Is youth pessimism good for the environment? Insights from PISA 2015

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In this study, we explore the potential of data from large-scale assessments to provide insights into how students’ environmental knowledge could address the global challenge of environmental threats to humanity and the transition to sustainable development. We analyze data from the 2015 PISA survey to understand the extent to which 15-year old students in 54 countries are aware of these challenges. We find that students’ science activities, self-efficacy and environmental knowledge are positively associated with their awareness about environmental challenges. Students’ environmental awareness, in turn, is associated with environmental pessimism, or their outlook on the future of environmental issues. Students who are more engaged with environmental science are more aware about environmental issues and feel less optimistic that environmental issues will improve in the future. Such pessimistic attitudes about the future may be a precursor to pro-environmental behavior. Our results provide a cross-national picture of students’ engagement with environmental issues and insight into the potential of large-scale assessment data to inform environmental education policies promoted by individual countries and international organizations.


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How to Cite
Pivovarova, M., Powers, J. M., & Chachkhiani, K. (2021). Is youth pessimism good for the environment? Insights from PISA 2015. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(August - December), 126.
Learning Assessments for Sustainability?
Author Biographies

Margarita Pivovarova, Arizona State University

Margarita Pivovarova, PhD, is an associate professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on the relationship between student achievement, teacher quality, and school contextual factors.

Jeanne M. Powers, Arizona State University

Jeanne M. Powers is a professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of California, San Diego.  Her research interests include school segregation, school choice, the academic achievement of immigrant students, the teacher workforce, and issues of equity and access in education policy more broadly.

Ketevan Chachkhiani, Arizona State University

Ketevan Chachkhiani is pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Educational Policy and Evaluation at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University. Her research and professional interests are K-12 education, educational change, teacher policies, teacher autonomy and agency, school leadership, and post-Socialist transformations.