.

  • Written by Hilary Whitehouse, Associate Professor, James Cook University
Australian schools are pretty much left to their own devices when it comes to teaching students about the climate emergency. Shutterstock/Suphakit Wararatphong

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.


Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing our society today, so you would think it would be an important topic for study in the school curriculum.

But in Australia that’s not the case. Schools and teachers are largely left to fend for themselves and use other available resources if they want to raise the issue with students.

Put climate change in education

Calls for climate change to be part of the curricula for primary and secondary education were detailed in 2010 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) established the Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD) program. It was part of the organisation’s effort to increase “climate literacy” among young people.


Read more: The gloves are off: 'predatory' climate deniers are a threat to our children


The importance of climate change education was later covered under Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, which Australia and other countries signed in 2016.

Under the Paris Agreement Work Program, countries have agreed to develop extensive education programs and to promote public participation in decision-making.

Some countries – such as Vietnam, the Philippines, South Africa and China – already have national education programs addressing climate change.

Australia is not one of them.

People want action

Australia has not designed, implemented nor funded a coherent educational approach to our climate emergency. That’s despite the fact poll after poll of Australians show the majority want more action on climate change.

The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience identifies education in schools as a priority in understanding risks of climate change. Yet education departments at state and federal level show few public signs of creating a coordinated curriculum approach.

Explicit links to the topic of climate change in national and state curricula are only found within the senior secondary (Years 11 and 12) and secondary (Years 7 to 10) Humanities, Geography and Science learning areas. Some are compulsory and some optional depending on the school and year group.

We can find no explicit mention of climate change in the primary (Years 1-6) curriculum, though students learn related topics on endangered species, renewable energy and natural disasters.

We predict that continuing curriculum redevelopment will focus more effectively on the climate crisis as its effects become more pronounced. But the current piecemeal approach doesn’t address the problem at scale.

For now, climate change is hinted at but generally unnamed in school curricula. Climate change education is certainly not mandated, nor is it directly nor sufficiently funded.

In and out of the curriculum

In the past 20 years climate change education has been in and out of the formal curriculum depending on the whims of government.

In 1999, the then Liberal environment minister, Robert Hill, released the Today Shapes Tomorrow discussion paper. This led to the Environmental Education for a Sustainable Future: National Action Plan, which launched the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI).

AuSSI placed the learner at the centre of the inquiry process for transformational change, which is the ideal approach to climate change education.

A second national plan, Living Sustainably: the Australian Government’s National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability, was released in 2009. This revealed how Australia was educationally preparing itself for a systemic shift. Except that it wasn’t.

Early in 2010, the Australian government abruptly withdrew funding and support for AuSSI without explanation. The first and second National Action Plans were abandoned.

Schools left to go it alone

No overarching, national coordination has been in place since. Australian schools have been pretty much left to their own devices when it comes to teaching the climate emergency.

Children and young people are presently reliant on the initiative of teachers, parents, principals and professional associations to introduce and maintain sustainability programs to learn about their futures in school time.

Their alternatives are to rely on peers and on information from community and non-government organisation (NGO) networks.

For example, many excellent resources have been developed for schools, such as CSIRO’s Sustainable Futures, Cool Australia, Future Earth, the Climate Reality Project, Climate Watch and Scootle. There are also the successful Reef Guardian and Sea Country programs.

Catholic schools can draw inspiration from the Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“on care for our common home”), and most schools promote energy, waste and water conservation.

In the last decade, state and federal governments have shied away from systematic, climate change education. That’s despite the real risks to all Australian children and young people who are facing the prospect of diminished lives without climate stability.


Read more: Why attending a climate strike can change minds (most importantly your own)


There is much to be done within the education sector to maturely and responsibly address the risks of climate change. Denial, prevarication and obfuscation do not alter thermodynamic reality.

Education is central to climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience. As effects become more frightening, it is reasonable to ask: what is being done about recognising and systematically supporting climate change education in state and national school curricula?

Unfortunately, the short answer is not much. This may be one reason school students are taking to the streets on September 20 this year.


This article was co-authored by Angela Colliver, an education for sustainability specialist who designs educational programs and curriculum resources for Australian schools.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Hilary Whitehouse, Associate Professor, James Cook University

Read more http://theconversation.com/ever-wondered-what-our-curriculum-teaches-kids-about-climate-change-the-answer-is-not-much-123272

Is your horse normal? Now there’s an app for that

Vet: are you happy? Horse: neigh. evilgurl/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SASince ancient times, horse behaviour, and the bond between horses and humans, has been a source of intrigue and fascination. The horse-l...

Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science, University of Sydney - avatar Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science, University of Sydney

Small histories: a road trip reveals local museums stuck in a rut

Berry, and other tourist towns, are out of step with modern museum curation which is trying to include Aboriginal communities and their stories. ShutterstockAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander read...

Jen Saunders, Phd candidate, University of Wollongong - avatar Jen Saunders, Phd candidate, University of Wollongong

Curious Kids: how are stars made?

Stars come into existence because of a powerful force of nature called gravity. ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy SchmidtIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it...

Orsola De Marco, Astrophysicist , Macquarie University - avatar Orsola De Marco, Astrophysicist , Macquarie University

What is perimenopause and how does it affect women's health in midlife?

Perimenopause lasts months for some women, and years for others. from www.shutterstock.comAll women know to expect the time in life when their periods finish and they reach menopause. Many might even...

Gita Mishra, Professor of Life Course Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland - avatar Gita Mishra, Professor of Life Course Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland

Vital signs. Our compulsory super system is broken. We ought to axe it, or completely reform it

We're taking money from people, letting it fall through the cracks, and spending no less than we were on pensions. ShutterstockThe just-announced inquiry into Australia’s retirement income syste...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Might consciousness and free will be the aces up our sleeves when it comes to competing with robots?

Our advantage lies in incommensurables, and it'll grow in importance. Franck V. on UnsplashThe rise of artificial intelligence has led to widespread concern about the role of humans in the workplaces ...

Allan McCay, Law Lecturer, University of Sydney - avatar Allan McCay, Law Lecturer, University of Sydney

Should I stay or should I go: how 'city girls' can learn to feel at home in the country

Shutterstock/The ConversationA move to the country is often presented in popular culture as an idyllic life, a place where you can escape the pressures of the city. It’s in television shows su...

Rachael Wallis, Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland - avatar Rachael Wallis, Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland

Grattan on Friday: Storm clouds avoid the bush, darken over the economy

National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson says she doesn't think the government has a drought policy. ShutterstockGovernment sources insist shock jock Alan Jones didn’t drive Thursday&...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Julianne Schultz appointed chair of The Conversation

Professor Julianne Schultz AM FAMA has been appointed chair of The Conversation Media Group, following the retirement of Harrison Young. Since becoming chairman in April 2017, Harrison has improved ...

Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation - avatar Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation

Cats are not scared off by dingoes. We must find another way to protect native animals

New research suggests feral cats can probably outsmart dingoes. Wikimedia/AAPFeral cats are wreaking havoc on our native wildlife, eating more than a billion animals across Australia every year. But ...

Bronwyn Fancourt, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of New England - avatar Bronwyn Fancourt, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of New England

Curious Kids: does chewing gum stay inside you for years?

Swallowing a lot of gum can cause it to stick together or stick to food in your gut. www.shuttershock.com, CC BYIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@th...

Jerry Zhou, Lecturer, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University - avatar Jerry Zhou, Lecturer, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University

Don't believe your ears: 'enhancing' forensic audio can mislead juries in criminal trials

Audio used as evidence in criminal trials can often be unreliable.  Many criminal trials feature forensic evidence in the form of audio recordings, typically from bugging houses or cars, or intercep...

Helen Fraser, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England - avatar Helen Fraser, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England

The case for 'inclusion riders' in creative industries: what Australian discrimination law says about quotas

In March last year, Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In her acceptance speech, she drew attention to the female nominees in the room and left them with two final words: &ldq...

Liam Elphick, Adjunct Research Fellow, Law School, University of Western Australia - avatar Liam Elphick, Adjunct Research Fellow, Law School, University of Western Australia

The Portal review: can meditation change the world?

The Portal uses individual stories of meditative transformation to suggest a bigger change is possible. SuppliedThe Portal follows six individuals who undergo a personal transformation from trauma an...

Peggy Kern, Associate professor, University of Melbourne - avatar Peggy Kern, Associate professor, University of Melbourne

Why white married women are more likely to vote for conservative parties

Women’s perceptions of 'gender linked fate' were contingent on two dimensions: their race and their marital status. ShutterstockThe polls were wrong in the last US and Australian federal electi...

Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor in Sociology and Co-Director of The Policy Lab, University of Melbourne - avatar Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor in Sociology and Co-Director of The Policy Lab, University of Melbourne

Thoughts and prayers: miracles, Christianity and praying for rain

In a speech in Albury last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told his audience that he was praying for rain in drought-affected areas. “I pray for that rain everywhere else around the count...

Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland - avatar Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland

Prime Minister's science prizes awarded for algebra expertise, anti-cancer research and excellence in science teaching

Cheryl Praeger was awarded the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. She has spent more than four decades inspiring a love for maths in others, and has created a vast body of academic work i...

Michael Hopkin, Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation - avatar Michael Hopkin, Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation

Curious Kids: is it OK to listen to music while studying?

Does music usually put you in a better mood? That might help you try a little bit harder and stick with challenging tasks. Shutterstock I am in year 11 and I like to listen to music when I am studyin...

Timothy Byron, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Wollongong - avatar Timothy Byron, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Wollongong

A requiem for Reformasi as Joko Widodo unravels Indonesia's democratic legacy

It’s deeply ironic that Indonesia’s third president, BJ Habibie, died on September 11 – less than a week before the national legislature passed a law that gutted the highly-regarded ...

Tim Lindsey, Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne - avatar Tim Lindsey, Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Questions to ask yourself before buying your watch

There are more and more watches on the market. And more and more brands are trying to seduce consu...

How to Thoroughly Prepare Children for a Professional Photoshoot at a Studio

Children are only young for a moment, which is why, for a lot of parents, it's essential to take a...

What to Expect at the University of Florida Tour

The University of Florida is a dream college for most aspiring students. Not only because of its p...

7 Professions that Will Be Huge in the Next Decade

In order to embark on a career path that requires a lot of training and experience, you might ne...