PERCEIVED LEVEL AND STRATEGIES OF INFORMATION OF YOUNG BELGIAN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS ABOUT SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ISSUES
University of Mons (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:In response to the global economic, social and environmental crises and to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, strengthening Education for Sustainable Development is a strategy promoted by the United Nations. This thematic learning has been progressively integrated into school curricula. So, in the French-speaking part of Belgium too, various pedagogical activities relating to an environmental education for sustainable development were increasingly implemented during compulsory schooling (Vladimirova & Le Blanc, 2016; Diemer et al., 2017; Cebrián, 2019; FWB, 2020). At the same time, more and more young people involved in the "Youth For Climate" movement have mobilized during the recent months to publicly express their expectations for political measures in favour to the fight against global warming. Furthermore, two recent surveys have highlighted many misunderstandings of the issues of sustainable development among young Belgian people (Aped, 2015; 2019). These results led us to question the perceived level of information, the information strategies and the sense of confidence in the future shown by the students of our University, more precisely regarding topics related to SDG7 (energy) and SDG13 (climate change). Based on survey method, a questionnaire was sent, in digital format, to all students in the University's Bachelor's degree programmes. 363 students, enrolled in the seven Faculties and Schools of the University, fulfilled it. They are 20.29 years old in average. Most of the subjects are women (263/363: 72.5%). Our first results show that, overall, students consider themselves only moderately informed about energy consumption and production (score of 5.28/10 in average) and slightly more informed about climate change (6.40/10). We can also observe disparities in the results according to their individual characteristics, including their gender: women consider themselves less informed in both cases (with mean scores of 4.95 and 6.24, compared to 6.14 and 6.84 for men). We note a common trend showing a low level of consultation of official information sources: most subjects indicate that they are rarely, if ever, interested in official reports from organisations active in the field of environmental protection (258/363: 71.07%) or from international institutions such as UN, IPCC, NASA... (298/363: 82.09%). Few of them consult, often or always, information published on social networks by these organisations (99/363: 27.27%) or institutions (57/363: 15.70%). More particularly, we observe some disparities between students in their perception of their university courses as a source of information, which can probably be explained by disciplinary specificities. Finally, regardless of their personal characteristics, students consider that they are not very optimistic about the consequences of climate change (score of 4.16/10 in average) and the depletion of energy resources (3.94/10). They are more optimistic about prospecting for solutions through the development of renewable energies (6.24/10). These first outcomes therefore indicate that, despite an obvious worry and a claimed interest in these issues, students do not seem to be able to develop their level of knowledge by becoming fully and autonomously informed. The University could therefore take on an educational responsibility by helping the students to develop a rigorous and critical approach to information retrieval about these issues.
Keywords: Sustainable development, climate change, energy, university students, information strategies.