Stepping up the challenge

Fostering sustainability consciousness of Hong Kong students with New Senior Secondary Liberal Studies curriculum

Authored by: Tamara Savelyeva

Routledge International Handbook of Schools and Schooling in Asia

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138908499
eBook ISBN: 9781315694382
Adobe ISBN:


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In Hong Kong, where a knowledge-based economy depends on having an educated population, the increased manifestations of sustainability consciousness of secondary school graduates who participate in tertiary education might illustrate the outcomes of the transformative learning ignited by the New Senior Secondary Liberal Studies (NSS LS) curriculum. The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze the environmental aspects of the sustainability consciousness of Hong Kong school graduates. The study relied on the use of two theoretical perspectives, based on Bateson’s transformative learning model and Hanvey’s conceptualizations of global awareness. Data sources included 3251 questionnaires and 900 reflective essay entries of secondary school graduates enrolled in the eight Hong Kong University Grants’ Committee (UGC)–funded institutions. The quantitative findings showed a significant increase in students’ self-reported knowledge–related aspects of sustainability consciousness and indicated students’ low engagement with sustainability-related activities or environmental groups. However, qualitative results revealed the following three aspects of students’ action-oriented sustainability consciousness: intentionality to make a difference, engagement with the complex issues regarding identity, society, and nature; and students’ eschatological perspectives. The contradictions between qualitative and quantitative results identified a “sustainability consciousness with nil participation” paradox. The findings of the study strengthen the dominating sustainability education conceptual framework with new features which allow to (a) challenge an outdated approach to knowledge and action as the end result of sustainability education; and (b) offer a potential conceptual tool to inform a learning process for sustainability education that helps teachers who are engaged in formal education.

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