In June 2020, the Education International Executive Board joined the global climate literacy initiative along with hundreds of other trade unions, education, civil society organisations, and individuals. The goal is to increase the understanding and knowledge of students of the climate crisis and to encourage action. The campaign is designed to make climate education a priority for governments when they meet for COP 26 in November of 2021 in Glasgow.
Organisations and individuals supporting the campaign signed a letter to governments and UN officials. There will be follow up actions at national and international levels. A virtual meeting was held yesterday, 18 October, as part of the Sustainable Innovation Forum, in order to galvanize Climate Action.
Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst spoke to the meeting. She stressed the urgency of action, as progress so far has been too slow. EI was pivotal in ensuring that governments committed to universalizing climate change education as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4.7). Yet, five years later, the world is way off track to include climate change education in education policies and frameworks, curriculum, teacher training and assessment. Recent monitoring shows that efforts to mainstream climate education across these four areas have been patchy and insufficient.
Holst stressed that teacher participation is essential in the campaign to universalise quality climate change education. “Climate change education is in teachers’ DNA, as our purpose is to prepare students for the future. Teachers must give students hope” she said. However, she also underlined that, to do so, ‘the educators of the world need climate education too”, as they need to be prepared to implement the climate curriculum.
Climate education is an important part of civic education, the transmission of democratic values, and the encouragement of active citizenship. However, sometimes teachers are not free to teach the facts - their professional autonomy is constrained by leaders or systems that deny climate science.
EI is working with UNESCO on a survey of teachers on SDG4.7. Topics include climate change. The survey seeks to identify the teaching challenges and the support teachers receive as well as identifying the different pedagogical strategies used to teach students the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to action to tackle climate change. The aim is that the results of the survey will inform governments and influence policy.
In her intervention, Holst stressed the importance of pushing for change by working from the ground up. EI member organisations all over the world are campaigning for change at the local and national levels. She also emphasised the need for synergies between multiple sectors, and for education to be recognised by governments as a powerful tool in the fight against the climate crisis. This recognition must be followed by the necessary financing and prioritisation.
A recent PISA report of the OECD, based on responses from 15-year old students in the 66 countries that responded showed that, as compared to other issues, the global issue where students felt that they were informed was climate change. Eighty-eight per cent were familiar with it and most of them attended a school where it was taught.
Education International is calling for climate change education to be ensured for every learner – from early childhood to adult education. Climate change education must be recognised as an integral part of quality education and governments must ensure that teachers are provided with the necessary time, resources, training and support they need.
Click here to find out more about the work of Education International in support of the global climate literacy initiative.