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COP28: Addressing the lack of climate change education in schools

According to a recent UNESCO survey examining Grade 9 science and social science syllabi from 85 countries, encompassing 533 subject curricula, the incorporation of climate change and sustainability content is inadequate. Key terms such as greenhouse gas, global warming, climate change, climate crisis, and carbon were analysed.
Photo of greening a school
Greening schools Photo credit: UNESCO
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The 28th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, (UNFCCC) widely known as COP28, is currently underway from November 30 to December 12, 2023, at Expo City in Dubai.

This conference marks a significant gathering of global leaders to address pressing issues related to climate change under the UNFCCC umbrella. Climate change literacy and action have become imperatives, especially in schools.

UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report has conducted a comprehensive study analysing climate change education across 80 countries. It reveals that 62 per cent of countries lack any national-level laws, policies, and strategies specifically focused on climate change education. More countries urgently need to make climate change education a priority.

Eight-seven per cent of countries have laws, policies, or plans that include teaching climate change in primary and secondary schools. However, 62 per cent of countries still lack national-level laws, policies and strategies specifically focused on climate change education.
And 37 per cent of teacher training plans still do not include a focus on climate change.

Read also: Understanding climate change: A call to action for COP28

Free things to do at Expo City Dubai

Expo City, Dubai  – Source: Time out Dubai

However, climate change is an incontrovertible reality, representing a global challenge that necessitates our focused attention and collaborative endeavours.

It encompasses enduring alterations in Earth’s temperature, precipitation, and overall atmospheric conditions. Climate change education assumes a pivotal role in heightening awareness and cultivating sustainable practices aimed at alleviating its detrimental consequences.

Defined by sustained shifts in temperature and weather patterns, climate change is principally attributed to human activities, notably the combustion of fossil fuels. This process elevates levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The resulting changes exert extensive and often severe impacts on the ecosystems of our planet, human health, and various socio-economic systems.

This is also why climate change communication and education play a crucial role, especially in the context of COP28, for several reasons.

Global Awareness and Engagement: COP28 serves as a platform for global leaders to discuss and negotiate climate policies. Effective communication and education ensure that citizens worldwide are informed about the discussions, decisions, and their implications, fostering global awareness and engagement.

Informed Decision-Making: Climate change is a complex and multifaceted issue. Communication and education efforts provide individuals, communities, and policymakers with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about sustainable practices, mitigation strategies, and adaptation measures.

Advocacy and Action: A well-informed public is more likely to advocate for climate action and support policies aimed at addressing environmental challenges. Climate change communication empowers individuals to take action in their communities, promoting a collective effort towards sustainability.

Policy Implementation: Effective climate policies require public understanding and support for successful implementation. Communication and education efforts help bridge the gap between policymakers and the public, ensuring that policies are effective and accepted by communities.

Youth Empowerment: Given that the impacts of climate change will disproportionately affect future generations, educating and empowering youth is paramount. COP28 provides an opportunity to emphasize the role of young people in climate action, encouraging their involvement and inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders.

Transparency and Accountability: Transparent communication about the outcomes of COP28 and the commitments made by participating nations fosters accountability. Educated citizens can hold governments accountable for their promises, encouraging adherence to climate goals and agreements.

Community Resilience: Climate change education at the community level builds resilience. Localised knowledge about climate risks and adaptation strategies equips communities to cope with the changing climate, reducing vulnerabilities to environmental threats.

In essence, climate change communication and education are indispensable tools for creating a global constituency that understands, supports, and actively participates in the efforts to combat climate change.

However, the existing curricula fall short of providing learners and educators with the requisite knowledge, skills, and attitudes essential for addressing the climate crisis.

According to a recent UNESCO survey examining Grade 9 science and social science syllabi from 85 countries, encompassing 533 subject curricula, the incorporation of climate change and sustainability content is inadequate. Key terms such as greenhouse gas, global warming, climate change, climate crisis, and carbon were analysed.

Key findings

Lack of Reference to Climate Change: A staggering 69 per cent of the subject curricula showed no reference to climate change, with a slightly lower figure of 66 per cent for sustainability.

Temporal Analysis: Subject curricula published within the last decade exhibited a noticeable increase in content related to the environment and sustainability.

Imbalance in Learning Focus: The analysis revealed a significant prevalence of cognitive learning focus over social and emotional or action-oriented learning concerning environment, sustainability, and climate change content in the curricula.

These findings underscore the pressing need for a comprehensive reevaluation and enhancement of curricula to better equip students and educators with the knowledge and skills required to effectively engage with and address the challenges posed by climate change.

As COP28 sets the stage for critical discussions, ensuring that information is effectively communicated and widely understood becomes a linchpin for the success of global climate initiatives.

To deal with this gap, the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report has forged a partnership with the Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education Project (MECCE), hosted by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN) at the University of Saskatchewan.

This alliance aims to propel global climate change literacy and action. Within the framework of this joint endeavour, the GEM Report and the MECCE team have undertaken the meticulous compilation of systematic and comprehensive country profiles detailing national education laws and policies about climate change communication and education.

These profiles serve a pivotal role in addressing the imperative need to enhance the evidence base concerning implementing national education policies related to climate change communication and education.

Specifically, they provide a comparative lens through which to assess the progress made by countries in realising the mandates outlined in Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, and SDG target 4.7. The information encapsulated in these profiles facilitates the development of indicators for benchmarking and target-setting.

The meticulous preparation of these profiles involved a comprehensive review and synthesis of international commitments, national laws, policies, action plans, and programs. This endeavour was complemented by an in-depth analysis of relevant literature and press. The resulting profiles span approximately 6,000 words and are available in English, French, or Spanish.

Experts and national focal points for Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) played a crucial role in reviewing, updating, and validating the information presented. Countries are actively encouraged to sustain this engagement by providing comments and feedback, ensuring the ongoing comprehensiveness, accuracy, and currency of the profiles.

Completion of this phase is duly indicated on the website, with a distinctive blue tick featured on the relevant page of the country’s profile.

Nations are intensifying their commitments

Currently, 126 countries have made dedicated pledges to tackle climate change and address sustainability concerns through educational initiatives. The establishment of UNESCO’s Greening Education Partnership during the 2022 Transforming Education Summit has garnered participation from 81 countries and over 1,100 organisations. Among these countries:

Curriculum Integration: 60 countries aim to undertake a comprehensive review of their curriculum by 2026, to integrate content related to climate change and biodiversity.

Teacher Training: A total of 70 countries have outlined plans to provide training for educators, focusing on equipping them to deliver effective climate change education.

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Grace M
Grace M
1 month ago

Your article sheds light on a critical issue: the lack of climate change education in schools worldwide. Education is key to tackling climate change effectively.
Your readers might want to visit this page to delve into carbon sequestration and methane removal on the African continent: https://bit.ly/SequestrationAfrica

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