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The future of climate change education following COP26

Unsurprisingly, COP26 has put the spotlight on climate change education, providing a chance for young people and educators to engage with the issues that surround it and discuss some of the drawbacks within the national curriculum. It was also a platform for Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to announce a range of measures that will “put climate change at the heart of education”, including the introduction of a model science curriculum, access to a new Virtual National Education Nature Park and the opportunity for young people to undertake a Climate Award [1].

Whilst it’s great to see this finally being prioritised, with youth-led coalition, Teach the Future, having campaigned since 2019 for young people to be better educated about the climate crisis, there is work to be done to make sure young people receive a rich, rounded, and meaningful climate education. What are some of the ways we can achieve this?

Boost teachers’ knowledge and confidence

Given that 92% of teachers are concerned about climate change – it may come as a surprise that 70% feel they lack the adequate training to educate students about it [2]. In order to deliver climate change education successfully, teachers need to be equipped with the right tools and resources.

Extend teaching beyond science and geography

According to Dr Meryl Batchelder, a science teacher at Corbridge Middle School in Northumberland and Dr of Environmental Geochemistry, "It is critical that climate change is a common thread through the curriculum. Not just in science and geography but in food science, RE, maths, English and art. Therefore, climate education for teachers is essential, so they have the confidence to broach the subject accurately, avoid the pitfalls and support their students sensitively."

To make climate change a topic widely taught across the curriculum, it must be framed as something relating to all aspects of human life. Considering the climate crisis is relevant to citizenship, green jobs, philosophy, politics, and the community, and education should reflect this within its curriculum.

Unpack the jargon

According to TES, students may not understand the science behind climate change issues or relevant jargon, like "net zero" or COP26, leaving them vulnerable to misinformation [3]. Educating young people on technical terms, the science behind them, as well as how to discern reliable sources of information online is very important.

A great reason for hope is the great work organisations such as Met Office, WWF, Greenpeace, and STEM Learning do to provide schools with easy-to-use, free climate change resources that can be adopted across numerous subject areas, including math, English, PSHE, and history. We are looking forward to seeing the development of tailored education resources to complement the national curriculum that will carry the legacy of COP26 forward.

 

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/education-secretary-puts-climate-change-at-the-heart-of-education--2

[2] https://www.teachthefuture.uk/teacher-research

[3] https://www.tes.com/news/cop26-teachers-trusted-source-climate-change

About the author

James Rufus

James has previous experience in education, charity, and marketing. He has a passion for mentoring youth and empowering underprivileged children to fulfill their potential. As an Account Executive, James works across LifeSkills with Barclays, Microsoft, London Enterprise Adviser Network and Think Through Nutrition.

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