This paper is an outgrowth of my work for the Bicentennial Australian Studies Schools Project (BASSP) for which I wrote the booklet, Education for the Australian Environment (Fien 1988). This was one of ten booklets on Australian Studies distributed to every primary and secondary school in Australia early in 1988. The purpose of Education for the Australian Environment was to provide guidelines for injecting an Australian Studies perspective into environmental education. In the final chapter of the first draft of the booklet I sought to provide a framework for the development of an environmental education policy through a process of curriculum inquiry at the individual school level.
In part, I was moved to include a framework for school level curriculum work in environmental education by concerns expressed by Gough (1987) and Robottom (1987a) about the value of centrally-developed policy statements on environmental education. While the 1977 Tbilisi Declaration urged UN member states to prepare policies “to introduce environmental concerns, activities and content into their education systems”, Gough and Robottom urged caution over the use of centralised policies as instruments for educational change. In summary, the reasons for their concern stemmed from the potential danger that centrally developed policies might foreclose debate over the nature, goals and practices of environmental education and, thus, supplant local innovations and variations in environmental education with uniform prescriptions. They also expressed concern that the hierarchical pattern of authority embedded in centralised curriculum decision making was inappropriate to environmental education and that it could easily lead to the deskilling and disempowerment of environmental educators at the grassroot levels.