.
W

ith climate change continuing to pose as our greatest global challenge yet, there is a critical need for a shift in our attitudes and lifestyles towards a greater conscientiousness for the environment and our planet—a shift that will need to begin within our education systems, and most especially our youth, around the world. However, while efforts to implement climate change education in schools have been attempted in certain regions and met with limited success, there is a need for a more systemic approach both within the education sector and cross-sectorally in order to see our collective goals towards green innovation and related skills-building receive the focus and funding necessary to train teachers and administrators and equip students with the necessary interdisciplinary mindset to become more empowered and involved in climate action. The question is, then: how can we build more progressive education systems capable of empowering all of us to become more involved in climate action and sustainability?

Climate action begins with the youth.

While the issues surrounding climate change have long been a part of global discussion, curriculum involving climate action has been relatively limited. With the threat of climate change continuing to grow, it is imperative that we build more progressive education systems capable of educating and empowering students to not only become advocates for climate change, but to also become agents of change themselves.

Indeed, with the world population having grown by 2.5 billion since the UN began publishing reports about climate change in 1990, we are looking at a large percentage of the population who has grown up with the climate change crisis as a significant part of their lives. With 4.5 billion youth between the ages of 14-25 today, it is important for the international community to pay attention to how we look after the interests and future of our youth, and the ways in which we can work together to raise awareness of how climate change affects our planet. In order to achieve this, therefore, it is crucial that we focus not only on the Sustainable Development Goals in regards to education and climate change, but the SDGs overall as an integrated agenda where all goals are interconnected, interrelated, and indivisible—and use this agenda to create a more holistic view of education so existing gaps and potential solutions can be identified.

Universities are key to empowering both students and teachers about climate action.

• Transforming the skillsets of universities and teacher preparation programs is key to how we move forward about teaching climate action and sustainable development in education. Without a proper framework to train educators on not only what climate action is, but also how it relates to sustainability and how to implement these practices in the classroom, it will be difficult to tackle climate change in a more systemic way and create a framework that can prepare teachers for education regarding climate action.

• Intersectoral and international partnerships with universities will be needed. Universities alone will not be able to put together the framework necessary to educate teachers about climate action. Therefore, it is important that universities partner with governments, education ministries, training programs, and administrations in order to build a more progressive higher education system.

Building sustainability mindsets and scientific literacy in students is crucial to combatting climate change.

One example of creating a framework to educate and empower youth in sustainability and climate action is the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals program. In order to empower students to become more involved in sustainable development and climate action, the Smithsonian created the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals, a framework that was based on the SDGs and the idea that while students have a lot of questions about the world around them, the fact that teachers and students may come from different cultural contexts, have unique learning dispositions, and various degrees of background knowledge, teachers may not always be able to provide them with the answers they need.

Therefore, there is a need to give students the opportunity to:

• Discover, or engage in serving their community to better understand the world around them, look at issues from a more local perspective and investigate these issues on a local scale.

• Understand, or use their community as a laboratory in order to engage in critical thinking about issues, slowly expanding their perspective from the local level to a larger system-wide position.

• Act, or use the information they’ve gathered to take action.

In this way, students can be empowered to take charge of their own education, with educators working to help foster sustainability-centered mindsets and provide resources to increase scientific literacy in students.

Transformational leadership is critical to creating progressive education systems.

In addition to supporting teachers with training and resources, it is also critical that leaders in education—principals, administrators, heads of schools, and key figures at the local and international levels—are a part of the process in carrying out these changes in the education system to create a more progressive education system by taking action themselves, inspiring others, and looking towards implementing new innovations.

Several lessons can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that could help us think through possible responses to climate change.

• We need to create more equity through education. As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, many complex global challenges tend to impact people in under-resourced areas the most—and those who have traditionally had the fewest resources continue to have the fewest resources. It is crucial, therefore, that we raise awareness around how we can create more equity through education—and ensure that people have the correct information they need to make informed decisions to empower themselves and their actions.

• The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of technology. With school and work becoming largely remote during the peak of the pandemic, the importance of technologies such as computers, mobile phones, internet access and even basic access to electricity demonstrated the barriers that certain underserved populations face with a lack of access to these essential technologies during global crises. Much like the pandemic, access to technology will also be key to empowering climate action.

Social and emotional learning will be essential to solving the SDGs and empowering climate action.

In order to solve for the SDGs and empower climate action, it is critical that not only curriculum-based education but also social and emotional learning are integrated into education and civic engagement. With social and emotional learning beginning at birth and creating a foundation for empathy, compassion, and connecting with others, it is important that these skills are further developed as students make their way through the education system. Indeed, by developing social and emotional skills such as self-awareness, engaging in social awareness, leadership skills and perspective-taking, complex global issues like climate change can be addressed in a more deep and human way.

Teachers and students will drive this change.

Historically, changes in school have been driven from the top down by national policy, standards and curriculum. However, what we’re seeing with climate action is the opposite. With many students beginning to advocate for ecofriendly practices and push for climate change much faster than broad climate action curriculum can be implemented, it is becoming apparent that real change will need to begin with students—and therefore, that teachers and leaders will need to interface with students in order to work together to find real solutions to the climate crisis.

Editor's Note: This excerpt is part of a larger report published in collaboration with the Qatar Foundation and the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE), chronicling key takeaways from four special UNGA 76 forums in September of 2021.
About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's Managing Editor and Special Series Editor.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

Building More Progressive Education Systems for Climate Action

Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.

October 24, 2021

With climate change continuing to pose as our greatest global challenge yet, there is a critical need for a shift in our attitudes and lifestyles towards a greater conscientiousness for our planet—a shift that will need to begin within our education systems, and most especially our youth.

W

ith climate change continuing to pose as our greatest global challenge yet, there is a critical need for a shift in our attitudes and lifestyles towards a greater conscientiousness for the environment and our planet—a shift that will need to begin within our education systems, and most especially our youth, around the world. However, while efforts to implement climate change education in schools have been attempted in certain regions and met with limited success, there is a need for a more systemic approach both within the education sector and cross-sectorally in order to see our collective goals towards green innovation and related skills-building receive the focus and funding necessary to train teachers and administrators and equip students with the necessary interdisciplinary mindset to become more empowered and involved in climate action. The question is, then: how can we build more progressive education systems capable of empowering all of us to become more involved in climate action and sustainability?

Climate action begins with the youth.

While the issues surrounding climate change have long been a part of global discussion, curriculum involving climate action has been relatively limited. With the threat of climate change continuing to grow, it is imperative that we build more progressive education systems capable of educating and empowering students to not only become advocates for climate change, but to also become agents of change themselves.

Indeed, with the world population having grown by 2.5 billion since the UN began publishing reports about climate change in 1990, we are looking at a large percentage of the population who has grown up with the climate change crisis as a significant part of their lives. With 4.5 billion youth between the ages of 14-25 today, it is important for the international community to pay attention to how we look after the interests and future of our youth, and the ways in which we can work together to raise awareness of how climate change affects our planet. In order to achieve this, therefore, it is crucial that we focus not only on the Sustainable Development Goals in regards to education and climate change, but the SDGs overall as an integrated agenda where all goals are interconnected, interrelated, and indivisible—and use this agenda to create a more holistic view of education so existing gaps and potential solutions can be identified.

Universities are key to empowering both students and teachers about climate action.

• Transforming the skillsets of universities and teacher preparation programs is key to how we move forward about teaching climate action and sustainable development in education. Without a proper framework to train educators on not only what climate action is, but also how it relates to sustainability and how to implement these practices in the classroom, it will be difficult to tackle climate change in a more systemic way and create a framework that can prepare teachers for education regarding climate action.

• Intersectoral and international partnerships with universities will be needed. Universities alone will not be able to put together the framework necessary to educate teachers about climate action. Therefore, it is important that universities partner with governments, education ministries, training programs, and administrations in order to build a more progressive higher education system.

Building sustainability mindsets and scientific literacy in students is crucial to combatting climate change.

One example of creating a framework to educate and empower youth in sustainability and climate action is the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals program. In order to empower students to become more involved in sustainable development and climate action, the Smithsonian created the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals, a framework that was based on the SDGs and the idea that while students have a lot of questions about the world around them, the fact that teachers and students may come from different cultural contexts, have unique learning dispositions, and various degrees of background knowledge, teachers may not always be able to provide them with the answers they need.

Therefore, there is a need to give students the opportunity to:

• Discover, or engage in serving their community to better understand the world around them, look at issues from a more local perspective and investigate these issues on a local scale.

• Understand, or use their community as a laboratory in order to engage in critical thinking about issues, slowly expanding their perspective from the local level to a larger system-wide position.

• Act, or use the information they’ve gathered to take action.

In this way, students can be empowered to take charge of their own education, with educators working to help foster sustainability-centered mindsets and provide resources to increase scientific literacy in students.

Transformational leadership is critical to creating progressive education systems.

In addition to supporting teachers with training and resources, it is also critical that leaders in education—principals, administrators, heads of schools, and key figures at the local and international levels—are a part of the process in carrying out these changes in the education system to create a more progressive education system by taking action themselves, inspiring others, and looking towards implementing new innovations.

Several lessons can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that could help us think through possible responses to climate change.

• We need to create more equity through education. As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, many complex global challenges tend to impact people in under-resourced areas the most—and those who have traditionally had the fewest resources continue to have the fewest resources. It is crucial, therefore, that we raise awareness around how we can create more equity through education—and ensure that people have the correct information they need to make informed decisions to empower themselves and their actions.

• The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of technology. With school and work becoming largely remote during the peak of the pandemic, the importance of technologies such as computers, mobile phones, internet access and even basic access to electricity demonstrated the barriers that certain underserved populations face with a lack of access to these essential technologies during global crises. Much like the pandemic, access to technology will also be key to empowering climate action.

Social and emotional learning will be essential to solving the SDGs and empowering climate action.

In order to solve for the SDGs and empower climate action, it is critical that not only curriculum-based education but also social and emotional learning are integrated into education and civic engagement. With social and emotional learning beginning at birth and creating a foundation for empathy, compassion, and connecting with others, it is important that these skills are further developed as students make their way through the education system. Indeed, by developing social and emotional skills such as self-awareness, engaging in social awareness, leadership skills and perspective-taking, complex global issues like climate change can be addressed in a more deep and human way.

Teachers and students will drive this change.

Historically, changes in school have been driven from the top down by national policy, standards and curriculum. However, what we’re seeing with climate action is the opposite. With many students beginning to advocate for ecofriendly practices and push for climate change much faster than broad climate action curriculum can be implemented, it is becoming apparent that real change will need to begin with students—and therefore, that teachers and leaders will need to interface with students in order to work together to find real solutions to the climate crisis.

Editor's Note: This excerpt is part of a larger report published in collaboration with the Qatar Foundation and the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE), chronicling key takeaways from four special UNGA 76 forums in September of 2021.
About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's Managing Editor and Special Series Editor.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.