Climate of change in education

30th September 2011 at 01:00

Why has the inclusion or omission of climate change from the new national curriculum attracted so much attention ("Baker contradicts official line on climate change", 23 September)? Is the assumption that someone has unofficially made teachers of geography, science and design collectively responsible for educating young people about the health of the planet?

If climate change is removed from the curriculum, is the worry that our students will be unprepared for dealing with our energy-guzzling society or will be disadvantaged in the global race for "green" jobs and developing new technologies? Do we think these small bites of curriculum time are already sufficient?

Isn't the real question about how education responds to the impact society is having on the planet, and whether that response has been adequate anyway over the last 25 years?

Education for sustainable development (ESD) is a complex, multi-faceted area of learning and deals with climate change-related matters among many others, but few teachers are properly trained for it, few have experienced it during their own education and most lack confidence in tackling it. So is the provision we currently have in most schools worth keeping?

Quality ESD is not something for just a few of the teachers in a school. Properly planned and co-ordinated, it is a whole-school issue. It really does link social, economic and environmental matters, with the school featuring as a hub of local activity.

ESD is not a statutory requirement, but ironically most schools do not realise how much they already do in an ad-hoc manner.

Surely, the most important thing is that ESD is included in the education provided by all schools and not left to chance. A few must not be left to carry the can for everyone else because their subjects happen to have some involvement.

Perhaps it is better for climate change not to be in the national curriculum, but to be taught well in schools where its value is properly understood and appreciated rather than included simply to tick a particular box.

Best of all would be for ESD to be an entitlement for all pupils, but if it is included it must be integrated and supported across the whole school. It should not be seen as a weight for hanging around the necks of a few subject teachers who happen to teach relevant subjects and are then assumed to be ESD experts.

Chris Southwood, Director, Learning 2B Sustainable.

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