Perceptions of youth about the integration of natural resource economics through environmental education in schools: a realist social perspective

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The purpose of this paper is to delineate the perceptions of grade 12 students about the integration of environmental economics through environmental education into the South African Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). Margaret Archer’s (1995) Realist social theory (RST): the morphogenetic approach provides the meta-theoretical framework that informs this study. RST deals with the concepts of structure, culture, agency, pre-existing structures, position-practice systems and mechanisms that have impact on the economic growth and welfare of the society. Data was collected through focus-group interviews with ten students who were purposefully selected from a classroom of 80 students. In addition, a qualitative research approach was used in this study to describe perception of youth about proper utilisation of scarce natural resources. The inductive analysis approach was used to interpret raw data sourced from the participants.The results of this paper revealed that even though youth have been taught principles of environmental education which consist of natural resource economics as a cross-curricular topic, some do not appreciate the importance of efficient use of natural resources in the reduction of poverty and welfare of future generation. Further, the youth believe that environmental issues such as land degradation, water and air pollution, and improper solid waste disposal can be alleviated through activities that can be done outside the classroom. However, some participants noted that the local government has to provide financial support for programmes that encourage natural resource sustainability in the schools.

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