Catch them young: school climate education, the key to sustainable development | Education
With the end of COP26, young influencers from all over the world are sharing their views via social media and reports galore, climate change and its impact have never been a priority for so many people. And more and more, what we have seen, and what is really exciting, is the outreach and participation of young people from all corners of the world.
In India, traditional knowledge, including that about nature, has been passed down in communities for generations. Today we see a clear and strong correlation between education and awareness about climate change! Young people and students are the future of our nations and communities, and all of their education shapes their views and sense of responsibility for climate action and responsible living.
On the front of formal education, India has been pursuing an active policy of environmental education since the 2003 Supreme Court Directive define a possible way forward; the aim being to educate every young Indian about the environment, to learn about sustainability and the real risks arising from climate change. There is an active argument for including climate change education (ECC) in schools as it acts as a positive impetus for India’s efforts to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a key priority at the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference held earlier this November.
In India, we are seeing an increase in the number of youth climate organizations demanding greater climate action, climate change education and climate justice. Community youth movements are building strong links with school clubs to stimulate grassroots mobilization, including learning about climate change and sustainability.
The British Council – with a long history of tackling climate change through the arts, education and English – is building on this very idea through its Climate Connection program. Climate Connection empowers youth, policy makers, artists, teachers, students as well as business and community leaders through its global networking opportunities to find creative and collaborative solutions to common climate change challenges.
Recently, the British Council conducted a global survey for its Global Youth Letter – crowdsourced in 23 countries. The survey found that 78% of Indian youth (aged 18-25) felt equipped to tackle climate change issues such as loss of forest cover, rising temperatures, uneven rainfall and loss of biodiversity.
It drew the perspectives of thousands of young people around the world with an active opinion on climate change and, once again, highlighted the fact that young people are at the center of global collaborative approaches. The aim of the survey and the Global Youth Letter was to create a platform for young voices from around the world, so that their views were presented to policy makers at COP26.
The survey offers a glimmer of hope for the future. It highlights the intention of young people from urban and non-urban backgrounds – in India and around the world – to seek solutions to the climate crisis. It also highlights the potential of social media – a tool this generation is well acquainted with – as a catalyst for awareness and motivation among citizens around the world; be aware of climate change 24/7. Young people – the future agents of change – need appropriate support and better access to training and skills development if they are to take action.
On the education and skills front, innovative experiences can be planned as extracurricular activities to balance with the formal school curriculum. It would be helpful if educators and curriculum developers could find ways to better integrate CCE with the social sciences. As with all subjects, classroom study is most effective when we clearly understand the essential role teachers play and give them the right teaching tools and materials.
Our experience has shown that when teachers have access to the right teaching tools for the right demographic of students, students understand the challenge of climate change and can even better navigate the dangers of ecological anxiety. Using tools like podcasts, videos, and even free college-level MOOCs created by global universities such as the University of Edinburgh, educators and teachers can integrate climate change themes into existing curricula and offer personalized lesson plans much more successfully.
In India, it is possible to evaluate the ECC approach in schools – not just in subways – but also in the vast network of schools beyond level 1 and 2 cities. Better understanding and Awareness is generated if, for topics related to sustainability and the environment, students are engaged in real-life experiential projects where they can learn through action and project-based decision-making. This approach makes these important topics more real, students are more engaged, and keep children and students in classrooms.
A hybrid model where arts, drama, documentaries and workshops on climate change could be part of the formal curriculum alongside formal classroom subjects.
The key then must be to explore innovative and collaborative teaching methods that create the right kind of impulses and empathy, and a sense of curiosity, excitement and critical thinking in children in this. which could then truly become a transformative journey of awakening to the real dangers of climate change and the role they can play as the country’s future in avoiding a climate crisis.
One way could be to take an approach that makes climate change education, like science for example, a much more exciting and collaborative experience for young people. The popular documentary, “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet 3”, is a fine example of educating young audiences through moving storytelling on digital media such as audiobooks and Netflix.
In this very exciting and engaging documentary, legendary English broadcaster, nature historian and author Sir David Attenborough, who was also the British People’s Advocate at COP26, draws inspiration from 60 years of monitoring the planet’s biodiversity to emphasize the importance of the choices we make today. , and offering hope when he says, “Life goes on, and if we make the right choices, ruin can turn into regrowth.” “
(The author of this article is Barbara Wickham OBE, Director India, British Council. The opinions expressed here are personal.)