UTM Propagates Low Carbon Awareness among Primary School Students through Ecolife Challenge Workbook

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) under the research funding of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has designed an Ecolife Challenge workbook for the competition of Iskandar Malaysia Ecolife Challenge (IMELC).

The workbook is a research product in collaboration with a non-profit organization in Kyoto, Japan – KIKO Network. The first version of the workbook was used for the IMELC 2013 competition, which involved 23 pilot schools in the region of Iskandar Malaysia. This is an effort to create low carbon awareness among school students and teachers in this region in striving towards the aspirations stated in the Low Carbon Society Blueprint for Iskandar Malaysia 2025.

The workbook consists of some explanation on the concept of “climate change”, “global warming” and “low carbon society”. It also contains a brief pre- and post survey of the students’ practices on low carbon action and activities, prior to and following the completion of the workbook. Other elements included in the workbook involve household accounting activities to create awareness of the usage of electricity and water as well as waste production at home and at schools; reading of electricity and water bills; carbon emission calculation; tracking of parent’s vehicle mileage; drawing activities and reflective questions that stimulate higher order thinking skills (HOTS) of the students.

The IMELC competition was co-organized by UTM under the Low Carbon Asia Research Centre, Iskandar Region Development Agency (IRDA) and Johor State Education Department (Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri Johor – JPNJ). The competition was designed for Year 6 primary students, where they have to complete the workbook within a month, after the UPSR examination, as one of the post-UPSR school activities. Following the completion of the activities in the workbook, each school selected one team of 5 students to present orally what they have learnt from the activities.

In 2014, UTM added two extra modules to the IMELC 2014 competition, namely,  water & electricity saving and recycling modules. Similar to IMELC 2013, the students completed the workbook after their UPSR. In addition, the students were required to organise campaigns to save the use of water and electricity in their respective schools, as well as to collect items for recycling.

In 2014,  80 primary schools within the Iskandar Malaysia region selected by JPNJ took part in IMELC 2014. Based on the percentage of completed workbook submission, percentage of water & electricity saving and recycling weight in a month, 15 finalists were chosen to participate in the final presentation where the winner was also granted an educational trip to Kyoto. The winner of IMELC 2014 was SK Kempas.

In 2015, IMELC was expanded to all 226 primary schools in Iskandar Malaysia as one of the activities under RCE Iskandar. RCE stands for the Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) awarded by the United Nations University (UNU).

Iskandar Malaysia region is recognised by UNU as an RCE on ESD in November 2014 which was officially announced by YB Datuk Ayub Rahmat on 7 February 2015 during the Iskandar Malaysia Sustainable and Low Carbon Schools Exhibition organized by UTM. The format of the 2015 competition is similar to the 2014 except that the water & electricity saving and recycling modules were conducted between June and August 2015. At the final presentation on 15 November 2015 , SJKC Masai was awarded the winner and will visit Kyoto in December 2015.

Research carried out by UTM shows that the students’ practices on low carbon actions have increased after one month of activities using the workbook in 2013 and 2014. Similar patterns have also been observed among the teachers who coordinated the competition in their schools.

In 2014, an average of 1,421 kg of CO2 can be reduced by a school in a month through the water & electricity saving campaign. In 2014, 45,540kg of recyclable materias were collected and sold by the participating schools in one month while in 2015, 72,307kg of recyclable materials were collected and sold by the participating schools in three months.

All these efforts can further enhance low carbon awareness among school students and teachers. From the research, the low carbon action with the highest increase is that of students taking the initiative to discuss environmental issues with their families.  This shows that the workbook has a ripple effect that can propagate low carbon awareness to a wider community, especially young children, within the Iskandar Malaysia region in order to achieve the low carbon blueprint by 2025.