The role of knowledge in students’ flood-risk perception

Abstract

Until now, flood-risk perception in the Netherlands has been solely studied as it relates to adults. This exploratory study focused on 15-year-old students who have taken geography courses for 3 years. Since geography education focuses on the formation of knowledge and understanding with respect to flooding in the Netherlands, we were interested in finding out to what extent knowledge and understanding of flooding leads to a rational judgment of flood risk that influences flood-risk perception among 15-year-old students. A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 483 15-year-old students from different flood-prone areas in the Netherlands. A reference group of 134 students from higher-elevation areas also participated. In addition to risk perception and risk-related factors, the survey also consisted of a knowledge test about flood hazards and water management with respect to the Netherlands in general and with regard to the surroundings of the students’ schools. In general, students showed low personal flood-risk perceptions and much stronger general flood-risk perceptions. Students’ level of knowledge of floods and flood-related aspects was low. Predictors of personal risk perception included fear, knowledge of flooding in the surroundings of the school and the awareness of environmental cues. Further study is needed of the formation of knowledge in relation to engendering flood-risk awareness among students.

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Correspondence to Adwin Bosschaart.

Appendix

Appendix

Knowledge test with respect to the surroundings of the school (local knowledge).

Students were asked to judge the statements 1–11 (true—untrue—don’t know) and the multiple-choice question 12.

Statements/questions Percentage of 483 students in the flood-prone areas who gave a correct answer
1. The surroundings of my school lie below NAP 59
2. The surroundings of my school lie below the water level in the nearby, river, sea or lake 46
3. The surroundings of my school are situated in a polder 41
4. In the surroundings of my school, dikes are situated 67
5. In the surroundings of my school, inconvenience caused by heavy rain could happen 31
6. The tap water at school comes from groundwater 37
7. The surroundings of my school could be hit by flooding from the sea 62
8. The surroundings of my school could be hit by flooding from a river 65
9. The surroundings of my school could be hit by flooding from the IJsselmeer 72
10. In the surroundings of my school, I know there are some ditches 70
11. In the surroundings of my school, I know there is a water pumping station 34
12. If the surroundings of my school are flooded, then… 19
A. there will be no water in the houses, B. the seat legs in the houses are standing in the water, C. the water will come as high as my waist, D. the chairs, tables and cupboards in the houses will be under water, E. the first floor in many houses will be flooded, F. I don’t know

Knowledge test with respect to the Netherlands (general knowledge).

Students were asked to judge the statements 1–4 (true—untrue—don’t know) and the multiple-choice questions 5–13.

Statements/questions Percentage of 483 students in the flood-prone areas, who gave a correct answer
1. Most people in the Netherlands live in the lower part of the Netherlands, which lies below sea level 73
2. The flood hazard of 1953 is the only flood hazard the Netherlands has experienced 57
3. Ditches between meadows serve as irrigation canals 19
4. The main function of ditches and canals is recreation 66
5. At what level does the lowest polder in the Netherlands lie? (cf. NAP) 24
At what level below NAP lies the lowest polder in the Netherlands?
A. abt. 2 m, B. abt. 7 m, C. abt. 14 m, D. abt. 26 m, E. I don’t know
6. Het NAP-niveau is… 66
The NAP-level (Amsterdam Ordnance Level) is….
A. The altitude of the lowest part of the Netherlands
B. The altitude of the highest part of the Netherlands
C. The zero point or average sea level
D. The average between the highest and lowest part of the Netherlands
E. I don’t know
7. Which proposition about a polder is true? 25
A. Polders are low-lying tracts of land in which the water level is regulated with ditches
B. Polders are higher than the surrounding water
C. A tract of land is only called a polder if it is lower than 3 m below sea level
D. All polders lie at the seaside
E. I don’t know the correct answer
8. A gemaal (water pumping station) is… 69
A. A station for sewage water treatment
B. A station to pump water out of the polder (to pump the polder dry)
C. A mill to grind the corn
D. A person at the head of a polder board
E. I don’t know
9. De Afsluitdijk (Enclosure Dam) is part of… 41
A. Zuider Sea Works, B. Delta works, C. Dune coast, D. I don’t know
10. De Afsluitdijk (Enclosure Dam) enhances the safety against flooding in… 64
A. Groningen, B. Rotterdam, C. Eindhoven, D. A number isles in the province of Zeeland, E. Flevoland, F. I don’t know
11. The storm surge barrier in the Oosterschelde estuary is part of… 54
A. Zuider Sea Works, B. Delta works, C. Dune coast, D. I don’t know
12. The storm surge barrier in the Oosterschelde estuary enhances the safety against flooding in… 54
A. Groningen, B. Rotterdam, C. Eindhoven, D. A number isles in the province of Zeeland, E. Flevoland, F. I don’t know
13. What is the average daily water consumption per person in the Netherlands 33
A. ±10 L per person per day, B. ±30 L per person per day, C. ±75 L per person per day, D. ±150 L per person per day, E. ±500 L per person per day, F. I don’t know

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Bosschaart, A., Kuiper, W., van der Schee, J. et al. The role of knowledge in students’ flood-risk perception. Nat Hazards 69, 1661–1680 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-013-0774-z

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Keywords

  • Knowledge of floods
  • Flood-risk perception
  • 15-year-old students
  • Geography education