established.  The participants felt that it was difficult to share the same level of knowledge and understandings as to the problems, issues and questions they encounter or to agree with a certain rule in approaching and carrying out cooperative works and projects among parties concerned, but they all agreed that that making steady efforts by holding a meeting like this was the only way possible and, in fact, indispensable for promoting mutual understanding and implementing appropriate support projects and programmes.

In the International Environmental Network Meeting I made a proposal called the Environmental Support Centre Plan.  The Centre was intended to accumulate information, to disseminate it to anyone who may need it, to develop teaching materials and to provide training to those who may need it, etc.  Since then discussions have been continued at the same Meeting in the Summit, aiming at establishing it.

Please find at the end of this paper the outline of the proposal.

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What needs to be done

All of these programmes and a plan mentioned above are, in actually, far from completion or in the midst of repeated trial and error, having created a variety of problems.  The following are the summary of the problems being faced and my suggestions as to what needs to be done to cope with them.

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1. Introduction of "Period for Integrated Study" to the Japanese School Curriculum

The introduction of this new curriculum to the Japanese schools may provide a chance to make them change themselves to be more open to and connected to the local communities.  There are, however, many schools unlike the one introduced above, which have been quite closed in nature and have had nothing to do with the local communities.  These schools are now feeling quite confused and hesitant to accept the new curriculum.  It is quite obvious, however, that these schools should be more open to the local communities in order to carry out a better environmental education efficiently and effectively.  It is my sincere hope that the schools will do their best to make use of their resources to introduce the new curriculum, as the environmental education may lead to a good result in helping to promote peaceful coexistence of the people of the world.

I also expect that the local communities will make good efforts to cooperate with the schools.  It is obvious that the support only from PTAs to the schools is not enough, and support should also be provided from all kinds of local organizations and institutions.  I believe that the roles NGOs such as Asahi River basin Network (ARNet) and Okayama UNESCO Association (OUA) should play will be quite important in connecting schools and the local communities.  It is obvious that they are the only and the best possible coordinators in supporting both parties.  It is, therefore, vital that some proper support system should be established among the parties concerned.

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2. Role of Citizensf groups and NGOs

It is crucially important that the whole society needs to understand and support the mediator role of local citizensf groups, NGOs and their networks so that the schools and the local communities can establish a system that enables smooth and efficient cooperative work.  Especially, the local citizensf groups and their role of networking will be the most important part in linking and coordinating the concerned groups and organizations in the community.  This task of linking themselves is, in actuality, the hardest things to do, for it requires a steady and highly reliable managerial staff and an well equipped office in order to properly and continuously carry out this task of linking and coordinating themselves.  Unfortunately, many of the Japanese citizensf groups and NGOs are rather too weak in organizing their activities, and they are always in short of money and are thus unable to keep a staff who can work exclusively for the management.

In the case of ARNet mentioned above, it was in fact the government office, namely the Okayama branch office of the Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport who played an important role or functioned as the central office for networking various citizensf groups who had been working separately thus far and twenty three local municipalities along with the Asahi River Basin.  It is, therefore, not at all easy to create, properly manage and develop a new network by citizensf groups and NGOs alone.  It is necessary that some concerned local government office supports the management of such a newly established network until the network itself grows mature enough to manage itself without receiving such a public administrative support by government offices.

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3. Comprehensive Environment Learning Programme by Ministry of Environment

As explained above, the programme is intended to support the environmental education by providing some model study fields and facilities in different kinds of natural environments.  At the moment, the base facilities specified for this programme are only eighty-four, but the ministry plans to expand it to the whole nation in the future.  The management of the programme will be entrusted to either local municipalities or NGOs, and this will create problems concerning staff training, because the staff will need to be working properly in the fields, organizing the curriculum, facilities and staff planning, etc.  The national government and local prefectural governments regard this programme as a model case for comprehensive environmental education and are aware of the need of providing some due amount of financial support.

I have am impression that the programme will require centres situated either inside or outside the specified model fields that function as common information centres as well as training centres and secretariats.

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4. International Environmental Network Meeting

It is clear that we need networks in which citizens, business corporations, municipal governments, schools and NGOs can participate easily, going beyond the boundaries of districts, regions and nations in order to commonly share the information, knowledge and know-how.  This type of global network will enable us to realize a new environmental education available for everybody.  Constant effort should be made to develop and create this type of networks, and the modern technology such as the Internet and other modern communication tools should be extensively used.

My past experiences of participating international conferences have convinced me that the following three steps should be needed before developing an efficient and effective international environmental network.

1.  Direct exchange of ideas and discussions, thereby deepening mutual understanding and trust.

2.  Introduction of global communication tools such as the Internet.

3.  Commonly sharing the awareness that the environmental education will be necessary through providing information, knowledge and technology to those who may need them.

I also think that we need to develop a central secretariat of the network and the core centre that receive and send information, creating educational tools, giving staff training, etc. in order to make the network function properly.

Another thing we need to take into consideration for the efficient functioning of the network is the introduction of facilitators into various countries and regions, who will interpret the obtained and translated information for the local people so that they can understand well enough and utilize it for their own needs and interests.  It is not enough just to receive the information, translate it and provide it to the local people who can be quite unfamiliar with the information.

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Conclusion

I am convinced that environmental education is vital in achieving a peaceful global communities.  I have pointed out four major approaches above to help achieve this goal, which can be summarized as 1) linking the schools and local communities, 2) adopting ways in which new networks to be developed and they have to be properly managed, 3) educating and training required staff (educators and coordinators) and 4) developing and facilitating the centres.

I am also convinced that UNESCO associations should play an import role in working together with the local environmental NGOs and other related citizensf groups and organizations to properly link them and let them work together.

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I would like to express herewith my sincere appreciation for inviting me to the UNESCO Meeting in Galicia during which I was given a change to make a proposal.  Thank you very much.

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Proposal:

Developing an Environmental Support Centre

1. Background

It has long been said that the global environment has been deteriorated due mainly to industrial activities made by human beings using fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution.  It has also be reported that the speed of the deterioration has been further accelerated in recent years and the survival of all living beings on earth will be endangered.  This awareness has give rise to the idea of what-we-call the Environmental Support Centre Plan.  The purpose of the Centre is to improve this situation as much as possible and contribute to the solution of problems in order to achieve a sustainable development of all human societies.

The Environmental Support Centre will function as a core secretariat that coordinates the citizensf groups and NGOs who have carried out their specialized activities separately for improving the environment in their own local communities and regions.  The Centre will also function as coordinating body whose role is to link local governments and business corporations as well.  The Centre, thus, intends to establish a network that enables participation of any citizens, groups institutions who are concerned about the actual situation of the global environment, wish to receive more extensive information on environment and exchange views as to what can be done to amend the situation.

It is also intended that specialists of various fields of environment will be invited to the network of the Centre so that anyone can have an access to a reliable information the Centre has obtained through the specialists.  The Centre will be able to store the information, views and opinions of them, and the collected and accumulated information will constantly be up-dated, sorted out, interpreted and improved through the Centrefs network system.  In addition to individual specialists, some academic organizations such as colleges, universities, research institutes may be agreed to make researches and investigations for the Centre.  The Centre will function, therefore, as a network coordinator for all of these people, groups and organizations to fill their need of information on their environment.

The Centre may have another functions such as planning to develop a think-tank, development of teaching materials, consulting and carrying out training programmes, planning businesses that produce profits.  We are currently making a search for a suitable venue for the Centre and also making a personnel planning for facilitating the Centrefs network system.

As a promoting body for the Centre plan, we intend have a reliable relationship with non-governmental UNESCO associations around the world, utilizing their world-wide network to enrich the plan.  They maintain as a whole a partnership with the United Nations and national governments, and the number of associated organizations in over hundred countries amounts to over five-thousand and three hundred.  There are national committees in hundred and ninety countries.  The scale of the non-governmental UNESCO movement is quite extensive, and the resources from the movement is so rich to be fully utilized for the plan.

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2. Proposed action plans

1) The establishment of an information network

ETo organize a monitoring network on environmental indicators

ETo collect and analyze data and provide information on demand

ETo answer questions on environmental problems and issues raised by NGOs and citizensf groups and to conduct counseling work for them

ETo translate technical information into plain words and formats for the citizens and local people

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2) Sharing of knowledge and technology

ETo develop monitoring kits that can be easily used by anybody

ETo develop educational kits for the leaders of NGOs and citizensf groups

ETo develop programmes for the improvement of peoplefs environmental morals

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3) Planning and implementation of training

ETo develop programmes for training, providing required knowledge and skills

ETo carry out training programmes

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4) Research and consulting

ETo enter into a contract with professional researchers and related institutions

ETo go into a business through environmental consulting

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Notes

1. "Period for Integrated Study"

The "Period for Integrated Study" will be established in order for individual schools to be able to develop distinctive education and to make efforts to conduct interdisciplinary and comprehensive teaching activities.

The "Period for Integrated Study" aims at helping children develop capability and ability to discover problems by themselves and solve those problems properly. Interdisciplinary and comprehensive studies, which reflect each individual schools' efforts, and studies based upon children's own interests will help achieve this goal. It also aims at helping children learn how to learn and reason, develop mind to independently and creatively cope with problem-solving activities and/or inquiring activities, and deepen their understanding of their own way of life. It is assumed that children's knowledge and skills acquired in individual classes will be related with each other and deepened through the activities in the "Period for Integrated Study", and then they will work comprehensively for children.

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2. Okayama UNESCO Association (OUA)

The Okayama UNESCO Association is located in Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture; one of the prefectures located in the western Mainland of Japan.

The purpose of the Association is to widely contribute to the development of the international society and promote peace and welfare throughout humanity. This is accomplished through local UNESCO activities based on the UNESCO Charter.

In order to fufil the purpose, the Okayama UNESCO Association has carried out programmes directed not only towards the citizens of Okayama Prefecture but also towards foreign residents living in Okayama area.  For the former it has organized programmes that promote ginternational understandingh and genvironmental protection of the earthh and for the latter, gthe Japanese language education.h

Mailing address: 3-1-28 Hokan-cho, Okayama-shi 700-0026, Japan

Phone: +81-86-255-0651

Fax:  +81-86-255-0651

E-mail: o-unesco@ddn.ne.jp

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Bibliography

- Curriculum Council. (1998). National Curriculum Standards Reformed for Kindergarten, Elementary School, Lower and Upper Secondary School and Schools for the Visually Disabled, the Hearing Impaired and the Otherwise Disabled (Synopsis). Tokyo: Curriculum Council.

- Environment Agency. (1998). Comprehensive Environmental Learning Programme. Tokyo: Environment Agency.

- ---. (Ed.) (2000). Collection of the Integrated Environmental Learning Programme. The Seto Inland Sea Central Zone. Tokyo: Environment Agency. (In Japanese)

- Environmental Assessment Center Co., Ltd. West Japan Enterprise. (1996-1999). The Environment Hall - Report for Planning and Management Business. Okayama: Okayama City Government. (In Japanese)

- Ikeda, M. (Ed.) (1999). Environmental Learning Kit. gLife and Culture that We Live Together with The Riverh. Okayama: Okayama UNESCO Association. (In Japanese)

- Okayama Topia for International Contribution. (1997). The Fourth Conference on the Okayama NGO Summit. Okayama: Okayama Topia for International Contribution, pp. 14-23, and 42-47.

- ---. (1998). The Fifth Conference on the Okayama NGO Summit. Okayama: Okayama Topia for International Contribution, pp. 16-21.

- ---. (1999). The Sixth Conference on the Okayama NGO Summit. Okayama: Okayama Topia for International Contribution, pp. 14-17.

- ---. (2000). The Seventh Conference on the Okayama NGO Summit. Okayama: Okayama Topia for International Contribution, pp. 16-21.

- Okayama UNESCO Association. (1994-2000). Lectures on Global Environment in 1994-2000. Okayama: Okayama UNESCO Association. (In Japanese)

- ---. (Ed.) (1995). An Introduction to the Global Environmental Sciences. For a Citizen. Okayama: Daigaku Kyoiku Shuppan Co., Ltd. (In Japanese)

- ---. (Ed.) (1999). The International Environmental Network Meeting in Tamano. 1999. Okayama: Okayama UNESCO Association.

- ---. (Ed.) (2000). The International Environmental Network Meeting in Tamano. 2000. Okayama: Okayama UNESCO Association.

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Profile

Name:  Mr. Mitsuyuki Ikeda

Date of Birth:  4 April 1959

Nationality:  Japanese

Special QualificationsF Consulting Engineer (Environment and Civil Engineer); Environmental Counsellor

Position held and name of organisation:  Director of Okayama UNESCO AssociationGRepresentative Director of West Japan Enterprise of the Environmental Assessment Centre CO., Ltd

Office Address (Okayama UNESCO Association):  3-1-28, Houkan-cho, Okayama-shi, Okayama-ken, 700-0026, Japan

Telephone:  +81 86 255 0651        Fax:  +81 86 255 0651

E-mail:  ikd@mxt.mesh.ne.jp

Environmental Education Programs Related to Environmental NGOs :

l      1994 to present: As director of Okayama UNESCO Association; planning and managing annual seminars on Global Environment as an instructor

l      1997-2000: I conducted environmental education related programs at schools and at community centres as an instructor.  I also served as a consulting engineer in environmental education.

l      1998 to present:  I serve as chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Environmental Network Meeting.

l      1999 to present:  I am the commissioner of promoting regional activities (National Federation of UNESCO Association in Japan) and coordinator for activities in environmental education and preserving the environment.

Environmental Education Activities Related to Environmental Consulting:

l      1990 to present: I serve as representative director of West Japan Enterprise of the Environmental Assessment Centre CO., Ltd.  I am a consulting engineer and in charge of environmental education and environmental assessment.

l      1996 to current: I was involved in planning and management of the "Summer Environmental School" (Okayama city)

l      1999: eThe Introduction to Global Environmental Science for the General Publicf written jointly was published by University Education Publisher.

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