Environmental Education in Tanzania: Integrating teaching and learning approach
By Beatus Mwendwa
Like other countries in the world, Tanzania has responded through international conferences, forums, global conventions, and international declarations concerning the environment. In 1990s the country, through the ministry of education, formulated environmental education courses and incorporated t h e m officially in secondary school curriculum at all levels as integrated subjects, not stand alone subjects. Also government concerns about environmental management and conservation were added, and now clarified, in the objectives of education in Tanzania. The Tanzania Education and Training Policy (URT, 2005) shows the emphasis on environmental education; one of its major objectives is, “to enable a rational use, management and conservation of the environment” (URT, 2005). This however is a theoretical and hypothetical effort in rolling out environmental education in secondary schools in Tanzania.
The Tanzania secondary education system has adopted an integrated teaching approach to address e n v i r o n m e n t a l e d u c a t i o n . That is, environmental education competencies are integrated into other subjects. Kadji (2002) wrote that an integrative a p p r o a c h i n teaching is based on both philosophy and practicality. It is generally an approach which purposefully draws together knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values from within or across subject areas to develop a more powerful understanding and linkages of key ideas. The integrative approach is not only in Tanzania, various writers have reported the use of this teaching strategy in different countries. Uganda, Nigeria, New Zealand, China and Jamaica have been reported to use integrated teaching and learning in their education systems (Ferguson, 2008 and Stapp, 1997).
Baxte and Jack, (2008) highlighted advantages of using an integrative teaching approach, which includes allowing teachers to plan for the development of key skills and understandings that transcend individual strands and subjects, while helping students to build on their diverse prior knowledge and experience, support their holistic view of the world, and ensure more meaningful learning. The brain research by Dylan (1998) supports the theory that younger students take in many things and process and organize them at one time. That means teaching ideas holistically, rather than in fragmented pieces, better reflects how young students’ brains process information. Also Drake (2004) considered a n integrated teaching approach to be the path that makes sense in education in this century as it connects what is learnt to real life situations. A problem-based education model is a good example of an integrated teaching approach that offers high potential for the identification of relevant, highly motivating problems.
On the other side of the coin, integration of environmental education into different subjects creates a number of limitations and challenges to education systems (Johnson, 2005 and Palmer, 1998). It is argued that when environmental education is integrated into the content of other subjects, learners fail to develop a clear understanding of what different disciplines or forms of knowledge co ntribute to the understanding of an environmental topic (Kadji, 2002). In addition, teachers find it difficult to link environmental education content with subject content because there seems to be no clear formula for implementation. As a result, many teachers are not comfortable with teaching through integration (Drake, 20 04). It is also thought that the integration of environmental education into existing subjects may not be accorded adequate weight in all subjects. The current study assesses the extent to which curriculum of secondary schools in Tanzania addresses sustainable education through integration of environmental education.