Work underway to improve teacher training on climate change education

published 18 May 2017 updated 19 May 2017

Education International has injected the voice of teachers into a recent UN climate change event, highlighting the need for and ways to better train teachers to improve greater climate awareness curricula.

The global teachers' federation joined the international community in Bonn, Germany, from 8 -18 May, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The conference was aimed at reviewing the progress made on the 2015 Paris Agreement and the implementation work conducted at the 22nd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) held in Marrakech, Morocco, in November 2016.

Exchange of best practice

The mid-point review, held prior to November’s COP23 in Bonn, enabled interested parties to share their ideas and best practices on climate change education and training. This took place in the framework of the Dialogue for Climate Action, an initiative launched at COP18 which adopted guidelines on education, training, and awareness-raising for the greater public. This was in line with Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change which addresses the need to better inform, educate, and train people on the issue of climate change.

The work took place over the course of two sessions, enabling stakeholders to note that, despite sporadic yet major progress in certain countries, most teachers desperately lack the training and resources to provide quality climate change education.

Action-based resources

Marie-Christine Ghanbari, lecturer at Germany's Münster University, and finalist of the Global Teacher Prize 2017, told attendees that “it is difficult to teach this subject whose abstract nature can easily put off students, and younger students in particular. This is why it is important to use teaching methods geared towards action and cooperation. Our teachers are currently teaching the future agents of change in our societies. Therefore, providing them with resources to match their responsibilities is a matter of urgency!”

This observation, shared by Education International (EI), could also apply to all issues related to the challenges faced by sustainable development education for which the teaching profession remains woefully under-prepared. This is particularly true in a global context of teacher shortages and mass recruitment of under-qualified staff.

Belgian success

However, while gaps in training and a lack of resources remain considerable, increasing numbers of climate change teaching tools make it possible to conduct promising experiments. In Belgium, for instance, a web tool called “ Mon2050” (My 2050) targets the public and secondary school students and encourages discussion on climate change. It enables various scenarios of transition to a low-carbon society by 2050 to be explored. This and other examples demonstrate that although resources may be lacking, imagination and creativity are not.

However, EI highlights that these encouraging experiments should not overshadow the urgent need to mobilise sufficient financial resources around the world in order to ensure adequate teacher training, which is a prerequisite to quality climate change education.