Students have become the teachers in a global lesson takeover, designed to highlight the importance of climate education.
Across 20 countries, pupils have replaced their teachers today to lead lessons with up-to-date climate science in an effort to focus more on the lack of climate awareness in schools.
‘Teach the Teacher’, a student-led campaign, is being initiated by climate organisations SOS-UK, Mock COP26, EARTHDAY.ORG and Educational International.
The campaign calls for climate education to be “integrated, mandatory and assessed throughout the education system, by embedding it in education policy and teacher training across the globe”.
Climate change is a growing concern for secondary school children
A global study of 10,000 people aged 16-25 last week showed 84 per cent were at least moderately worried about the effects of climate change.
Nearly two thirds of the young people said they didn’t believe their governments were doing enough to combat climate change.
“It is future generations who will experience the worst impacts of climate change and the consequences of government inaction,” Jodie Bailey-Ho, a UK Teach the Teacher organiser told Euronews Green.
“Climate anxiety levels are increasing within younger people. A study published last week in the Lancet Planetary Health revealed nearly half (45%) of 16-25 year olds say climate anxiety is affecting their daily lives and is directly linked to government inaction.”
But while climate change issues are plaguing the minds of students, teachers have admitted they don’t know nearly enough to educate on the topic.
A UK survey found that 70 per cent of teachers had not received training on any aspects of climate change.
UNESCO looked at education policies of 78 countries around the globe and found that under half referenced the climate, with biodiversity only coming up in 19 per cent.
“Education for all is a human right, and education about a crisis that is currently upon us and will affect each and every one of us is also a right,” says 16-year-old Aishwarya Puttur from Teach the Teacher.
“Climate change education should no longer be a privilege but rather something that is available to all. It must be one that includes the intersections of the climate crisis, states scientific facts as it is, has frontline defenders and marginalised people’s voices heard and explains how we can make sustainable changes and take action,” she adds.
Getting the politicians to notice
Teach the Teacher is aiming to force global leaders at the COP26 summit to take note of the lack of climate education in curriculums.
On Youth Day, 5th of November 2021, climate and education policy makers will meet in Glasgow for the COP26 Education Ministers summit.
“Teach the Teacher is a campaign with students from across the globe, coming together as one, and showing education systems what they want to learn,” Aishwarya says.
“Students want to know about their present and future. They want to see institutions care, because this is the world you’re passing down to them after all. They want hope.”
The importance of climate education can’t be understated. Recent research found carbon dioxide output by 2050 could be reduced by 19 gigatons if just 16 per cent of students in high and middle-income countries received climate change education.
“Teach the Teacher is calling for climate education to be integrated as a mandatory part of all secondary school education across the globe. This education must be led by up-to-date climate science and must focus on climate related solutions to tackle issues such as eco-anxiety and climate injustice,” Bailey-Ho explains.
The campaign has already drawn interest from global leaders.
Co-host of COP26, Italy, is the first country in the world to make climate education a requirement for all students.
“Addressing climate change and environmental collapse requires a profound behavioral revolution, which can only be achieved through adequate interdisciplinary and systems-based education,” says Lorenzo Fioramonti, former Italian Minister of Public Education.
“In this quest, teachers are crucial to find new ways for developing the hard and soft skills needed in tomorrow's society. By bringing together educators and students, Teach the Teacher is creating the ideal platform for training and empowering school communities in this exciting but challenging journey,” he comments.
New Zealand has also introduced an optional climate curriculum and Mexico has amended its constitution to require education to include a basic understanding of and respect for the natural world.