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Depiction of Health. 2023;14(4): 451-466.
doi: 10.34172/doh.2023.35
  Abstract View: 509
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Environmental/Occupational Health

Original Article

The Status of Environmental Literacy and its Relationship with Environmental Ethics among Secondary Education Schools Students

Mohammad Aqanaghad 1* ORCID logo, Robab Hamzehnezad 2 ORCID logo, Ali Rezaii 3 ORCID logo, Mohammad Amin Seyflou 1 ORCID logo

1 Department of Environmental Health, Faculty of Khoy Medical Sciences, Khoy, Iran
2 Khoy City Education Management, Khoy, Iran
3 Department of Educational Sciences, Farhangian University, Selmas, Iran
*Corresponding Author: Email: aqanaghad.eh@gmail.com

Abstract

Background. In order to adopt an educational program to promote students' environmental culture, the status of students’ environmental conservation literacy should be determined. Hence, this research aimed to evaluate the environmental conservation literacy and its relationship with environmental ethics among secondary education schools students, as young generation, in a Middle East country.
Methods. This descriptive survey was conducted in Khoy, a city in the central district of Khoy County, West Azerbaijan province, Iran, in 2022. The sample size was determined using Cochran's statistic and comprised of 350 individuals selected in two stages from a pool of 14,000 students. The data collection tool was a researcher-made questionnaire about environmental knowledge, attitude, performance, and ethics. Three environmental and three education specialists used the content validity rate (CVR) assessment form to assess the validity of the questionnaire; the questionnaire validity index was calculate 0.79. The reliability of the questionnaire was also conducted through pilot research, and its value was calculated using Cronbach's alpha test as 0.76. The data was analyzed with nonparametric statistical tests such as the Mann-Whitney test in SPSS version of 22.
Results. The average scores of environmental knowledge, attitude, performance and ethics were respectively: 87.6, 84.5, 50.6 and 82%. Between these four variables, there is a significant correlation with the correlation coefficients of knowledge and attitude 0.51, knowledge and behavior 0.2, knowledge and ethics 0.36, attitude and behavior 0.47, attitude and ethics 0.51, and behavior and ethics 0.47 was obtained. With the increase of the educational level, the knowledge score increased, but it had no effect on the other three variables. The variable of education level of students' parents showed a positive effect only on the knowledge component. The difference in the knowledge, attitude and ethics scores of boys and girls was not significant, but the behavior score of boys was 5% higher. There was no significant relationship between the scores of all four variables and the financial status of the student’s family.
Conclusion. The first secondary school students of Khoy city had a relatively favorable level of knowledge, attitude and ethics (score 85%), but the level of environmental performance was weak (50.6%). Therefore, it is inferred that the acquired knowledge and attitude is not deep and effective to lead to the desired improvement of environmental conservation behavior. So, it is necessary to be cultured children's environmental literacy from the preschool and elementary school levels.

Extended Abstract
Background
Today, according to environmental experts, one of the best ways to protect the environment is to promote environmental literacy and an environment-friendly lifestyle. In order to institutionalize the culture of environmental health conservation in society, it is imperative to educate students, especially primary school students, on the necessary attitudes and skills for favorable environmental health behavior. Assessing students' environmental literacy and performance before implementing the best educational plan to teach them about environmental conservation is necessary. This research aims to evaluate the status of the environmental conservation literacy and ethics of the secondary education schools students.
Methods
This research was carried out as a cross-sectional survey during the fall season of 2022. Using Cochran's formula, the sample size for this study was estimated at 350 participants, who were chosen in two phases from a pool of 14,000 guidance school students in Khoy, Iran. The tool for data collection was a researcher-made questionnaire, which included 15 closed questions in each of the four sections: knowledge, attitude, behavior, and environmental ethics. It was reviewed by education and environment experts, and the necessary modifications were made. The validity of the questionnaire was confirmed by six experts based on the three criteria of simplicity, specificity, and clarity for each question, and its content validity index (CVI) was higher than 0.79. Thirty students from all three grades at the guidance school who were similar to the study group were given the questionnaire to fill out in order to establish the validity of the questions. The reliability value was calculated as 0.76 using Cronbach's alpha test, which is favorable. Then, questionnaires were provided to students at the schools that had been chosen based on the economic and social diversity of the city as well as the gender distribution among the student population. Finally, 33 students were selected randomly from each school and 11 students from each educational grade. After receiving instructions from the researcher, students filled out the surveys on their own. The data were analyzed using the SPSS 26 software. Due to the non-normal distribution of all data, the data were analyzed with non-parametric statistical tests, including Spearman, Cross-Calvaris, and Mann-Whitney correlation.
Results
The results showed that students have learned environmental literacy, respectively, through media and virtual space, family and friends, textbooks, teachers, and friends and classmates. The average scores of environmental knowledge, attitude, ethics, and behavior were 87.6, 84.5, 82, and 50.6, respectively. The p-values of all variables were zero, and the correlation coefficients of variables were as follows: 0.51 for knowledge and attitude, 0.51 for attitude and ethics, 0.2 for knowledge and behavior, 0.36 for knowledge and ethics, 0.47 for attitude and behavior, and 0.47 for behavior and ethics. This shows a direct and meaningful relationship between the four variables. There exists a positive correlation between the educational attainment of students and their level of environmental knowledge. However, there was no statistically significant difference observed in the average scores of environmental attitude, behavior, and ethics across educational levels. Additionally, it was shown that the rise in educational level did not have any impact on these three variables. The difference among the variables' averages in relation to parents' education levels was significant only in environmental knowledge. Also, parents' education had a positive effect on knowledge but no effect on the other variables. There was no significant difference observed in the scores of environmental knowledge, attitude, and ethics between male and female students, suggesting that both genders performed equally in these areas. However, it is noteworthy that males exhibited a considerably higher behavior score (5%) compared to females. There was no meaningful relationship between the scores of environmental literacy and ethics and the financial status of the students’ family, suggesting that a family's financial level did not have a significant effect on students' environmental literacy and ethics. Among the four sections of the questionnaire, environmental knowledge exhibited the highest average score. This shows that students are more aware of environmental issues, especially those that are more tangible and normal. Also, it can be concluded that the students are more familiar with questions that are directly related to the environment. In other words, they do not have knowledge and sensitivity on macro and global environmental issues.
Conclusion
Although the students' environmental performances are lacking, their environmental knowledge, attitude, and ethics are generally good. This demonstrates that even raising the educational attainment of parents and students has not improved students' environmental conservation conduct and ethics because the knowledge and attitude that they have gained are not profound or powerful enough. Consequently, it is imperative that students be instructed in environmental literacy from elementary school through the culmination of secondary education, tailoring the curriculum to students' literacy and comprehension levels. Teaching should take place in the classroom, at home, through textbooks, and through the media. In particular, environmental literacy issues and content should not only be taught at an understanding level but also progressively instill environmental care habits in children from elementary school to the end of high school.
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Submitted: 28 Aug 2023
Revision: 16 Oct 2023
Accepted: 09 Dec 2023
ePublished: 13 Dec 2023
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