Educational policy documents from global to national and local levels give priority to learning how to achieve sustainable development. “Few issues are so important but so elusive as sustainable development, and there can be very few such issues indeed where the role of learning is so crucially important to our future.”(Scott & Gough, 2004, s. xi). A need of change in human values is often expressed as a prerequisite for sustainable development. How ESD can support this change, without yielding to manipulation and indoctrination, is one of the current main issues. How do you as a teacher balance on the edge between “knowing what is right and knowing that it´s wrong to tell others what is right” ?(Wals, 2010) There are abundant suggestions about which values that have to be changed in order to achieve sustainable development. I choose to presuppose the fundamental values underlying The Millennium Declaration of the UN. They are freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility (UN, 2000). Despite their importance not very much is known about how these values help or hinder sustainable development (Leiserowitz, Kates, & Paris, 2006). Studies from many different countries show that students´ primary concern is globally environmental problems. Less is known about how this concern is related to other issues that the students find important (Rickinson, 2001) and how the values mentioned above are correlated to each other.
An individual can express values through actions and attitudes. Focus in my research is on how the fundamental values, underlying sustainable development, are expressed in attitudes and how these are combined and distributed among Swedish pupils in upper secondary school. A questionnaire (n=917) with 27 statements, concerning attitudes towards nature and towards fellow human beings is so far the empirical body. I use five-grade Likert items[i] aggregated into four groups, each of them summing up to a Likert scale[ii] measuring different aspects of one value. The four values are; biocentrism, anthropocentrism (two different aspects of respect for nature) equality and solidarity and are consequently connected to the underlying values in The Millennium Declaration of the UN. I use Bogner and Wiseman´s (2003)Model of Ecological Values to measure respect for nature and have constructed a new scale, Model of Social Values, for the purpose of measuring solidarity and equality.
Preliminary results show a significant correlation between a strong willingness to preserve nature and to show solidarity with a wide in-group of others. There is also a significant correlation between strong utilization attitudes towards nature and to show solidarity with a narrower in-group and also between strong utilization attitudes and to accept unequal distribution of resources. These findings mainly confirm results from earlier research. People high in empathy tend to be low in materialistic values and high in intrinsic values and more negative environmental attitudes are often associated with less concern for social justice and equality(Crompton & Kasser, 2009).
My all-embracing research question is to analyze how pupils today understand how learning processes in elementary school have supported or opposed their own socioenvironmental values. To do that I need to carry out qualitative interviews with individuals representing the main categories in my survey. In those interviews one aim is to catch the essence of how pupils interpret their teachers’ ability to balance on the edge between telling what is right and supporting diversity and pluralism.
[i] The respondent mark the level of agreement from 1= strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree
[ii] A summated scale of several items which together measure one dimension
Ulanbaatar: Mongolian State University of Education, Uppsala University , 2010.
International Conference on Education for Sustainable Development. 30 august-3 september, 2010. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia