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Oberlin College

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development

Abstract

The purpose of the research I conducted for this Independent Study Project was to get an in-depth understanding of how elementary school teachers and students think about the environment, environmental problems, and how to include environmental themes in education in Vietnam. I chose to focus on primary school-aged children, as they are a generation growing up in an era of global warming and daunting threats to the environment brought on by human activity. I conducted my research at Le Loi Elementary School in Hue, Vietnam, where I used a variety of research methods to learn from teachers and students including interviews, observations, and an art project. I used the context of Vietnam’s history of colonialization, rapid and continuing development, and industrialization and modernization to learn about pollution and environmental degradation on both national and local scales. I also focused on the idea of environmental identity, or the ways in which people interact with and relate to the natural environment, to understand environmental conceptions.

My research provided me with a nuanced understanding of how cultural values are reflected in the ways children and adults think about and define local and global environments and environmental issues. An emphasis on cleanliness, picking up trash, planting trees and making beautiful green spaces was a common theme found in my observations and in the artwork created by the students. This reflects both on Vietnamese culture and the fact that Hue is located along the Perfume River which is a place with natural beauty but also obvious pollution. Additionally, surveys and interviews conducted with teachers showed concern for the environment and a desire to provide education about the environment in ways that are age and culturally appropriate for students. Institutionalized environmental education classes at the primary school level don’t currently exist in any widespread frequency in Vietnam. However, the enthusiasm and interest from teachers and students in addition to more recent recognition of global climate change and the implementation of ways to combat it worldwide shed a positive light on the potential for more environmental education in Vietnam.

Disciplines

Climate | Education | Environmental Education

 

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