In short: yes. Climate change should absolutely be taught in schools. This should not be up for debate, but sadly here I am writing an article regarding the continued discussion surrounding climate change and the curriculum. Education is an essential element of the global response to climate change. It helps young people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour and helps them adapt to change-related trends.
A few weeks ago, a survey of 7,682 teachers found that 92 per cent were concerned about climate change, but 41 per cent said it was rarely or never mentioned in their schools. These figures simply aren’t good enough and they need to be addressed as soon as possible.
What does climate education currently look like?
The curriculum in the UK cites the current climate crisis in several areas. It is currently covered in both science and geography at key stage 3 (KS3) for ages 11 to 14 and at key stage 4 (KS4) for ages 14 to 16. Both subjects are compulsory at KS3, while only science is compulsory at KS4. But many activists, teachers and experts say this is not enough.
The Department for Education said pupils were already taught about climate change as part of the national curriculum in science and geography in both primary and secondary school. As a young adult, I can say on behalf of my peers that we have not been taught about these issues adequately.
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The only reason most young people are aware of the current situation is through accessing the internet and seeing it through the lens of social media. This is supported by a study conducted by UNESCO, the United Nations education body, which highlighted education as a key plank in tackling climate change, amid warnings from scientists that world leaders are failing to take sufficient action to curb global warming. Research by the National Union of Students in 2019 showed that only four per cent of schoolchildren in England felt they knew a lot about climate change.
How can we educate ourselves on this issue?
Like many topics regarding current issues, the government has once again turned its back on young people. Through its Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development programme, UNESCO has stated clear aims to make climate change education a more central and visible part of the international response to climate change. The programme aims to help people understand the impact of global warming today and increase “climate literacy” among young people.
Whilst this is reassuring, in the meantime, there are a plethora of opportunities to learn about the ongoing climate change situation. The internet is at your fingertips! My top tip is to stay up to date on the news.
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A great way to self-educate is to keep up to date on current news, events and affairs around the world. Read the news and know what is happening in the world. You don’t have to buy newspapers (which can be quite expensive); pretty much all of the same news and information is now available online. Sign up to news outlets’ mailing lists, and they will send you their main headlines in an automated e-mail each day. When learning new concepts, I like to set aside at least 10 minutes of my day to learn about the current events involved – it really helps to contextualise the issue.
The world can be scary, especially when going into it unequipped with the knowledge of current world emergencies that concern you. The education system needs to make developments regarding the current climate crisis, this isn’t news by any stretch of the imagination. My advice would be to go out and seek the information that is needed. It is never too late to learn, especially regarding something that we can all make a difference every day.