Environmental attitudes of Hungarian students and the prospects for environmental education
Keywords:environmental education, environmental attitudes, nature perception, wildlife preferences, cognitive abilities, outdoor participation report, nature deficit disorder
The efficiency of primary education is of fundamental importance in environmental education. The aim of this survey was to evaluate the environmental attitudes of young teenagers in Hungary, learning their preferences regarding plants and animals, their reasoning, and opinions about conservation. Therefore, a complex questionnaire containing 11 open questions and 5 closed questions were completed in 2016 for students between the age of 13 and 14 years. This age group was selected based on the curriculum suited the best to this type of investigation and the already advanced level of knowledge for the student. Printed questionnaires were provided to the student attending to primary schools personally, and they were asked to fill them in their class supervised by their teachers to minimalize external influences. There were 744 students living in 92 settlements of different sizes who have filled the questionnaires in 2017. These questionnaires were grouped according to the student’ gender, settlement sizes (six categories), and type of home (detached house, apartment building, or prefabricated panel building). Here we report the first results after assessing the questionnaires. According to their preferences toward plants or animals, the great majority of the responders (91.3%) favored animals, and there was no difference between boys and girls in this respect. The size of the settlements and the type of the students’ home did not influence animal preference. These results suggest that teachers should particularly focus on plants in their biology and environmental education programs. When students were asked about their favorite plants, almost 80 percent of them gave priority to local plant species, especially flowers (73.1%). More than three-quarters (77%) of the families of the students asked have at least one pet or domestic animal, and almost two-thirds (64.4%) of them wish to have even more - although 71.1% of them live in apartment buildings or prefabricated panel buildings. Students meet animals most often (52.8%) locally, and domestic mammals are those animals that the highest proportion (41.8%) of them encounter. More than half (54%) of the children go outdoors/make an excursion at least once in a month, but 11 percent of them have no such experiences. When asked about conservation, 77.7% of the children stated that they would save all of the living creatures, and 12.1% chose to save only the useful ones. This information may help in focusing on special areas for environmental education or developing new strategies and tools for it.
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