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Internet and EE in Japanese Schools
Two key issues can be discerned in schools in Japan (SLIDE - 1) - one, a growing trend in the use of computers and information obtained/activities initiated over the internet; and two, an urgency associated with environmental issues and the need for its integration into the regular and extra-curricular activities of schools. The intersection of these two issues is the focus of this paper and presentation.
Criticality attributed to the local environment in Japan stemms from three trends (SLIDE - 2):
Environmental activities of schools in Japan range from those integrated within the curriculum, to extra-curricular activities, such as clubs and associations. Activities are also initiated at the school level by local and national governments, by the private sector, and by NGOs. Schools frequently collaborate with each other, and also participate in external activities (outside the school) by NGOs, local governments, and the private sector (SLIDE - 4).
- Increasing and unintended pollution of the environment from the high industrial growth periods of the 60s and 70s
- Urban lifestyles and resource consumption patterns that were essentially unsustainable and placed a heavy burden on the local environment - both in production and in disposal of wastes.
- Awareness on global environmental trends as a result of UN and other international events and Japan's own growing presence on the global arena.
While the use of internet in Japan has been growing rapidly, matching the global trend, it has faced several barriers in access and availability to - computer hardware, Internet services, and value-added assistance and instruction (SLIDE - 3). Thus, barriers relate to both the usage of internet resources, and preparation of the content of websites (SLIDES - 5 & 6).
Some of the lessons learnt from this study on using the internet for environmental education (SLIDE - 7):
- It is important to work at appropriate level/scale (usually that of the student and the school and community) so as to effect a good understanding of the causes and effects of environmental problems. Extrapolating these explanations to the global level and global problems is critical; so is intrapolating the explanations from a global level to the level of the student/school/community.
- "SEE-DO-LISTEN" is a popular mantra used in Japan to develop education and awareness building programmes. It is important to add a fourth aspect to this mantra - REPORT in order to give emphasis to information collation and its effective dissemination to other interested users.
- Dedicated/committed/interested teachers and ordinary people are indeed very critical for any environmental education programme, especially those willing to interact with kids at their level to spark curiosity, both online and offline.
- In order to give priority and importance to environmental education, it is important to provide broad-based top-to-bottom support and facilitation from all levels of governments (especially national) to individual teachers to students.
- It is important to realize that environmental education goes beyond the blackboard and beyond the school, to encompass the community, libraries, and the home itself. This has to be kept in mind when developing any programme.
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