Should climate change be dropped from the national curriculum?

13 June 2011
The Guardian
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was shocked to read today that climate change may be dropped from the national curriculum. As a teacher in various state schools for 20 years, I’ve seen how much the education on this issue has really improved in the past decade and how everyone has benefited from it being a prescribed part of the curriculum.

Pupils are really motivated to learn about climate change. I’ve seen this first-hand. At my school, in common with many others, there’s been a drive to help pupils make links between the various subjects around the issue of the environment and, obviously, climate change has played a big part in that. As an English and media teacher, I’ve read articles with my classes about how climate change is making the poorest people in the world suffer from droughts and flooding. I’ve seen just how animated pupils become when they’ve debated the issues. Furthermore, I’ve become aware that they’ve learned a great deal about the problem in science and geography – and have enjoyed it. One normally disaffected student, fired up by what she was reading, told me that learning things in school “made sense” to her. “It’s like I see what education’s all about,” she told me. It was a real eureka moment for her.

Following on from this point, pupils have definitely benefited from applying theory to practical examples. The most obvious instance of this is in science, where pupils learn the theory and science of the greenhouse effect and then examine real-life examples. One geography teacher told me today, outraged about the government’s plans, that this is the thing that makes many children learn most effectively: they need to see the relevance of a particular academic knowledge before it sinks in. Learning about climate change has enabled students to see the “holistic” nature of knowledge; they’ve been able to join the dots between the various subject disciplines.

Third, and most importantly, climate change is one of the most pressing problems facing us today. We must educate the next generation properly about it so that they are able to take the action that’s needed. Our whole future is at stake here; it would be a tragedy to drop climate change from the national curriculum.

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