By Dr. Pramod Kumar Sharma and Malgorzata (Gosia) Luszczek
In our Climate Change Focus, we have placed special attention to the role of education. We came across the Foundation for Environmental Education and learned about many of the education programs they run globally to engage young students with climate change issues, especially by empowering them to take action. We thus invited Pramod and Gosia to share their knowledge in promoting environmental education on a global scale to our readers. From this article, you may draw some lessons to effectively advocate for environmental education, and find ways to become active by joining their programs, as one option.
The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) helps communities realise the benefits of sustainable living through its five globally recognized programmes being implemented in 76 countries. Eco-Schools, a youth-focused educational programme of FEE, is one of the largest schools-based programmes that develop competencies amongst children to engage in positive environmental action. The programme has climate change as a standalone theme and also a cross-cutting issue. Teachers from 52,000 schools are facilitating project-based learning through the seven-step framework. The framework by design raises public awareness through sharing of outputs and outcomes of their activities on climate change with the school community.
The Young Reporter for Environment (YRE) actively engages 350,000 young people in environmental journalism and raising journalistic skills. The training is provided on positive storytelling using writing, videos and pictures where Climate Change is an important theme. YRE raise public awareness through the contributions made by young people. They are provided with an in-depth understanding of the topic and various dimensions of the problem and possible solutions. Dissemination is part of educating the whole community to take positive actions. YRE creates learning opportunities for youth participation in international events as reporters.
Climate Change Engagement
Over the past few years, FEE has intensified its engagement with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 4.7 to acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development and SDG 13.3, Climate Change Education. Climate change is a cross-cutting theme as well as a priority action area on which programmes have taken the special initiative. FEE members have developed special projects to raise the level of awareness and action. FEE has been engaging with Conference of Parties (COP) under the The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 2015 by organising discussions on the role of education in meeting the challenge of Climate Change. FEE in collaboration with UNFCCC and The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) organised a Round Table Discussion on Climate Change Education (CCE) Challenges at COP 24. The aim of the Round Table Discussion was to develop a set of recommendations that are actionable by different stakeholders and will contribute to the implementation of UNFCCC Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) (Article 6).
The roundtable, which was attended by representatives from 31 organizations, came out with a list of recommendations. Climate change is not only a complex environmental phenomenon but also, by definition, includes social issues like gender and poverty and education should incorporate these aspects while making people aware of the issue. The recommendations related to programmes and frameworks suggested the development of global programmes to create a cadre of professionals who are well versed with both Educational Pedagogies and Climate Science. This cadre is vital to capacity building of teachers for high impact on climate change education. One of the aspects of capacity building is being able to authenticate the available information received from various media. Case studies of schools that educate for action can be a good tool to scale up. There is also a need to make available educational frameworks/standards that integrate Climate Change Education in different subjects in the school curriculum with flexibility of the scope that allows the addition of “new” topics. Similar effort to develop climate-ready courses for higher education is also the need of the hour. The educational programme should also support the creation of Green Jobs and professionals to meet the need. Teachers’ training, development and availability of educational tools and resources are also important aspects that need attention. The use of multimedia lesson plans and other tools to support teachers for building higher-order thinking, especially critical thinking and handling emotional aspects, is of utmost priority. The tools in formal education should support the interdisciplinary nature of the subject. The multimedia resources need to be translated and adapted in a local context (social, economic, environmental and cultural). The active learning pedagogies that are suggested for climate change education will also help in improving the quality of education as most of the skills developed are transferable. The nature of scale and intensity requires the allocation of more resources for training of stakeholders and development of educational materials.
The other important aspect of empowerment for climate action is positive messaging and communication. Communication has to be built upon positive messaging. There is a need to train journalists, youth, teachers and other stakeholders on positive messaging as it is important that we present the Climate Change Challenge in a way which does not make us lose hope. There is a need for the development of communication strategies to address the issue of competing or misinformation and complicated communication/messages amongst local communities. The communication needs to be balanced in a way that communicates the magnitude but also provides hope for the future, keeping the balance between the difficulty and the possibility (a great way to integrate hope is to give people a way to act and see the change). The communication strategy also needs to address language and other barriers to access information and resources.
We all need to recognize the extreme emotional aspect of Climate Change Education from the perspective of the public in general and the teachers and children in particular. Youth and students can be change agents to dispel the myths/beliefs that prevent adults from taking action. This would require a focus on the development of persuasive skills to help young people in convincing others.
The issue of climate change requires cooperation and information sharing at a scale. There is a need for the creation of platforms and projects to bring the stakeholders both from government and civil society involved in the two sectors – environment and education – for better cooperation and synergies. Synergies between different ministries, especially between environment and education, is of utmost importance. Case studies that illustrate government support and policies for Climate Change Education can be a good tool to motivate and convince governments to prioritise education as a key tool. It is necessary to create more awareness of ACE amongst civil society to enable them to engage at the national level for activities related to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptations Plans (NAPs), long-term Green House Gas (GHG) emissions development strategies and climate policies. One of the most important actions required is to bridge the gap with the scientific community that provides up-to-date, good and relevant science to drive educational programmes.
Climate change education requires monitoring and evaluation frameworks to create evidence of the impact of action. The framework should help in promoting research and feedback in critical areas of excellence.
The recommendations of the roundtable were shared with wider stakeholders. One hundred and seventy six respondents from 43 countries put skill development of educators on the active learning action-oriented pedagogy, a better understanding of climate science, positive messaging to create hope and development of interactive educational material on climate change on high priority.
About the authors
Dr. Pramod Kumar Sharma
Senior Director of Education at the Foundation for Environmental Education
Malgorzata (Gosia) Luszczek
International YRE Director