We are not doing enough to ensure that what we learn helps us to address the environmental challenges that we face, concluded a new report prepared by UNESCO to understand how environmental issues are being integrated into education policies and curricula.
The report studied national documents from 46 countries, covering all regions to find that education is not giving students sufficient knowledge to adapt, act and respond to climate change and environmental crises.
The study, Learn for Our Planet found that almost half of the national educational documents made little-to-no reference to environmental themes while only 19 per cent speak about biodiversity.
“Education can be a powerful tool for transforming our relationship with nature,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO at the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development held this month. “We must invest in this field in order to preserve the planet.”
UNESCO has therefore urged to make environmental education a core curriculum component in all countries by 2025. At the World Conference, more than 80 ministers and vice ministers and 2,800 education and environment stakeholders adopted the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development, which outlines a range of policies to transform learning encompassing teaching, learning, professional training and civic engagement.
Anja Karliczek, Germany’s federal minister of education and research, shared the commitments of 18 countries of the European Union to implement the Education for Sustainable Development for 2030 framework, underscoring it as a driver for the achievement of all the SDGs.
Italy was the first country to incorporate climate change and sustainable development into its national curriculum. Italian lawmaker and former education minister, Lorenzo Fioramonti said that without faster progress on education there will be no chance of achieving the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Since then, New Zealand also introduced climate change studies into its secondary school curriculum, and other countries such as Argentina and Mexico have taken preliminary steps to follow suit. In Central and Eastern Europe, there are also several positive initiatives that help to incorporate climate change in education and countries throughout Europe have already made efforts to include learning outcomes and content related to climate change in both science and geography curricula. However, in many cases, it is the discretion of individual schools and teachers regarding what is actually taught and implemented in terms of climate change education.
UNESCO in partnership with UN Climate Change also prepared a guide in the framework of the 2020 review of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to provide countries with advice on how to enhance ambition.
“For the survival of our planet, together we must ensure that we are all learning for our planet,” said Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education of UNESCO.