What is the ‘whole school approach’ to environmental education?

We have launched a new poster to coincide with the COP 22 taking place this week in Marrakech Morocco showing exactly what is meant by a ‘whole school approach’ to sustainability.

As students spend significant time in the classroom, schools and universities are increasingly called upon to act as role models for sustainable development. The whole school approach to environmental education and learning for sustainability incorporates all aspects of a school: curriculum, extracurricular activities, teacher training, human resources, infrastructure, operations and processes.

This poster, and its key messages, portray major research findings from our PLANET publication released this week, an extraction from the latest 2016 GEM Report, Education for People and Planet.


Aiming to make schools safe, climate-compatible and sustainable, there are many facets to the whole school approach, for example:

  1. Rethinking curricula to ensure they reflects our changing world: Are global citizenship and education for sustainable development taught? Are new concepts and competencies covered?
  2. Redesigning schools’ operations and environmental management: Does the school conserve water and energy? provide healthy food? minimize waste and provide green and healthy school grounds?
  3. Reconsidering pedagogy and learning. Are teaching, learning and participation in decision-making inclusive, adequate and appropriate?
  4. Strengthening community relationships: Does the school connect with and contribute to community issues and resources? Are community leaders and other adults invited to school activities?The whole school approach is not something teachers can implement alone; policy makers, school management, community leaders, teachers and students need to work together to develop this sort of inclusive, equitable and sustainable learning environment.
  5. As the COP22 takes on the challenge of discussing Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, calling for “Parties [to] cooperate in taking measures… to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information…”, we hope this resource might break down the messages lightly, in a way that all can understand and share.
  6. In order to lessen environmental degradation and the impact of climate change the formal education sector should encourage the development of whole-school approaches that promote environmental teaching, learning, planning and operations by drawing attention to the connections between the environment, the economy and cultures.


  1. This needs to be implemented as soon as possible, all over the world. It’s in school that kids are most impressionable. Unfortunately, most Indian schools have lackluster regard to water wastage, electricity consumption, and things like that. It’s a shame, and it’s what breeds complacency about the environment when they grow up. I’ve been a victim of this as well.

  2. Countries need to take on themselves the critical role of disseminating the conclusions in local languages. In Subsaharan Africa for instance, 80 percent of the active population can not read, write…

  3. We (CEE) would like to do a local language version. Maybe some visual adaptation as well. What is the process for such translation – adaptation?

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