Climate change is the biggest challenge we face as a society. Future generations will need the knowledge and the skills to build innovative, resilience-based solutions to survive future shocks, extreme weather events, and resource depletion. How can they even begin if they’re not taught?
There are a number of ways of knowing if governments are committed to tackling climate change. One of the most indicative is: have they put it at the heart of education in schools?
The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is alarmed that teachers will soon be able to ignore climate change in geography lessons. This comes as the Secretary for Education, Michael Gove MP, launched a consultation on the new draft National Curriculum, scheduled for release later this year.
In England (not in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland), the coalition government will drop climate change from the national curriculum for under 14-year olds. Guidelines for children in stages 1 to 3 make no reference to it in the geography syllabus, with only a single reference to how carbon dioxide produced by humans affects the climate in the chemistry section. All references to sustainable development have also been dropped.
Yet this week, the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, said that the climate variability and extreme weather events similar to those experienced in the past year will only increase in the coming decades. He said that such variability is the face of a changing climate, stemming from greenhouse gases that are already embedded in the atmosphere.
CIWEM Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, said: “Removing climate change and sustainable development from the school curriculum for under 14-year olds looks like political meddling and is ideologically driven. Climate change is the biggest challenge we face and requires urgent action. It will fall upon the upcoming generation of young people to be as well equipped as they can be to meet and mitigate the challenge, and to secure their future. The government must re-think its plans and put climate change and the environment at the heart of education in schools.”
The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world. www.ciwem.org
CIWEM recently launched an Environmental Education Network which focuses on raising the profile of water and environmental challenges at school level, and on helping young people to develop the understanding and skills required to solve them in the future. The Network is chaired by CIWEM Honorary Vice President, Alastair Moseley; more information can be found at http://www.ciwem.org/knowledge-networks/networks/environmental-education.aspx.
The Department for Education is consulting on its proposal, available online at https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm?action=consultationDetails&consultationId=1881&external=no&menu=1. The draft National Curriculum programme of study is available online at http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/nationalcurriculum2014/b00220600/consultation-national-curriculum-pos.
Comments made by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, in an interview with BBC News can be heard online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21357520.
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