An Evaluation of Environmental Responsibility and Its Associated Factors: Reflections from PISA 2006

Ayhan Kürşat Erbaş, Gaye Tuncer Teksoz and Ceren Tekkaya
Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Education

Problem statement: Contemporary global environmental problems have highlighted the importance of acting responsibly towards natural resources and the environment. The role of science education in shaping how people interact with the environment, therefore, has gained importance. The science education community has responded to this challenge by helping citizens develop responsibility for environmental issues. Accordingly, “scientific literacy and the environment” was one of the research areas in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006. We attempted to examine patterns in Turkish students’ environmental responsibility and to expose relationships between student responsibility for environmental issues and socio-demographic variables. We did this by assessing scientific literacy and evaluating an environmental database for Turkey in the context of PISA 2006. Specifically, the current study examined the extent to which Turkish students’ economic, social, and cultural status; school activities; parents’ sense of responsibility and optimism regarding environmental issues and gender predicted their perceived responsibility towards the environment. 
Purpose of Study: This study evaluated students’ responsibility towards the environment and the relationship between perceived responsibility and several background variables, utilizing Turkish data obtained from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006. 
Methods: Canonical correlation analysis (CCA) was used to examine the association between dependent and independent variables. 
Findings and Results: The findings suggested that 15-year-old Turkish students’ responsibility towards the environment varied with respect to such socio-demographic variables as gender; economic, social and cultural status; availability of school activities related to environmental topics and parental sense of responsibility for and optimism about environmental issues. Among these, although the association was negative, parental level of optimism regarding environmental issues explained the greatest amount of variation in student responsibility towards the environment. This was followed by parental sense of responsibility for environmental issues. 
Conclusions and Recommendations: The overall picture disclosed by this study is one in which economic, social and cultural status (ESCS) is the primary feature shaping awareness and responsibility toward the environment. It is important to note that this result was obtained by sampling 15-year-old students in Turkey, where there is no strategy for environmental education. That is to say, if we were to gather background data on environmental awareness and responsibility in Turkey (although these would be below the OECD average), and if we were to identify how this awareness and responsibility have shaped the country’s economic, social and cultural status, which differs by region, then we might be able to make plans to develop a tendency toward environmental consciousness. Such change would be important for the developing world. Being pessimistic about low ESCS coincides with low environmental awareness and responsibility, but alternative means to ameliorating this situation can be found by addressing national and even regional factors. 
Keywords: Environmental awareness, environmental responsibility, environmental sustainability, Programme for International Student Assessment, socio-demographic variables