Environmental Education in China

Environmental Education in China

Gerald A. McBeath, Jenifer Huang McBeath, Tian Qing and Huang Yu

China’s environmental problems increasingly attract global attention, yet critics often overlook the sizable efforts of the Chinese people and government to change attitudes and behavior, in order to improve environmental outcomes. This much-needed book provides a comprehensive introduction to environmental education in China. After consideration of the environment in Chinese philosophy, the authors focus on application of directives and new guidelines to compulsory, secondary and college education, and also analyze the way in which teachers are trained. They then examine conditioning factors, such as the media and NGOs, as well as the variation of education within China, and attempt to measure the efficacy of environmental education over time.

Chapter 10: Environmental education differences in greater China

Gerald A. McBeath, Jenifer Huang McBeath, Tian Qing and Huang Yu

Subjects: environment, asian environment, environmental sociology


An educated population is a prerequisite for a functioning modern industrial society, and education on the environment is especially necessary for states hoping to mitigate and adapt to environmental change and crises. Environmental education (EE, and education for sustainable development, ESD) broadly has three objectives: (1) growth in awareness of issues and problems concerning the environment; (2) increased knowledge about the environment; and (3) changes in attitudes and behaviors. EE and ESD have both formal and non-formal components. The formal elements of environmental education are the responsibility of a nation’s K-12 school system, colleges and universities, and teacher training programs. Non-formal elements in democratic nations rely on the private or non-profit sectors primarily, and include environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media. In authoritarian polities such as China, the state actively monitors NGOs and either owns or heavily censors the press. Finally, governments educate the public on environmental issues and problems in both democratic and authoritarian nations. In this chapter, we concentrate on EE and ESD in Taiwan, because this small, politically beleaguered nation-state industrialized earlier than China, and reaction to industrialization’s environmentally degrading effects prompted establishment of many environmental programs and organizations. They were in place for several years while environmental issues were just under consideration and programs were being developed in mainland China. We make a small number of observations and comparisons regarding Hong Kong, which in 1997 returned to China’s fold (but remains a special administrative region (SAR) today, in 2014).

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