Disaster Education: Volume 7


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

This series connects academic research to field practice, strengthening the links between the environment, disaster, and community. The series will be developed on field evidences and community practices, and thus will provide specific guides to professionals who are grounded in rigorous academic analysis. The series has a specific focus on community-based disaster risk management, urban environmental management, human security, water community, risk communication, climate change adaptation, climate disaster resilience, and community-based practices.

Disaster education has its different dimensions, from school, family, to community education. Education is a process that needs to be embedded at different levels of management and practice to collectively reduce risk. While school education is the foundation of the knowledge cycle, for effective knowledge use a link between school and community education is required. Education is linked to enhanced awareness, and a key reflection of education is seen in terms of actions. Disaster education is practiced in different countries in different forms, based on the local socioeconomic and cultural contexts. This book is an attempt to describe and demonstrate different aspects of disaster education in an easy-to-understand form with practical field experiences.

Disaster education is a much-discussed topic in risk reduction literatures. Education itself is always welcomed, and there have been different frameworks and conventions on education, whether it is a right-based approach or a part of development perspective or an environmental issue. Disaster education is considered as a crosscutting issue, which needs to be incorporated in different existing educational frameworks. As obvious, disaster education deals with practical matters, and cannot be a stand-alone school or university curriculum. There needs to be a good balance between the curriculum, and extra-curriculum activities, and in-school, outside-school activities. Outside-school activities can be of different types, in family and in community. Therefore, the disaster education is considered to link the school, family, and education.

It has been widely acknowledged that education takes on a pivotal role in reducing disasters and achieving human security in the attempt to achieve sustainable development. Previous experiences have shown positive effects of education in disaster risk management. Children who have been taught about the phenomenon of disasters and how to react to those situations have proved to be able to respond promptly and appropriately, thereby warning others and protecting themselves during times of emergencies. One of the classic examples illustrating the power of knowledge and education is the story of the 10-year-old British schoolgirl, Tilly Smith, who warned the tourists to flee to safety moments before the Indian Ocean tsunami engulfed the coast, saving over 100 tourists' lives in 2004. She had recognized the signs of an approaching tsunami after learning about the phenomenon in her geography lessons at school, just weeks before visiting Thailand (UN/ISDR, 2006a). Although the United Kingdom is not a tsunami-prone country and the schoolgirl did not have any previous experiences, with the knowledge acquired at school, she was able to save the lives of many.

The importance of education in disaster risk reduction has been emphasized in several international agendas, frameworks, conferences, as well as UN programs. Chapter 36 of Agenda 21, on “Promoting Education, Public Awareness and Training” stated, “Education, including formal education, public awareness and training, should be recognized as a process by which human beings and societies can reach their fullest potential” (UNEP, 1992). Furthermore, the UN/ISDR System Thematic Cluster/Platform on Knowledge and Education argued that “Education for disaster risk reduction is an interactive process of mutual learning among people and institutions. It encompasses far more than formal education at schools and universities, and involves the recognition and use of traditional wisdom and local knowledge for protection from natural hazard” (UN/ISDR, 2005). In the 2006 Review of the Role of Education and Knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction, Professor Ben Wisner commented, “Education, knowledge and awareness are critical to building the ability to reduce losses from natural hazards, as well as the capacity to respond to and recover effectively from extreme natural events when they do, inevitably, occur” (Wisner, 2006). The Second Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (2007, India) urged governments to make school safety and the integration of disaster risk reduction into school curricula a priority on the national agenda (UN/ISDR, 2007a). The Third Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (2008, Malaysia) recognized education as an essential contribution to effective implementation of disaster risk reduction and concrete impact in terms of shifts in behaviors at the local level, where communities are most vulnerable to disasters (UN/ISDR, 2008). Last but not least, the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) program emphasized that “Education is the primary agent of transformation toward sustainable development, increasing people's capacities to transform their visions for society into reality” (UNESCO, 2005a).

In addressing disaster management in schools, many researchers and workers in NGOs, UN agencies, and other organizations have pointed out that school-building safety and disaster education are significant factors in developing school safety, especially in the case of earthquake disasters (Izadkhan, 2004; Dixit, 2004; Wisner et al., 2004). School-building safety is useful for disaster reduction in the short term, while disaster education can play a significant role in developing a culture of disaster reduction in the long term. The importance of disaster education at the school level is recognized in the works of Radu (1993), Kuroiwa (1993), Arya (1993), Frew (2002), and Shaw, Shiwaku, Kobayashi, and Kobayashi (2004). Students are viewed as initiates into tradition, and parents are also congregational members (Strike, 2000). Shaw and Kobayashi (2001) stress that schools play an important role in raising awareness among students, teachers, and parents. UNISDR conducted a campaign based on the observation that children are among the most vulnerable population group during disasters (UNISDR, 2007a) and that disaster risk education empowers children and helps build greater awareness of the issue in communities (UNISDR, 2007b).

Generally, family and community have a great deal of local experience and local knowledge of disaster. Disaster education for family and community is aimed at recognizing the characteristics of a disaster and the existing social situation for the purpose of acquiring general knowledge of disasters, usually at school. Community and family structures and roles differ according to character and location such as urban, rural, coastal, near rivers, and near mountains, among others. In recent times, people's participation in the community has been affected by social changes. Earlier, historical local disaster prevention methods were passed on to other family/community members through daily activity. Recently, however, the characteristics of disasters have changed such that people now need to prepare for disasters of which they have no experience and about which they have difficulty obtaining information. It is thus necessary for communities and families to know different scenarios of disaster. “Community-Based Disaster Risk Management” is difficult to establish without linking community and household. For instance, many types of associations can be found in the community, but some do not play a direct role in disaster prevention and management. However, these associations have strong human relationships and much local knowledge. As an example, family members traditionally take care of children and old and handicapped people. Presently, lifestyles and social systems have changed such as long-distance commuting, both husband and wife working, weak family relationships, fewer children, aging, and unstable economies, among others. It is therefore necessary to carry out disaster prevention education aimed at building local capacity for disaster prevention, after determining the situation in the community and family and the roles people in the community play.

When discussing disaster education, the usual focus in more on the school or family or community education. Very little focus has been given so far to higher education. However, higher education (college and university) is the key to professional development in the subject. Higher education in disasters is still lacking in most countries and regions. In this context, the lessons of environment or the field of sustainable development can provide useful tips. Of equal importance to higher education is not only the curriculum, but the approach or mode of delivery. To develop an appropriate higher education, a system of educational governance is important (COE, 2005). Given the role education has for overall societal and economic development, it is necessary to ensure the responsiveness of higher education to the changing needs and expectations of society. In this respect, it is important to ensure participation of external actors in the governance of higher education and to allow the flexibility to accommodate the continually change needs and requirements over time. COE (2005) made several recommendations for higher education that can be considered as the base of disaster education in colleges and universities. These include: serving the needs and expectations of the society, having appropriate academic freedom, having a process of setting up long-terms goals and developing appropriate strategies for achieving them, providing reasonable scope of innovation and flexibility in research, promoting good educational governance through regional and international networks, and ensuring quality control of teachers and students.

In the previous chapters, disaster education was discussed based on the aspect of the place where disaster education was conducted – in school, in the household, and in the community. Generally, school disaster education is regarded as formal disaster education, while household and community disaster education as informal disaster education. School-based stand-alone courses are perhaps the easiest programs to implement on a large scale and within a short time frame (Petal, 2009). However, to achieve community-based disaster management, stakeholder involvement is important. If students learn with the community, the learning may be regarded as informal or semi-formal education. When the community, including students, learn about disaster management, local contexts are important to be considered. Anticipated hazards, stakeholders, availability of human and physical resources, extent of threatened or affected area, culture, history, and other various factors can be taken into account. In addition, when the community and students learn together, there are at least two actors. This means that disaster education programs should focus on both community members and students as the target learners. Therefore, such education programs cannot be discussed from the aspect of place of education like school, community, or household. Shaw and Takeuchi (2008) emphasized the importance of the participatory approach. Thus, it is necessary to consider how education programs should be conducted. As described before, it is necessary to consider various factors and situations in order to provide disaster education programs that meet local contexts. In this regard, a standardized disaster education program is not appropriate. Therefore, people/organizations who/that organize disaster education programs should need to play important roles so that the disaster education program becomes effective. In other words, the organizers need to consider how they provide disaster education as well as what they provide.

Following the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action, various disaster educational materials (UN/ISDR, 2006) that are described as “tools,” taken in various forms such as in printed materials (booklets, leaflets, textbooks, handbooks/guidebooks, and posters) and nonprinted materials (activities, games, and practices) were developed. These tools have an important function in communicating the disaster education to the public via formal, non-formal, and informal education, which may take place at school, at home, and/or within the community. In addition, media may also serve as a communication tool. Talero (2004) proposed that the modern communications nowadays have provided information for the growing public demand for related information, which can be used as educational aids to reduce the gap between scientific knowledge and civic awareness.

Among the above arguments, one of the most important issues is the rights-based approach. Disasters are often seen as humanitarian affairs, and DRR is usually not linked to the “rights” issues in a proactive way. However, linking the child-centered DRR to a rights-based approach is new thinking, which needs further strengthening in its implementation through appropriate governance support. The “rights” referred to are the right for life, right to education, right to health, and right to participation. Built on varied legal systems and cultural traditions, the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a universally-agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. These basic standards – also called human rights – set minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments. With these rights comes the obligation of both governments and individuals not to infringe on the parallel rights of others. These standards are both interdependent and indivisible; we cannot ensure some rights without – or at the expense of – other rights. Therefore, it is important and necessary to link DRR to children's rights.

Publication date
Book series
Community, Environment and Disaster Risk Management
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN