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Sustainable chemistry teaching at the pre-university level: Barriers and opportunities for university educators

Suganty Kanapathy (Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi, Malaysia)
Khai Ern Lee (Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi, Malaysia)
Mazlin Mokhtar (Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi, Malaysia)
Sharifah Zarina Syed Zakaria (Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi, Malaysia)
Subarna Sivapalan (Centre for Social Transformation for Sustainable Lifestyles, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Tronoh, Malaysia)
Azizah Mohd Zahidi (Pusat GENIUS@Pintar Negara, Univerisiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM Bangi, Malaysia)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 19 July 2019

Issue publication date: 19 July 2019

394

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to discuss the knowledge levels, attitudes and behaviours regarding the concept of sustainable development among pre-university programme educators, as well as the potential barriers and opportunities they face in adopting the concept of sustainable development in the teaching of the pre-university level chemistry module at a public university in Malaysia.

Design/methodology/approach

A survey was conducted with eight educators of a pre-university programme at a public university located in Selangor, Malaysia. This pre-university programme exposes students to advanced courses in science, which are very much like first-year university courses for candidates who are interested in gaining admission to degree programmes. For this study, the focus was on chemistry educators only. The collected data were analysed through descriptive analysis following which interviews were conducted with the respondents.

Findings

In general, the educators have good knowledge and attitudes towards the concept of sustainable development. Moreover, their projected knowledge (K), attitude (A) and behaviour (B) focus more on environmental dimensions, as opposed to other sustainable development dimensions. While the integration of the concept of sustainable development in chemistry teaching is restricted by a few barriers, such as content-based learning, lack of guidebooks related to sustainable development and an overcrowded curriculum, positive responses from the chemistry educators indicate that there are opportunities to implement sustainable chemistry concepts in the pre-university chemistry module.

Research limitations/implications

The present study was conducted with several limitations; the data were obtained from a small sample size at an institute located within a public university. The respondents of this research consisted of only three existing chemistry educators and five administrators who are also educators. Further studies about sustainable chemistry teaching should include samples from other public and private universities.

Originality/value

This paper is instrumental in assisting the Ministry of Education, administrators, as well as educators within the pre-university sector to shift their goals towards sustainable chemistry teaching to achieve success in education for sustainable development.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support for this study provided by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia through the Geran Strategik (KRA-2017-022) and Geran Universiti Penyelidikan (GUP-2017-016).

Citation

Kanapathy, S., Lee, K.E., Mokhtar, M., Syed Zakaria, S.Z., Sivapalan, S. and Mohd Zahidi, A. (2019), "Sustainable chemistry teaching at the pre-university level: Barriers and opportunities for university educators", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 784-802. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-10-2018-0186

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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