Integrating environmental education within the management model of National Parks of Colombia
- thesis summary in current issue
Juanita Zorrilla Pujana
Pages: 748-748 | DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2016.1225693
This action research project took place in Colombia, one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, within the context of the National Parks (NP) system. The aim of the study was to investigate the current situation for the NP Environmental Education (EE) program, and to strengthen the role that EE plays in managing protected areas in the NP.
The work focused on using participatory methodologies to investigate three main questions: (1) Is the EE helping to reduce conservation threats? (2) Is the EE aligned to the management plan and the conservation objectives? And, (3) Is there any standardized evaluation to measure progress?
The project was framed by a socio-critical paradigm and adopted an institutional change perspective. Working with NP staff and participants from environmental NGOs giving support to the management of the NP, the research design integrated qualitative and quantitative methods to scope, ground and address the research questions.
Findings from the first part of the study (focused on coastal and marine ecosystems), established an agreed methodological framework for elaborating local EE action plans. The focus of the second consisted of extending this to a common set of indicators, co-designed to evaluate the EE within the management plans applicable to the NP system.
The study contributes to assessment methodologies of the effectiveness of NP systems, and offers a model for incorporating social and participative lenses. Such an approach affords a systematic assessment of the EE at different geographical scales (local, regional, national), and comparison of effectiveness no matter the heterogeneity of the NP system, from a theoretical perspective. Although the study is focused on illuminating the Colombian case, it was also designed to provide replicable and easy-to-use tools for elsewhere. In particular, it shows how to move beyond EE output indicators, to a perspective focused on quality participation, communication and educational process.
Further research is suggested, focused on testing and assessing the real impact of EE in the achievement of conservation objectives. The thesis also argues for the construction and development of appropriate composite indicators able to incorporate social and biological data to measurements of the management effectiveness in NP systems.
Keywords: Protected areas, conservation education, environmental education indicators, management effectiveness, action-research