Activism & Volunteering

Educating for change: why the UK needs to keep climate change in the national curriculum

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The British government recently revealed proposals to remove climate change and sustainable development from the geography syllabus, leaving just one reference to human-produced green house gasses in chemistry. The UKYCC believes that, far from being removed from the UK’s national curriculum for 4-14 year olds, climate change must be recognised within it as a political, ethical, economic and social issue.

Fostering a strong understanding of how human activity can adversely affect the natural world and how we as a society can prevent this is essential for youth today. Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges humanity faces, and it is vital that young people understand its potential implications - and how we can adapt to avoid them.

However, the British government recently revealed its proposed new national curriculum, where all mentions of climate change and sustainable development as social and political issues have been removed from the Geography curriculum for under 14s, providing just one reference to how carbon dioxide produced by humans impacts on the climate under the Chemistry syllabus.

At the moment, each key stage of education, covering the curriculum for all 4-14 year olds, begins by highlighting the need to look at the interplay between people and planet when studying climate change: “Teaching should ensure that ‘geographical enquiry and skills’ are used when developing ‘knowledge and understanding of places, patterns and processes’, and ‘environmental change and sustainable development’”.

While some commentators have suggested that teachers will still be free to teach climate change, by removing the requirement to cover climate change as the scientific, human and political issue that it is, means that British youth may be left in the situation of a postcode lottery - dependent on the commitment of their school’s teaching staff. While this raises the fear that children’s geography education could be open to abuse from teachers with potentially climate sceptic agendas, removing climate change from the geography curriculum also weakens the resources available for even the most passionate teachers. Learning to deal with climate change is a critical issue for our generation that must not be downgraded to the result of a ‘postcode lottery’.

At the 2010 international climate change summit in Cancun, the UK agreed to support climate change education in schools and in other institutions at all levels as part of their commitment to Article Six of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UK Youth Climate Coalition, along with People & Planet and 38 Degrees, are currently calling on the British government to recognise their duty to ensure that all children have universal access to a basic education of how climate change will impact on the world in which they will be living and working.

All children should be aware of the environmental challenges we face - and education, both formal and non-formal, should equip them with an understanding of the issues of climate change and sustainability to empower them to engage with solutions on a local, national and global level. Climate change must be recognised as a political, ethical, economic and social issue and should be integrated across the national curriculum in the UK.

With this understanding, young people and future generations will be be able to become active citizens, making changes in their lifestyle choices and calling for a healthy and fair global economy, society and environment. More than that, when equipped with the right social and technological knowledge and skills, they will go beyond calling for change, to become the change. They will become the workforce that takes the UK into the new era of low-carbon, sustainable societies.

- Louisa Casson, UKYCC

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