Environmental Education in China
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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.
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Chapter 8: Environmental education variation in China

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


Environmental education (EE), climate change education (CCE) and education for sustainable development (ESD) have a history of just a few decades in China, shorter than in the West where these forms developed. The trajectory of development in China also differed from the West. It began from the top and worked its way into colleges/universities and then the K-12 school system over time. In addition, informal, non-governmental forces as well as the media have been more important relatively than in the West. China’s national K-12 educational system is often regarded as uniform, both because of the history in centralization of education from the dynastic era to the present and because of the ideological control of the Chinese Communist Party over all operations of the state since 1949. Nevertheless, numerous scholars have pointed to the powerful decentralizing forces since China’s opening to the West and onset of a marketizing economy in the late 1970s. The question for this chapter is whether the strong forces of decentralization, accompanied by the immense variations of regions and peoples across China, have had an impact on the implementation of environmental education. The chapter begins by exploring sources of variation in policy implementation, and then considers differences of educational opportunity, with discussion of rural and urban differences in teaching staff, finance of basic education, facilities, students and other factors. The penultimate section of the chapter is based both on the secondary literature and author McBeath’s field work outside Beijing.

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