In a blog for Carbon Brief, Andrew Charlton-Perez, professor of meteorology and head of department at the University of Reading argues that there are gaps in how UK schools teach students about climate change. This post coincided with Reading’s recent Climate Education Summit.
The post begins:
“While the impacts of global warming are already being felt across the world, the decisions taken now on climate action will most affect today’s young people. Yet many children rarely encounter discussion of climate change in the classroom or in their wider lives, except in often-distressing news stories or through what they see on social media. This summer has been a case in point, when a succession of extremes has made headlines. Rapid attribution studies have shown that the deadly heat in the Pacific northwest in June would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change and that the severe flooding in western Europe in July was made more likely by climate change. Learning to live with these consequences, and adapt to them, is one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced, and the way society changes will shape everyday life for future generations. But, despite climate action and adaptation being an immediate national priority, it is currently little mentioned in the UK national school curriculum.”
It goes on:
“The wide-ranging implications of global warming mean that people will feel its impacts whether their interests at school are, say, in the lab or the arts, and regardless of their career path. Yet, climate change is only included briefly in the national curriculum, as it currently stands.
The word “climate” features twice in the science curriculum for Key Stage 4 (KS4) for 15- and 16-year-olds – instructing teachers to explain the “potential effects” of greenhouse gases, plus “evidence and uncertainties” for human-caused climate change. And once for KS3 (12-14 years), but not at all for KS2 (8-11 years) and KS1 (5-7 years).
In geography, there are three mentions in the KS3 curriculum, including the requirement to teach “the change in climate from Ice Age to the present” and “how human and physical processes interact to influence and change landscapes, environments, and the climate”.
The Department for Education (DfE) says other relevant teaching includes primary-age pupils learning about seasons, weather and habitats (KS1), as well as how environments can change and climate zones (KS2). Secondary-school pupils learn about aspects of the climate and ecosystems in both biology and chemistry (KS3), while A-level students are taught an understanding of climate change and how it can be tackled, the DfE says. However, all of the above examples are restricted to the sciences and geography, barring one DfE suggestion that economics A-level lessons “could” include impacts of economics decisions and activity on the environment, if schools and colleges wish to.” …
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