Disaster prevention literacies: Assessing the knowledge, skills and attitude of Taiwanese students for an earthquake disaster


Earthquakes can have significant and catastrophic consequences to populations and the areas where they live and work. One way to mitigate the negative effect of the hazard on lives is by building the preparedness of people in at-risk areas (Panić, Kovačević, Miljanović,  2012). However, the level of preparedness for earthquakes in not only developing but also developed countries is still problematic (Shaw, Shiwaku, & Kobayashi, 2004). Traditional approaches such as lecturing or book-reading about natural disasters rarely equip students with the skills and attitude of preparedness to respond effectively and survive future disasters (Panić, Kovačević, Miljanović,  2012). Effective education is especially important for earthquake-prone countries to reduce the vulnerability to death when a disaster strikes (Chang & Lin, 2012).

Ranked by the World Bank as the fifth highest risk country in the world in terms of full-spectrum disaster risk, the social, economic and geologic environment of Taiwan is highly volatile to the real threat of earthquakes (Lai, Lei, Fang, Chen, & Chen, 2012). The destructive impact of the 921 earthquake in 1999 led to 2415 people killed, 11305 injured, and monetary damage that totalled $300 billion (Seplaki, Goldman, Weinstein, & Lin, 2006). The 921 earthquake along with the recognition that earthquakes have been occurring so frequently in Taiwan has motivated the Ministry of Education (MOE) to revamp its definition of what the achievement of disaster prevention literacy should encompass. Instead of teaching earthquake prevention through textbooks, Taiwan’s educational effort focused on the development of skills to act and respond appropriately during natural disaster and attitudes to improve people's preparedness for disaster in the future (Chen & Lee, 2012). Disaster education in Taiwan now begins in elementary school (Sharpe, 2009). Once taught to students through mere theories in the school curricula, this crucial component has been infused into experiential learning processes which put drills at the centre of the learning cycle (Sharpe, 2009). In addition, all schools are required by MOE to conduct mandatory drills at least once in a semester (Chang & Lin, 2012). This ensures that all students are equipped with the skills needed to respond to an upcoming earthquake disaster, should it occur on school grounds. 

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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