Tbilisi Declaration with Commentary by Bill Scott

The Final Report from Tbilisi published by UNESCO and UNEP includes a declaration and series of recommendations that guided the development of the field of environmental education around the world. We now take a closer look at Recommendation Two, which articluates the goals, objectives, and guiding principles of EE, with audio commentary by University of Bath Emeritus Professor Bill Scott.

Recommendation No. 2

The Conference,

Recognizing that environmental education should promote the strengthening of peace, the further relaxation of international tensions and mutual understanding among States and be a real instrument for international solidarity and for elimination of all forms of racial, political and economic discrimination,

Noting that the concept of “the environment” includes a complex of natural, built and social components in the life of humanity and that the social components constitute a set of cultural, moral, personal values and interrelations of people in the spheres of labour and leisure activities,

Taking note of document UNESCO/ENVED/4 “Education and the challenge of environmental problems” and in particular of the principles contained in Chapter II,

Having furthermore noted the Synthetic Report of the Regional Meeting of Experts on Environmental Education (ENVED/7, Chapter III, paragraphs 15-26),

Pursuant to the working document UNESCO/ENVED/4, paragraph 67, in which the Conference is invited to formulate goals, objectives and guiding principles which environmental education should have in order to fulfil its functions most effectively,

Considering that it should be a right of every citizen to receive environmental education, 

Endorses the following goals, objectives and guiding principles for environmental education: 

1. The goals of environmental education are: 

(a) to foster clear awareness of, and concern about, economic, social, political and ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas;

(b) to provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment and skills needed to protect and improve the environment;

(c) to create new patterns of behaviour of individuals, groups and society as a whole towards the environment;

2. The categories of environmental education objectives: 

Awareness: to help social groups and individuals acquire an awareness of and sensitivity to the total environment and its allied problems. 

Knowledge: to help social groups and individuals gain a variety of experience in, and acquire a basic understanding of, the environment and its associate problems. 

Attitudes: to help social groups and individuals acquire a set of values and feelings of concern for the environment, and the motivation for actively participating in environmental improvement and protection. 

Skills: to help social groups and individuals acquire the skills for identifying and solving environmental problems. 

Participation: to provide social groups and individuals with an opportunity to be actively involved at all levels in working toward resolution of environmental problems. 

3. Some guiding principles for environmental education: 

Environmental education should: 

- consider the environment in its totality - natural and built, technological and social (economic, political, technological, cultural-historical, moral, aesthetic);

- be a continuous lifelong process, beginning at the pre-school level and continuing through all formal and non-formal stages; 

- be interdisciplinary in its approach, drawing on the specific content of each discipline in making possible a holistic and balanced perspective;

- examine major environmental issues from local, national, regional and international points of view so that students receive insights into environmental conditions in other geographical areas;

- focus on current and potential environmental situations, while taking into account the historical perspective;

- promote the value and necessity of local, national and international co-operation in the prevention and solution of environmental problems;

- explicitly consider environmental aspects in plans for development and growth;

- enable learners to have a role in planning their learning experiences and provide an opportunity for making decisions and accepting their consequences;

- relate environmental sensitivity, knowledge, problem-solving skills and values clarification to every age, but with special emphasis on environmental sensitivity to the learner’s own community in early years;

- help learners discover the symptoms and real causes of environmental problems;

- emphasize the complexity of environmental problems and thus the need to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills;

- utilize diverse learning environments and a broad array of educational approaches to teaching/learning about and from the environment with due stress on practical activities and first-hand experience.