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How university students are taught about sustainability, and how they want to be taught: the importance of the hidden curriculum

Lucy Millicent Turner (School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK)
Smitha Hegde (UNESCO-MIRCEN for Medical and Marine Biotechnology, Nitte University Centre for Science Education and Research (NUCSER), Nitte University, Mangalore, India)
Indrani Karunasagar (UNESCO-MIRCEN for Medical and Marine Biotechnology, Nitte University Centre for Science Education and Research (NUCSER), Nitte University, Mangalore, India)
Rebecca Turner (Library and Educational Development, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 12 April 2022

Issue publication date: 24 November 2022

518

Abstract

Purpose

India is unique, having enshrined in law the teaching of sustainability education (SE) within all levels of formal education. This study aims to examine the integration and perceptions of SE within the higher education (HE) sector in India and identify any lessons that can be exported about the teaching of SE from the Indian HE environment.

Design/methodology/approach

Focusing on a science-based teaching and research institute at a private university in India, a quantitative, cross-sectional study examined the extent to which SE was integrated into the university and how it was perceived by students and staff. Data were collected through two online questionnaires administered to lecturers and undergraduate students during the 2017 academic year.

Findings

Most students reported that their university experiences had contributed significantly to their knowledge about sustainability. Results also showed there was a positive association between the teaching and learning about sustainability, although staff and students reported that this could be improved by including more active, student-centred teaching and learning approaches. However, students felt that they had learnt the most about sustainability from the informal “hidden” rather than the “formal” curriculum. This suggests that research is now required into ways to capitalise on this as a medium to further develop, not just Indian, but students’ worldwide sustainability literacy.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this paper is the first to present a detailed study of the perceptions of the contribution of the “formal” and the informal “hidden” curriculum to SE by students and staff at an Indian university.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the staff and students at the Nitte University Centre for Science Education and Research who took the time to take part in the survey.

Funding: LMT received funding from the University of Plymouth to complete the PGCAP teaching qualification.

Data availability statement: The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author (LMT) upon reasonable request.

Citation

Turner, L.M., Hegde, S., Karunasagar, I. and Turner, R. (2022), "How university students are taught about sustainability, and how they want to be taught: the importance of the hidden curriculum", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 23 No. 7, pp. 1560-1579. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-03-2021-0105

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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