Contributed by Diego Posada (Foundation for Environmental Education) and Theodora Polyzoidou (Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature)
In the Greek educational system, the field of environmental education (EE) unofficially started in the 80s. Beginning in the 90s, the framework to promote EE in formal education was established, with teachers integrating EE into their teaching on a voluntary basis. In tertiary education, there are relevant optional courses included in Early Childhood and Primary Education Departments. There are also M.Ed courses for in-service teachers. A top-rated institution in Greece is the network of Centres of Environmental Education, which operate short-term programs for students and local communities across the country. NGOs also play an active role in supporting EE in K-12 education.
Policy & Practice
Environmental Education (EE) was officially introduced in Greece with a law in 1990 for secondary education and 1991 for primary education. This legislation stated that the aim of EE is: “for students to become aware of their relation to the natural and social environment, of the problems connected to it, and to take action so that they contribute to the general effort of dealing with them.” To meet these needs, the Ministry of Education compiled a Cross-Curricular Programme Framework of Studies to give directions for project implementation. There was also a curriculum for the Environment and Sustainability compiled in 2010, but it has not been implemented.
EE in K-12 Education
Although EE is not a part of the Ministry of Education’s formal K-12 curriculum, teachers can still implement EE on a voluntary basis in following framework:
- In kindergarten, EE can be integrated within formal programs in connection to the curriculum in subjects such as Greek language, math, ICT, art, etc.
- In primary school, grades 1-4, EE programs can be applied during project time, for example, teaching hours intended for cross-curricular projects. In grades 5-6, EE is introduced through formal subject curricula, such as Greek language, math, ICT, art, geography, foreign languages, and more.
- In secondary education, with the voluntary participation of teachers, students, and parental consent, programs such as after-school clubs often take the lead in implementing EE activities and instruction.
Teachers submit their EE program outline to the EE coordinator of each Education Directorate and programs are approved based on their educational and scientific merit. Teachers have the right to choose or co-decide with their students, their project topic in relation to the local environment, the local needs, and any immediate needs that arise (such as forest fires).
This approach in experiential learning focuses on problem-solving and project- and inquiry-based learning. The duration of these programs is typically 2 months and the outcomes are the development of student-directed action with a particular focus in civic engagement.
Schools can also become members of EE networks and communities of practice, which foster support for members in the EE community.
In addition to schools programs, there are also Centres of Environmental Education in each of the 52 prefectures in Greece. These centers implement one- to two-day EE programs for K-12 students. These programs consist of local field trips to forests, beaches, wetlands, cities, and cultural and archeological sites. The Centres of Environmental Education also consider sustainable development when choosing field trip destinations. Teaching staff include both primary and secondary teachers of all subjects with a special EE background. Teachers get organizational support from municipalities and financial support from European Union (EU) funds. Due to organizational and financial support, these programs are free for students.
Several NGOs and universities collaborate with program coordinators and Centers of EE to provide professional development to teachers. Opportunities for professional development in EE often include seminars and workshops at local or national Centers of Environmental Education.
In Greece, the Panhellenic Association of Educators for EE organizes conferences, publishes a journal, and communicates with the Ministry of Education to promote EE through relevant structures and frameworks. Founded in 1992, the Panhellenic Association of Educators for EE’s membership is composed of K-12 teachers and university staff, EE program coordinators, and Centre of Environmental Education staff. There are also regional departments that help organize EE teacher training and more.
There is also the Hellenic Scientific Society for Environmental Education & Sustainability (ΕΛ.Ε.ΕΤ.Π.Ε.Α), established in 2005, whose members are university teaching staff and Ph.D or M.Ed students or graduates who come together at conferences to present scientific research.
EE in National Government
Within the Ministry of Education, the Department for Sustainable Development issues annual recommendations regarding frameworks for EE programming, financial support from Centres of Environmental Education, and more. Overall, the Department for Sustainable Development plays an administrative role.
National EE Campaigns and Funding
There is some integration of EE within formal education, but even in this context it is primarily applied with non-formal characteristics. The state also financially supports teachers from the Centers of Environmental Education and EE coordinators who train educators.
There are campaigns promoting environmentally friendly behaviors such as recycling, but there are no campaigns aimed specifically at the education sector. Each school decides how to address their ecological footprint, leaving actions such as recycling an optional choice. Several municipalities operate within regional and local levels to promote recycling, reusing, sustainable water usage, and other sustainable practices through campaigns in cooperation with local schools.
NGOs help coordinate a substantial portion of EE initiatives. NGOs organize educational campaigns which include elements such as educational materials and teacher training. These campaigns are mostly funded by sponsors or organizations within EU programs such as LIFE. The most active NGOs in the EE field are:
- The Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN)
- WWF Hellas
- Archelon (for the Protection of Sea Turtle Caretta-Caretta)
- MoM (for the protection of Monachus seal)
- Mediterranean Education Initiative on Environment and Sustainability (MEdIES) is the long-standing initiative of the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE) on Education for Sustainable Development
- Aeiforum (promoting Sustainable Schools)
These NGOs collaborate with educators to support EE school programs and organize student-directed actions.