Participants to EIAP Conference on Climate Change Education adopt a statement to be presented at COP 26.
Participants to EIAP Conference on Climate Change Education adopt a statement to be presented at COP 26.

Educators in Asia-Pacific call for an urgent commitment to quality climate change education

published 13 October 2021 updated 22 October 2021

Participants at the Education International Asia-Pacific (EIAP) Region’s Conference, “Mobilising Educators for Climate Change Education”, urge governments, education unions in the region, and delegates to the 2021 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference (COP 26) to ensure quality climate change education (CCE) for all and to recognise its role in a just transition to a more sustainable world.

“Education, we know, is a powerful tool. Education changes lives. It enlightens. It empowers. And it can contribute to saving our planet. However, for education to live up to its promise as a catalyst for sustainable development, it must be an education that provides students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to take climate action.” This was the call to action from David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International as he addressed educators and unionists participating in the Asia-Pacific conference “Mobilising Educators for Climate Change E “Mobilising Educators for Climate Change Education.”

In his keynote speech to the conference, Edwards stressed: “My message to you today is simple. Mobilise.”

He reiterated that humanity does not have a moment to lose to drastically curb carbon emissions and keep the global temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Edwards emphasised that educators have a key role to play to make this happen.

Education International’s Manifesto

Education International’s Manifesto on Quality Climate Change Education for All outlines students’ right to quality education in a time of climate crisis. For this to happen, students must be provided with quality climate change education, Edwards added.

Education International believes that climate education must be grounded in scientific facts, he said. “But it must also centre on climate justice, which entails understanding the economic, social, cultural, historical, and political causes and implications of global temperature rises.”

For him, climate education must include a civic action component and should be on the curriculum across all grades. And it should be prioritised so that every student leaves school climate-literate.

Edwards explained that the Education International Manifesto highlights the importance of training and supporting teachers to provide quality climate education. He deplored the fact that “in reality, teachers, despite being motivated to teach about climate change, are not adequately supported to do so. Too often they lack the skills, materials, resources, support from their school leadership. Teachers working in hardest-to-reach areas or disadvantaged schools often face the most challenges. Time is also a key challenge. Education systems with a focus on high-stakes testing and packed curricula can leave little room for these vital lessons.”

Teach for the Planet – places teachers at heart of decision-making about CCE

While Education International’s Teach for the Planet campaign advocates for all countries to include education in their climate policies, he said it was regrettable that Education International’s research, Climate Education Ambition Report Card, shows that all countries have failed to comprehensively include education in their climate policies.

“But there is still time for countries to update and resubmit their nationally determined contributions and to increase their climate education ambition,” he said. “This is why we must mobilise.”

Lastly, he underlined, the Teach for the Planet campaign aims to promote a teacher-led definition of quality climate education. “We believe that every teacher – early childhood, primary, secondary, university, art, maths, science, history, or languages can, and should, teach for climate action. Every teacher is an education expert, and their representatives should be consulted and included in decision-making about climate education.”

Currently, teachers’ voices are too often pushed to the side and the profession’s expertise and valuable contribution to ensuring that quality climate education can be successfully implemented are ignored, he condemned.

Advocacy at COP 26

Education International in calling for strong commitments on climate education at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) as part of the Teach for the Planet campaign. Education International will be joining with other civil society partners to host a pavilion at the climate conference. It will aim to raise the visibility of education as a climate solution and raise the voices of educators as key partners in this.

“The challenges are many,” he emphasised. “Many of you will have politicians in power in your country who do not see climate change as the major threat that it is, and denialism and fake news are still rife in diverse settings. But quality climate change education can change this. So, to conclude, I reiterate my message … Mobilise!”

Launch of EIAP Toolkit on climate change education advocacy

On 12 October educators and unionists in the Asia-Pacific region were presented with the EIAP Toolkit on climate change education advocacy. And they also discussed the diverse challenges to CCE in the EIAP sub-regions.

The EIAP Toolkit, “Teach for Climate Action: An Advocacy Toolkit for Educators and Their Unions”, was presented by its author, Richard Cornelio of the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

The toolkit is based on the concept that there is a need to build a global citizenry with a sharp moral compass who will demand that climate justice stands at the centre of policies designed to tackle climate change.

It can be used as “a stepping stone”, said Cornelio, who is also editor of his university’s official student publication, the Philippine Collegian. With the toolkit, “we hope that educators and education unionists will learn useful tips on how to push for the inclusion of climate education in their respective country’s climate action plans”.

He also detailed the document’s three main parts: Climate change education: Global and regional perspectives; Climate change education in the classroom and in curricula; and Advancing climate change education in and beyond the classroom.

Sub-regional perspectives

During the third session of the conference, “Fostering stronger and meaningful cross-regional efforts in mobilising for CCE”, education union leaders outlined the perspectives of their unions. Contributions were made by the Federal President of the Australian Education Union, Correna Haythorpe, President of PGRI/Indonesia Unifah Rosyidi, the General Secretary of the Fiji Teachers’ Union, Agni Deo Singh, the Vice-General Secretary of the National Teachers’ Association/Taiwan, Ya-Ling Li, and the President of the All India Primary Teachers’ Federation, Ram Pal Singh.

Participants then split into breakout sessions related to EIAP sub-regions: Southeast Asia, North Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific.

Regional statement calling for quality climate change education for all

During the EIAP conference, education unionists from the EIAP region also adopted a statement, “Education International Asia-Pacific Unions Call for Quality Climate Change Education for All”. The statement demands quality climate education for all that is brought to the classroom and will be presented at the COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of Education International’s Teach for the Planet campaign.

With this statement, Education International’s member organisations in the Asia-Pacific urge governments, education unions in the region, and delegates to the COP 26 “to ensure quality climate change education for all and to recognise its role in a just transition to a more sustainable world”.

They stress “the urgency of climate action in the education sector as a key step, among many, to tackling the most pressing crisis confronting humanity today”.

While reiterating that “education is a long-term investment in shaping a global citizenry equipped with the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to sustain our planet for present and future generations”, they regret that “decision-makers have yet to invest in transforming and strengthening education systems for them to live up to this goal”.

Tenacity, trust, shared vision and share information

At the conference conclusion, Education International’s President, Susan Hopgood, highlighted the need to draw lessons from the Indigenous knowledge on climate. She also said educators need assistance to become confident by getting initial and continuous professional development training on climate change education.

“It is with this spirit of collective tenacity, trust, and shared vision that we shall carry on in fulfilling our commitments to climate action as the global voice of educators,” she said.