Do Higher Levels of Education Make People Environment-Friendly?

In general, people are probably reluctant to adopt those eco-friendly behaviour that have a significant personal cost, even though they are aware of the importance of doing so. This is evident from the correlations seen in empirical studies between environmental attitude and low-cost pro-environmental behaviour (e.g. recycling).

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Sustainable development implies a development path which does not reduce or compromise the well-being of future generations or their own ability to live sustainably. Does education,2 in general (which includes schooling and different streams of higher education), contribute to such sustainable development? Are educated people, on an average (after controlling for other differences), concerned more about the issues of environmental sustainability and willing to take actions in this regard in comparison with the less educated? What about the impact of education, which is specifically aimed at sustainable development, for example, environmental education? These are the questions taken up in this essay.

These questions can be answered theoretically and/​or empirically. Moreover, there could be different pathways through which education influences human behaviour. For example, an educated person may be in a position to respond in a more informed manner to the needs of the context, and such an enhanced capability may reflect in his/​her actions. Education can lead to a certain moral or value-based transformation of individuals and may encourage them to be pro-active in protecting the environment. Education may encourage individuals to think more deeply and independently about such matters and so help them to better understand their own position vis-à-vis environmental conservation. There is a need to consider these different pathways, though it is uncertain whether these can be realistically captured in empirical studies.

There could also be different methodological approaches in this regard. Understanding the values internalized by human beings (and comparing these between people with different levels of education) could be one approach. Educationally speaking, values and attitudes lead to behavioural intentions and these provide a wealth of research. Assessing the actual actions of individuals in specific contexts and analysing their determinants, including education, could be another method.

Does education reduce material consumption?

Educational status, in theory, could play an important role in the consumption pattern of individuals. There can be different pathways in this regard. First, education could be a substitute for conspicuous consumption as far as the social signalling role is concerned. Or educated people need not depend fully on conspicuous consumption to signal their status in society. Education or consequent academic capabilities can also be a source of happiness, and hence, there could be a lesser need to depend on material consumption for educated people to achieve a given level of happiness. Educational level is associated with the consumption of high-culture products, such as opera, theatre, ballet, and classical music (NEA, 1999; Ferrá, 2000). However, education may also enhance the aspiration levels, which may result in higher levels of consumption. This may then lead to increased consumption. Given these contradictory possibilities, the actual empirical evidence on the relationship between education and consumption may depend on the contextual factors (for specific groups of people).

Higher education, in theory, could lead to greater happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and reduced risk of depression. There is some empirical evidence too in this regard (Sabates & Hammond, 2008). These positive effects of education could be due to higher income, non-alienating work, household composition, health behaviours and use of health services, emotional resilience, social capabilities and probably better physical health among older adults. However, there are counter possibilities too. Adults with higher qualifications may report relatively low job satisfaction, raised aspirations and expectations that are unmet.

It is well known that education leads to non-monetary or non-income benefits (Wolfe and Zuvekas, 1995; Ferra, 2000). These may increase the efficiency of consumption, as education could be an input into the process of consumption. This view may conceive education leading to a higher benefit for a given level of consumption. In that sense, this increased efficiency can reduce the quantum of consumption for a given level of utility. Or education provides the possibility of leading a relatively happier life with a given level of consumption. If it is so, it may indicate some substitutability between education and consumption. Does it happen in reality? A review or meta-analysis of 28 studies on the possible relationship between a higher level of education and happiness in life conducted by Veenhoven and Bakkar (1997) does not provide any conclusive evidence. Instead of a universally positive relationship between higher education and happiness, there were a variety of results. According to this review, nineteen studies reported a positive relationship, eight do not find any relationship at all and one finds a negative one. They could see the happiness-effect of education highest in the underdeveloped countries, and that it has almost disappeared in the western world. The study in the Netherlands found a negative relationship between the level of education and happiness. The impact of higher education is most negative in the upper classes of society and among younger women who have experienced a social degradation from the upper to the middle class.

Frey and Stutzer (2002) conclude that though education allows individuals to adapt to changing environments (and hence, should ideally enhance well-being), there could be an increase in aspiration levels (which may affect happiness negatively). Hence, as noted in Clark and Oswald (1994), highly educated unemployed may report lower levels of subjective well-being than the less educated. Other studies such as Helliwell (2003) could not see an association between education and life-satisfaction. As noted by Stutzer (2004), highly educated individuals are likely to be healthier and earn higher incomes, but may have significantly higher aspirations, compared to less educated people. The former are more likely to feel rushed for time and may hold greater responsibilities in the workplace and may engage in more stressful activities (Oreopoulos and Salvanes, 2011). These could be the probable reasons for reducing the happiness of educated people. This can encourage them to increase material consumption as a way to enhance happiness, which in turn could be harmful for the natural environment.

However, Stutzer (2004) has indicated that education may affect life satisfaction indirectly through income, health, employment and social capital (perceived trust and social participation). Similarly, Veenhoven (2010), though could not find a linear pattern between education and subjective well-being, suggested that the effect of educational attainment on happiness may be non-linear. Salinas-Jiménez et al (2011) too have studied the relationship between education and happiness. They see education affecting happiness through investment and consumption routes. Gains in income, employment and occupational status and health are reflections of investment benefits. They view education as a positional’ good which may not provide utility per se but as an instrument for status. This would mean that status-related consumption needs may become important among the higher educated groups. These authors note from their empirical analysis that education attainment is significantly and positively associated with happiness only for those income classes with low-average education, which confirms their hypothesis. Cuñado and Pérez-de-Gracia (2012) too see a non-linear relationship between education and happiness and that education makes a difference just for individuals with lower levels of education. Their study analysed the impact of education on happiness in Spain using individual-level data from the European Social Survey. They found that people with a higher level of education have higher income levels and a higher probability of being employed, and thus, report higher levels of happiness. After controlling for income, labour status and other socio-economic variables, education is found to have a positive (and direct) impact on happiness. They see this as the evidence of a self-confidence’ or self-estimation’ effect from acquiring knowledge/​education. According to their study, the direct impact of education on happiness does not depend on the level of education (primary, secondary or tertiary).

However, there are arguments as in Michalos (2008) that the lack of apparent connect between education and happiness is due to what we consider as education, and how do we measure happiness and the impact of education. According to him, education’ as reckoned in this regard needs to include formal, non-formal and informal education (which involve learning outside of any course-work, from news media, works of art and culture, work-related training and experiences, social interaction and routine as well as extra-ordinary life experiences). For him, happiness’ or general wellbeing should involve, living well and doing well’ by enjoying goods of the mind (e.g., wisdom, moral virtue and pleasure), goods of the body (e.g., physical beauty, health and pleasure again) and external goods (e.g., wealth and adequate material resources, good parents and families, good friends, peace and security within and between communities, and well-governed communities). According to him, education has an enormous influence on happiness, given these more robust definitions of education’ and happiness’. However, this is a normative idea and it is not easy to get systematic empirical evidence for such a proposition.

Hartog and Oosterbeek (1997) have analysed the effect of schooling on health, wealth and happiness for a cohort of Dutch individuals born around 1940 (after controlling for childhood IQ and family background). Those with a non-vocational intermediate level education scored highest on health, wealth and happiness. (It is interesting to note that IQ and family background affect wealth but not health and happiness.) Compared to men, women are less wealthy, equally healthy but clearly happier. Rather than considering education, in general, there have been efforts to estimate the impacts of the additional years of schooling generated through mandatory schooling legislation on happiness. One such study conducted in Australia finds the net effect of schooling on subjective well-being to be positive, and the effect to be larger (and statistically more robust) for men than for women (Powdthavee et al., 2013). They see this as an outcome mediated through the additional income through schooling. Though they have seen the positive impact on education on other aspects, like the reduction of risk, improvement of males’ memory and executive functioning at older ages, they did not see any statistical evidence of a positive effect of education on a measure of the quality of life that comprises four domains (control, autonomy, self-realization and pleasure).

In general, the evidence on the relationship between education and happiness is mixed. There are scholars who have found a positive and significant association between education and self-reported happiness and life satisfaction using different data sets and for different time periods (for example, Easterlin, 2001; Ferrer-i- Carbonell, 2005). However, there are other studies which have seen either a negative or an insignificant effect of education on happiness, job satisfaction, and different measures of mental health (for example, Clark and Oswald, 1996; Clark, 2003; Flouri, 2004). Hence, there are other contextual factors that may be leading to these divergent pictures. Factors such as personality traits, intelligence, aspirations and motivation, which may also determine how individuals evaluate their mental health and happiness, and results of studies may diverge depending on whether these and other probable determinants are accounted for or not (Dolan et al, 2008; Oreopoulos and Salvanes, 2011).

Linkages have been drawn between certain personality traits and consumption behaviour. Gangai and Agrawal (2016) examined the extent to which personality traits and gender influence impulsive purchasing behaviour among consumers. They concluded that, for both male and female, traits of psychoticism and neuroticism have a greater influence on impulse buying behaviour as compared to extraversion. Given that personality traits change most rapidly during late adolescence and young adulthood (Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006), is it possible for education during these years to nurture personality traits like openness and conscientiousness which have been linked to more pro-environmental actions? In essence, there seems to be no clear evidence on whether education works as a substitute for higher levels of material consumption.

Does education encourage pro-environmental actions?

Those who have higher levels of education are likely to have more extensive knowledge about environmental issues. Does this enhanced knowledge of environmental issues foster a pro-environmental behaviour in these people?

There may not be a direct relationship between knowledge of the environment and pro-environmental behaviour as noted in Fietkau and Kessel (1981). Environmental concerns (or the consequent readiness to change behaviour or take action) could be influenced by a number of factors including demographic, ideological and other characteristics of individuals, in addition to their economic backgrounds.

Among these, age and education are expected to be related to environmental awareness and both seem to be associated with environmental attitudes (DEFRA, 2010; Hirsh, 2010; Mobley, Vagias & DeWard, 2010). Age seems to be negatively related to environmental concern and education positively related. Several recent research projects in developed and developing countries using the revised New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) Scale have found positive relationships between general educational status and ecological worldview (see for example, Reyna et al., 2017). What makes older people on an average lesser concerned about environmental issues? This could be due to a familiarity with the social life earlier where such environmental concerns are not that deep, lower levels of awareness of such issues compared to younger adults, the lack of a longer-term vision, and so on. Though gender seemed to have an influence, the evidence does not indicate a consistent direction of the impact (Davidson and Freudenburg, 1996; Milfont & Sibley, 2016).

A 2011 assessment in the UK, based on data from more than 22,000 individuals, found that the highly educated are more likely to display their environmental credentials through what they buy rather than with actions such as turning off lights.3 According to this study, people with educational degrees are, on an average, 25 percent more likely (than those with no education) to adopt pro-environmental behaviours in terms of paying more for environmentally friendly products. However, there is no evidence to indicate that people with higher education are likely to turn off the TV overnight or use public transport.

Evidence on the linkage between education and attitude towards (actions required to address) climate change is ambiguous. The literature mentioned above has looked at the impact of education in shaping the concerns about climate change. It is noted by Hamilton (2008) that education does not have a simple positive effect on this concern. The positive role of education, if any, is overshadowed by ideological moorings. Being a strong republican in the US would mean a less likelihood to consider climate change as a serious threat. The reach of Ideologically motivated campaigns to educated sections of party sympathizers is better as compared to the less educated ones. This shows the need to address ideology’ explicitly as part of education.

Education, in general, may not be enough to enhance a concern about the environment. Whether people have desirable environmental awareness and what is the exact nature of it, are important issues. Kempton et al (1995) indicate that most people do not know enough about environmental issues. It is interesting to note that the knowledge on environmental issues of different groups of people, including strong environmentalists and strong anti-environmentalists could be low, as evident from surveys such as Kempton et al (1995). However, it has been noted that detailed technical knowledge need not encourage pro-environmental behaviour (Diekmann & Preisendoerfer,1992; Fliegenschnee & Schelakovsky, 1998). However, there are a few studies which link specific behaviour to knowledge or awareness in this regard (Grob, 1991 and Kaiser et al., 1999). A major driving force for pro-environmental behaviour seems to be situational factors and other internal factors (Fliegenschnee & Schelakovsky, 1998) and not necessarily environmental awareness.

In general, people are probably reluctant to adopt those environment-friendly behaviour that have a significant personal cost, even though they are aware of the importance of doing so. This is evident from the correlations seen in empirical studies between environmental attitude and low-cost pro-environmental behaviour (e.g. recycling). Hence, people who are aware of environmental issues may be willing to engage in activities such as recycling but may be reluctant to change their other activities (like the reduced use of motor cars or flights). However, it has been argued that even such marginal change may be useful as these people who are not willing to make substantial changes in their lifestyle may support political changes, like higher fuel taxes, that are beneficial for the environment (Diekmann and Preisendoerfer, 1992; Diekmann &Franzen, 1999).

The pro-environmental attitude need not necessarily result in pro-environmental behaviour (Van Liere and Dunlap, 1981, Mainieri, Barnett, Valdero, Unipan, Oskamp, 1997). There can be a disconnect between attitude and behaviour. ECLAC (2000) reviews this issue. According to it, the empirical results can be of any one of the following types: a) low correlation among environmental attitude and behaviours; b) different levels of specificity in the measure of attitude and behaviour; c) effects of extraneous variables; and, d) lack of measurement reliability and validity (Mainieri, Barnett, Valdero, Unipan, Oskamp, 1997).

It may be that people are concerned more about their well-being (in the way they define it for themselves) and adopt pro-environmental behaviours which are in alignment with these personal priorities. Or this could be related to their personal belief systems. Even when people are exposed to information on environmental dangers, we may filter in information which is in consonance with our mental frameworks (Festinger, 1957). Hence, information that supports our existing values and mental frameworks is accepted whereas that which contradict our beliefs are rejected. Hence, people with a strong belief in growth and technological solutions may not see the need for, and will be less willing to engage in, pro-environmental behaviour (Gigliotti, 1992, 1994; Grob, 1991).

Another way to look at this issue is to see whether educated people, on an average (after controlling for other relevant factors), are willing to pay more for protecting environmental resources. One such study examined the patterns of willingness to pay across households with different incomes and countries with different levels of GDP, using household-level data from the third round of the World Values Survey (WVS) (Israel and Levinson, 2004). This survey has covered 70,000 respondents in 48 countries. The study found strong relationships between (marginal) willingness to pay (MWTP) for the environment and individual characteristics, such as age, income, and education. It could see more educated respondents, in general, willing to pay higher amounts than those respondents who have less formal education. Another article by Ivanova and Tranter (2004) has seen education as an important indicator of willingness to pay higher taxes. According to them, those with a tertiary degree are more likely than the non-tertiary educated to say that they will pay more tax in nine out of eleven countries. This can also be an indirect indication of the willingness to pay for public goods by people with higher levels of education. Recent research in Greece using the revised NEP scale found positive relationships between NEP score, income and self-reported willingness to pay for the expansion of renewable energy (Ntanos et al., 2019). Whatever the process that contributed to these respondents developing environmental concern (as measured by the NEP) it does correlate to a degree with their willingness to pay for sustainability.

A study by Gifford and Nilsson (2014) has categorized 18 factors which influence pro-environment behaviour into personal and social factors. Personal factors help understand the very complex nature of human beings, their decisions and include childhood experience, knowledge and education, personality and self-construal sense of control, values, political and world views, goals, felt responsibility, cognitive biases, place attachment, age, gender and chosen activities. Social factors include religion, urban – rural differences, norms, social class, proximity to problematic environmental sites and cultural and ethnic variations while trying to understand the problem. There is a hypothesis that childhood experiences influence the formation of different value priorities (Inglehart, 1977, 1997). Experiencing economic hardship, war or social and political upheavals lead to the development of materialist values (Inglehart 1977:23). If it is relevant, then one should not be surprised to see the emerging middle class in the previously poorer countries focusing somewhat excessively on material consumption.4 In that sense, education could play an important role in encouraging the middle and affluent classes of the developing world too to adopt pro-environmental behaviour over time. The mixed evidence on the actual link between education and pro-environmental behaviour evident from this review highlights the need for more conscious efforts to make this link stronger.

There have been debates stating that knowledge about environmental concerns, in itself, does not bring about any change because of the traditional nature of the subject and a non-action-oriented approach to spreading awareness (Kolmuss & Agyeman, 2002). However, Jenson (2012) refuted this, justifying the importance of knowledge; he developed a model underlining four different types of knowledge, namely, existence and spread of environmental problems, identifying root causes, strategies for change, and developing alternatives, claiming that only a combination of all the four types will provide a conducive environment to bring about any realizable change as opposed to the traditional focus of just understanding the existence and spread of problems. If this holds true, the question that arises is does environmental education, which perhaps covers all four kinds of knowledge, lead to more sustainable behaviour?

Does environmental education make people act pro-environmentally?

So far, we have talked about the impact of education, in general, on environmental sustainability. However, there are attempts to make education more focused on environmental and sustainability themes to make the possible link between education and sustainability stronger. Environmental education programs in schools and colleges adopted in different parts of the world are of this kind as are the numerous and more recent efforts towards Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Education for Sustainability (EforS) that form the core of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). Environmental education was defined as a learning process that increases knowledge and awareness about the environment and associated challenges; develops the necessary skills and expertise to address these challenges; and fosters attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take responsible action (UNESCO, 1977). ESD and EforS go further by emphasising that these forms of education are for’ the environment, for social justice or for sustainability, more generally. For the remainder of this section, all of these styles of environmentally or socially focussed education are subsumed into the generic term environmental education’ or EE. There can also be different modes of application of such environmental education: these can be part of school education as an additional subject; or it can be the teaching of other subjects in an environment-friendly manner (as in, greening the curriculum’); or it can include different forms of outdoor education. Though a few of these, like nature walks’ were part of education in different contexts for a long time, conscious efforts to integrate environmental education have started after the late seventies. What is the impact of this environmental education on pro-environmental behaviour or sustainable development? That is the focus of this section.

There were studies in the last century which focused on the impact of EE (Gigliotti, 1990). These attempted to measure students’ environmental knowledge, behaviours, and attitudes and similar constructs. Hattie, March, Neil, and Richards (1997) – a review of 96 studies on the impact of EE found that outdoor programs tend to have a positive impact on adolescents’ behaviour, self-concept, and academic performance. There are also problems with the scope and objectives of this research limiting their usefulness for our purpose. For example, Volk and McBeth (1998) who had reviewed 32 such studies conducted until 1995 found that research has been heavily slanted towards certain topics. Reviewed studies analysed variables that affected students’ environmental attitudes and factual knowledge. Relatively few of the reviewed studies investigated environmentally responsible behaviour. Rickinson (2001) has reviewed 100 studies and Bartosh (2003) reviewed 50 studies and their observations, summarized in Wheeler et al (2007), are also important. They found that, in general, research has been done on the level of students’ factual environmental knowledge, skills and behaviour, NOT on the outcomes of EE programs or determining what factors determine these outcomes; Most studies found relatively low levels of environmental knowledge. Students’ attitudes tend to be pro-environmental but may be less so when the issue has a more direct impact on their lifestyle choices (i.e. vehicle use); Research on behaviour tends to rely on self-reported data.

In general, reviews of studies reported until the 1990s, which measured students’ environmental knowledge, attitude and behaviour, do not see an improved understanding of environmental issues among them (Wheeler et al, 2007). However, there are other individual studies which note that environmental education may lead not only to increased awareness of environmental issues but also to improved environmental behaviour.5 According to these studies, both formal and non-formal environmental education were able to affect thoughts about environmental issues and associated actions of students.

Wheeler et al (2007) also provide a review of 20 studies conducted after 1990. According to them, many of these studies did not test for statistical significance or have relied on small sample sizes. They also note that very few studies controlled for other factors such as gender, socioeconomic status, age, and level of achievement prior to participation in EE. However, 18 among these studies indicate a correlation between participation in EE and improved academic achievement. According to them, EE may increase learning achievement for both high-ranking and low-ranking students. This was found to be especially so for mathematics and science achievement.6 Fifteen studies provide some evidence that environmental education has a positive impact on students’ self-esteem, motivation and engagement. Improved achievement and other benefits of environmental education could be due to the experiential nature of EE programs, which frequently involved outdoor/​adventure activities as opposed to traditional classroom learning. There were eight studies in this review which have analysed the impact of EE programs on students’ civic engagement and community action.

All these studies reported some evidence that participation in specific EE programs could increase civic engagement. However, most of the studies used self-reported data on civic engagement. There were a number of methodological problems in these studies and none of them could be called robust. There are study samples where parents have reported that their wards who have participated in outdoor-science programs engage in significantly positive pro-environmental actions at home. Pre-post behaviour-checklist analysis carried out by Smith (1995) has indicated that students became more responsible, more considerate and trusting of others, more independent, better able to establish rapport with adults, better able to control anger, more enthusiastic about life, more relaxed and calm, and capable of some insight into their problems. According to Battersby (1999) students developed a sense of ownership of the world and of responsibility through EE, which allowed students to express their opinions, feelings and concerns and demonstrate their values. Billig, Root and Jesse (2005) have explored the impact of different community action projects on students. Such students who select these projects develop better civic knowledge than students who work on environmental projects. On the other hand, students who participate in environmental projects develop a better attachment to the community than those who work on civic issues. Grassi, Hanley and Liston (2004) document that students and parents have reported increased engagement in the community as an outcome of such education programs.

The American Institutes for Research (2005) which studied students who have attended a stewardship program show that there is an increase in the concern about conservation. However, this gain was not significantly different than the control group. Though parents whose children attended the program observed that their children engage in positive environmental behaviours at home, it was not (statistically) significantly different from the parents of the control group. Siemer and Knuth (2001) who examined experiences of 619 grade VI-VIII students in a specific education program in fishing found that those youth who have participated fully demonstrate better fishing skills, better knowledge and awareness of aquatic environments, and issues related to fishing as well as a stronger commitment to limit their personal impact on the environment while fishing. Cheak, Hungerford, and Volk (2002) investigated the impact of an inquiry-based EE program in a public elementary school in Hawaii and found that participating students demonstrated improved personal characteristics and participatory citizenship in the community, based on data obtained from student and teacher interviews. These studies indicate that there could be a relationship between participation in EE programs and increased levels of civic responsibility shown by students. However, much of this data is self-reported and further research is needed both to establish the extent of this connection and to determine what characteristics of the EE programs are responsible for changes in student behaviour.

There continues to exist an impressive international research and development effort to develop research tools and processes that could assess, evaluate, research, monitor or otherwise measure the impacts of EE on a wide range of indicators of pro-environmental behaviour. Internationally, and with respect to school-based education, Sweden likely leads the way with its efforts to educate for sustainable development in its schools, and its research to demonstrate the positive impact of this education on indicators such as, for example, sustainability consciousness (see, for example, Boeve-de Pauw et al, 2015). Other countries have a lot to learn about EE and ESD from Sweden. Internationally, and with respect to higher education, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education perhaps leads the field in the application of such tools and processes, in particular, though its STARS program (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System). STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance’ (Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2019, np). Although many institutions report progress in improving indicators such as environmental literacy, it is rarely clear if these impacts will translate to improved sustainability-related behaviours. Research in this broad area does not necessarily produce good news for environmental educators. Research from the University of Michigan, an institution with a recognised sustainability focus, found ‘ … no evidence that, as students move through [the University], they became more concerned about various aspects of sustainability or more committed to acting in environmentally responsible ways, either in the present moment or in their adult lives.’ (Schoolman et al. 2016497)

In the context of India, Bangay (2016) in his paper examines the relationship between school education and its influence on sustainable and environmentally conscious attitudes. It examines the two government policies that have been introduced to target the issue –‘Paryavaran Mitra’ and National Green Corps’, and have been in operation under the Centre for Environmental Education (CEE) to provide effective education for sustainable development. Paryavaran Mitra’ functions to promote transformative education by including environmental concepts of sanitation, energy, water, biodiversity, etc into the curriculum of grades VI-VIII. National Green Corps’ focuses more on fostering extra-curricular activities (e.g., eco clubs in schools) to highlight the importance of similar environmental problems, through a more practical, engaging, and hands-on approach to promote community outreach. Both the schemes have recognized the importance of students as agents of change and have created a detailed analysis of the requirements and have outlined appropriate steps to be followed. As such, the paper does not provide exact data to substantiate success rates to quantify the exact impact and reach of either of the programs.


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1. The comments of Indira Vijaysimha and Ashok Kumar Sarkar on an earlier version of the article are thankfully acknowledged. Usual disclaimers apply.

2. This essay focuses on formal education. It could be possible that people acquire behavior which are in tune with the needs of sustainable development through different forms of informal education. However, the difficulty in measuring informal education acquired by individuals may limit the assessment of its impact in empirical literature.

3. These are findings from Understanding Society, the world’s largest household panel survey, funded by {Citation}the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and managed by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex. http://​www​.esrc​.ac​.uk/​n​e​w​s​-​a​n​d​-​e​v​e​n​t​s​/​p​r​e​s​s​-​r​e​l​e​a​s​e​s​/​15029​/​W​h​e​n​_​i​t​_​c​o​m​e​s​_​t​o​_​t​h​e​_​e​n​v​i​r​o​n​m​e​n​t​_​e​d​u​c​a​t​i​o​n​_​a​f​f​e​c​t​s​_​o​u​r​_​a​c​t​i​o​n​s​_​.aspx Accessed 14 May 2014.

4. There is another hypothesis from Inglehart, which may indicate a U shape in the values related to environment. Poor or underdeveloped communities tend to protect environment as part of their survival strategy. Similarly, societies which have enjoyed affluence may internalize pro-environmental behavior as part of a post-materialist value. Hence, you may see pro-environmental behavior at both these ends of the affluence spectrum whereas materialist values of those who have escaped from poverty may lead to anti-environmental actions.

5. Disinger, J. (1982). Environmental education research news. The Environmentalist, 2, 285 – 288. Marcinkowski, T. J. (1987). An analysis of correlates and predictors of responsible environmental behavior. Doctoral dissertation, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1988. Dissertation Abstracts International, 49 (12): 3677‑A; Sia, A. P. (1984). An investigation of selected predictors of overt responsible environmental behaviour. Dissertation Abstracts International, 46A (3), 667; Zelezny, L. C. (1999). Educational interventions that improve environmental behavior. Journal of Environmental Education, 31(1), 5 – 10.

6. However, there is disagreement as to whether formal or non-formal programs are more effective at achieving these improvements, and over the effects of a program’s length on student outcomes.


V Santhakumar, Professor, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.

Kerry Shephard, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Kerry researches higher education and has a specific interest in the affective domain of attitudes, values and dispositions: how learners acquire them; how teachers contribute to their acquisition, deliberately or not; how universities assess or evaluate them; and how we can research them. 

Ritika Gupta, Lecturer, Azim Premji University