Comparative Study of Knowledge and Attitudes of Secondary Students on Water Issues
Water resources perform important functions for the biosphere and for all life forms. However development, overconsumption, and pollution endanger safe access to clean water in many areas of our planet. Are knowledge and attitudes of gymnasium students (age 14-15) on water pollution and water scarcity differentiated in relation to their counterparts of lyceum (age 16-17). The aim of the survey is to investigate and record the knowledge and attitudes of gymnasium and lyceum students on issues related to water pollution, scarcity and management, and the comparison of data from these two groups. The case study was chosen as the basic method, and the questionnaire as the research tool, because the questionnaire is the main technique used in social sciences. The sample consisted of 289 gymnasium students and 292 lyceum students. The questionnaire included 19 questions, and was administered 3-29 March 2014. In the sample, significant lack of knowledge is observed concerning the problems of pollution, the ways to tackle them, and the issues related to the management of water resources. Regarding the attitudes, the students seem to adopt a certain degree of environmental friendliness. Similar results, as far as environmental attitudes are concerned, were recorded in recent years in international literature. Concerning the knowledge of students on water pollution, scarcity, and management, lyceum students excel their counterparts of gymnasium. On addressing pollution and water scarcity, the lyceum students present a more positive attitude. This perhaps is due to the fact that lyceum students have stricter judgment than their gymnasium counterparts.
Keywords: Environmental educationpollutionwater scarcity
In the modern world of mass production and over consumption the influence of industrial growth and technological progress on the environment is evident. Every human action involving the excessive use of mineral and natural resources coupled with their by products, has serious consequences including irreparable damage to entire ecosystems (UNEP, 2011). These problems include climate change, pollution by toxic chemicals (Diamond, 2006: 20-21∙ Larrère, 2011: 43), change of use for natural ecosystems (Green et al., 2005), reduction of biodiversity at a threatening rate (Thomas et al., 2004∙ Dunn, 2005), social disorder (Georgopoulos et al., 2014), expansion of poverty (Dahl, 2009∙ Royal Society, 2012), environmental refugees (Petrakou, 2012) etc. Considering these issues, many researchers note that the worsening of environmental problems threatens the survival of all life on earth (Suzuki, 2010∙ Koroneos & Rokos, 2012∙ Griggs et al., 2013∙ IPCC, 2014).
The qualitative and quantitative environmental degradation increasingly exposes terrestrial and underground freshwater stocks and planet’s aquatic ecosystems to significant risks (Corcoran et al., 2010). Water, although it is a primary asset for all life, and especially for humans, as it offers food, health, entertainment, culture, and improves the standard of living, it gets littered, polluted and eventually turned into waste mainly through industrial activity and energy production (Tzaberis et al., 2010).
It cannot be denied that the combination of continuous degradation of water quality, the growing demand for water, and the scarcity of water limits the economic and social development of a region (Singh, 2007). Worldwide, it is estimated that in the last century water demand increased tenfold due to the rising needs in agriculture, industry, and modern lifestyle (Psilovikos, 2006). Solving the water problem appears tragically compelling when one considers that the world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 (UNFPA, 2009), while official estimates indicate that 7 billion people will be facing water scarcity by that time (Vesterager, 2009).
Seeking solutions, attention turns towards Integrated Water Resources Management with the objective to balance supply and demand based on three categories of action (Thomas & Durham, 2003): protection through the development of local water resources, reduction of demand and finding alternative resources. The last action includes water reuse of treated wastewater and rainwater (Bakir, 2001· Zhou & Tol, 2005· Gikas & Tchobanoglous, 2009· Alfarra et al., 2011). The integrated management of water resources is considered a system of analysis and action planning that is part of the environmental, economic, institutional, social and technological context of the area (Davis, 2007). In recent years, in particular, it is gaining importance as its political and social character becomes increasingly recognized (Davis, 2007· Mollinga et al., 2007· Saravanan et al., 2009). However, a management plan to be successful and timely, it should include a self-evaluation and improvement mechanism (Georgakakos, 2006).
In order to implement essential solutions, knowledge, awareness and a positive attitude is required that is based on a code of ethics for all organisms and ecosystems (Kaila et al., 2005: 11). A prerequisite for dealing effectively with environmental problems is the development of ethical values (Jickling et al., 2006), and it can be established through appropriate education (Stevenson, 2007). Education for the environment and its sustainability with appropriate methods and teaching techniques (Sauvé, 2002· Mogias, 2011) constitutes an important medium that can bring profound changes in human society by enhancing its connection to nature on a consistently sustainable basis (Dahl, 2012· Huckle, 2010: 136). The challenge in this educational process is to understand the concept of sustainability (Flogaiti & Liarakou, 2012). Furthermore the principal agent for implementing environmental education programmes, in order to accelerate reaching the goal of global sustainability is the school (Arbuthnott, 2010).
In view that every research in environmental education can contribute to improving the efficiency of the programmes, the aim of this survey is to investigate and record the knowledge and attitudes of gymnasium (14-15 year olds) and lyceum (16-17 year olds) students on issues related to water pollution, scarcity and management, and the comparison of data from these two sample groups.
The sample consists of 581 students with a participation rate of 49.7% gymnasium and 50.3% lyceum school students. The research population was selected from Rhodes northern triangle; this choice was dictated by the fact that this urban complex concentrates the largest population of the island leading to the greatest water consumption, more drilling, a large production waste, and six wastewater treatment plants.
The case study is the research’s basic methodology and the questionnaire was chosen as the most appropriate tool for data collection. The questionnaire consists of 19 main questions, prepared in accordance with specific instructions from the literature (Papanastasiou & Papanastasiou, 2014: 64-67), in order to cover the research topics. It aims to gather insight on three types of information: knowledge, values and preferences, attitudes and beliefs. The final questionnaire was administered during the period 3-29 March 2014 through researchers personally visiting gymnasiums and lyceums of Rhodes.
The statistical data processing was performed using the SPSS application. In terms of statistical inference and relevance test between two categorical variables statistical criterion χ2 was used (Andreadakis & Vamvoukas, 2005: 72-73). To test the relationship between a categorical variable with two levels and one variable at a five-point Likert measurement scale the t-test for independent samples was used after meeting the required conditions. For correlating two variables at the five-point Likert scale the correlation index ρ of Spearman was calculated.
Description and analysis of the results
The differences among gymnasium and lyceum students were found statistically significant in several cases. In particular, the good quality of water was recognised well, according to official data of the Water Company by 42.8% of lyceum students in relation to 27.7% of gymnasium students (χ2(1) = 14.55,
The results to the open sub-question "
It is observed that the highest percentage (64.2%) of the sample refrain from documenting the knowledge they claim to have. Of those who respond to the question 21.5% have a wrong approach and 14.3% a correct one. The differences between the two groups were found to be statistically significant (χ2 (2) = 8,97,
The question "They say that in the future there will be many conflicts mainly about..." attempts to explore the sample’s knowledge on water scarcity. Students are allowed to choose more than one answer among the proposed, as indicated in Table
The differences shown in Table
The respondents are facing a dilemma: "The Judge Aristides D. is concerned whether he should impose a higher fine to the responsible of the small industry for polluting the lake or to the offender who cuts trees in the protected Natura area.»
This question seeks to detect the attitudes of the sample groups regarding the seriousness of water pollution. Students are asked to adopt the role of a judge assessing the gravity of the offense and impose the appropriate fine. The decisions of the sampled students are presented in the following tables.
Based on the results of Table
In regards to illegal logging, from the results of Table
The question "Which of the following enrages you more?" attempts to trace the attitudes of the sampled students on water scarcity and the importance of water efficiency. Respondents are asked to score their degree of indignation on each of the listed issues counting from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most important. For the purposes of the research question five topics for evaluation are proposed: the garbage on the beaches, the lack of recycling bins in a city, water running uncontrollably from a pipe on the sidewalk, the lack of infrastructure for people with disabilities and the stench of sewers.
From the survey results analysis, in terms of the students’ knowledge, it is observed that the majority of students have considerable shortcomings and misunderstandings in their knowledge on local ecosystems and the issues related to water quality and water sufficiency on the island of Rhodes. Students seem to know that urban waste water is an important factor that significantly pollutes the planet. Also, students recognize the impact of dumping municipal sewage directly into the sea without treatment, i.e the disturbance of marine biodiversity and the negative effects on human health from infectious diseases. Furthermore, results indicate that students have knowledge on water scarcity, which concerns water efficiency, saving, and recovery. Fewer than half of the sampled students know that future conflicts will be about water, and that the citizen’s behavior may cause water shortage in an area. Additionally, few know about the possibility of recycling waste water. Concerning the sources for acquiring knowledge about environmental issues, students primarily mention school and family. Results indicate that the lyceum school students appear to possess more knowledge regarding water as compared to their younger, gymnasium counterparts.
Regarding attitudes towards the environment, the survey indicates that students are in general terms positive. In particular, the attitudes of lyceum students present them as more sensitized than gymnasium students towards almost all the issues related to water pollution, water scarcity and integrated water management. In many cases lyceum students appear to be harsher critics in comparison to gymnasium students as to the attribution of responsibility for environmental problems, the measures to be taken, and penalties to be imposed. However, students do not justify their choices often.
- Alfarra, A., Kemp-Benedict, E., Hotzl, H., Sader, N. & Sonneveld, B. (2011). A framework for Wastewater Reuse in Jordan: Utilizing a modified Wastewater Reuse Index. Water Resources Management, 25, 1153-1167.
- Andreadakis, N. & Vamvoukas, M. (2005). Guide for the composition of written research dissertation: for seminars and diplomas [in greek]. Athens: Atrapos.
- Arbuthnott, K. D. (2010). Taking the long view: Environmental sustainability and delay of gratification. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 10(1), 4-22.
- Bakir, H. A. (2001). Sustainable wastewater management for small communities in the Middle East and North Africa. Journal of Environmental Management, 61, 319-328.
- Corcoran, E., Nellemann, C., Baker, E., Bos, R., Osborn, D. & Savelli, H. (eds). (2010). Sick Water? The central role of wastewater management in sustainable development. A Rapid Response Assessment. United Nations Environment Programme, UN-HABITAT, GRID-Arendal.
- Dahl, A. (2009). The financial crisis and consumer citizenship. In A. Klein & V. W. Thoresen (eds), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the Consumer Citizenship Network ‘Making a Difference: Putting Consumer Citizenship into Action (pp. 20-25). Berlin, 23-24 March 2009.
- Dahl, A. (2012). Alternatives to the consumer society. Paper presented at the PERL 2nd International Conference, Berlin, 19-20 March 2012.
- Davis, M. (2007). Integrated water resource management and water sharing. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 133(5), 427-445.
- Diamond, J. (2006). Collapse. How societies choose to fail or suceed [in greek]. Athens: Katoptro.
- Dunn, R. (2005). Modern insect extinctions, the neglected majority. Conservation Biology, 19, 1030-1036.
- Flogaiti, E. & Liarakou, C. (Eds) (2012). Research in education for sustainable development [in greek]. Athens: Pedio.
- Georgakakos, A. P. (2006). Decision Support Systems for Integrated Water Resources Management with an application to the Nile Basin. In A. Castelletti & R. Soncini-Sessa (eds.), Topics on system analysis and integrated water resource management (pp. 99-116). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Georgopoulos, A., Nickolaou, K., Dimitriou, A., Gavrilakis, K., Blionis, G. (2014). Earth. A small and fragile planet [in greek]. Athens: Gutenberg.
- Gikas, P. & Tchobanoglous, G. (2009). Sustainable use of water in the Aegean Islands. Journal of Environmental Management, 90, 2601-2611.
- Green, R. E., Cornell, S. J., Scharlemann, J. P. W. & Balmford, A. (2005). Farming and the fate of wild nature. Science, 307, 550-555.
- Griggs, D., Stafford-Smith, M., Gaffney, O., Rockström, J., Öhman, M. C. et al. (2013). Policy: Sustainable development goals for people and planet. Nature, 495, 305–307.
- Huckle, J. (2010). ESD and the current crisis of capitalism: Teaching beyond Green New Deals. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 4, 135-142.
- IPCC-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. IPCC. Accessed on 29/7/2014 at http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/.
- Jickling, B., Lotz-Sisitka, H., O’Donoghue, R. & Ogbuigwe, A. (2006). Environmental Education, Ethics, and Action: A Workbook to Get Started. Nairobi: UNEP.
- Kaila, M, Theodoropoulou, E., Dimitriou, D., Xanthakou, Y. & Anastasatos, N. (2005). Environmental education: research data and educational planning [in greek]. Athens: Atrapos.
- Koroneos, C. J. & Rokos, D. (2012). Sustainable and integrated development. A critical analysis. Sustainability, 4(1), 141-153.
- Larrère, C. (2011). Respect or responsibility? What ethics for the environment? [in greek] In E. Theodoropoulou, M. Kaila, M. Bonnet & C. Larrère (eds.), Environmental Ethics: from research and theory to application (pp. 41-67). Athens: Diadrasi.
- Mogias, A. (2011). Historical flashback in Science and Environmental Education: Is it a matter of competitive or cooperative relationship? The example of Marine Education [in greek], In 7th Pan-Hellenic Conference of Science and New Technologies Education “Educational Research and Practice Interactions in Natural Sciences”, Alexandroupoli, 15-17 April, 2011.
- Mollinga, P., Meinzen-Dick, R. S. & Merrey, J. D. (2007). Politics plurality and problemsheds: A strategic approach for reform of agricultural water resources management. Development Policy Review, 25, 699-719.
- Papanastasiou, K. & Papanastasiou, E. (2014). Methodology of educational research [in greek]. Nicosia.
- Petrakou, H. (2012). Migration and environment [in greek]. In A. Dimitriou, G. Xanthakou, G. Liarakou & M. Kaila (eds), Environmental education: theory issues, research and applications (pp. 86-105). Athens: Diadrasi.
- Psilovikos, A. (2006). Response matrix minimization used in groundwater management with mathematical programming. A case study in a transboundary aquifer in Northern Greece. Water Resources Management, 20(2), 277-290.
- Royal Society (2012). People and the planet. Report 01/12. The Royal Society Science Policy Centre.
- Saravanan, V. S., McDonald, G. T. & Mollinga, P. P. (2009). Critical review of integrated water resources management: Moving beyond polarised discourse. Natural Resources Forum 33, 76–86.
- Sauvé, L. (2002). Environmental education: possibilities and constraints. Connect, XXV11, 1/2: 1-4.
- Singh, R. (2007). Sustainable fuel cell integrated membrane desalination systems. Desalination, 227 (1-3), 14-33.
- Stevenson, R. (2007). Schooling and environmental/sustainability education: From discourses of policy and practice to discourses of professional learning. Environmental Education Research, 13(2), 265-285.
- Suzuki, D. (2010). The legacy. An elder’s vision for our sustainable future. Greystone Books.
- Thomas, J. A., Telfer, M. G., Roy, D. B., Preston, C. D., Greenwood, J. J. D., Asher, J. Fox, R., Clarke, R. T. & Lawton, J. H. (2004). Comparative losses of British butterflies, birds, and plants and the global extinction crisis. Science, 303, 1879-1881.
- Thomas, J. S. & Durham, B. (2003). Integrated water resource management: looking at the whole picture. Desalination, 156, 21-28.
- Tzaberis, N., Tatarakis, N., Consolas, N. & Tzaberi, N. (2010). The contribution of Rhodes municipal wastewater treatment plant in the protection of the aquifer and coastal ecosystems from pollution. Knowledge and opinions of the employees in the unit area [in greek]. 1st National Conference with International participation "Local Communities & Higher Educational Institutions: Coexistence for sustainable development". Rhodes, 23-24 April 2010.
- UNEP (2011). Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20 (1992-2012). Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme UNEP), Nairobi.
- UNFPA (2009). State of World Population 2009 - Facing a changing world: women, population and climate. Accessed on 10th May 2011 at http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2009/en/pdf/EN_SOWP09.pdf.
- Vesterager, O. (2009). Method of recovering phosphate from biomass, WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/004027. Accessed on 12/3/2013 at http://www.wipo.int/patentscope/search/en/ WO2009004027.
- Zhou, Y. & Tol, R. S. J. (2005). Evaluating the costs of desalination and water transport. Water Resources Research, 41(3).
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
About this article
Cite this paper as:
Click here to view the available options for cite this article.