Greening education approaches worldwide: learning from 80 countries

By Anna Cristina d’Addio, Daniel April (GEM Report), Marcia McKenzie, Nicola Chopin and Mariana Campos Rivera (MECCE Project)

A new set of 30 country profiles on climate change communication and education (CCE) was launched today marking the beginning of the COP28 taking place in Dubai. Bringing the total count of country profiles to 80, they allow us to explore greening education approaches across all world regions and income levels and covering 75% of the global population. How are learners being taught and informed about climate change around the world?

The drive to compile these profiles was a response to the need for better data on CCE progress. They resulted from an ongoing partnership between the GEM Report and the Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project, hosted by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN) and are available on the Profiles Enhancing Education Reviews (PEER) website of the GEM Report and the MECCE Project website.

They cover four sections describing climate change contexts (relevant government agencies, laws, policies, and plans, terminology and budget); climate change education (policy, curriculum, teacher education and assessment) in primary and secondary education; higher education; teacher education; technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and adult education; climate change communication (public awareness, public access to education, public participation); and CCE monitoring.

They provide a comparative perspective of countries’ progress in relation to Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, through ‘Action for Climate Empowerment’ (ACE); and on SDG Target 4.7 on education for sustainable development. More than 750 experts and national focal points for Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) were invited to review the information collected.

Several measures were then developed to identify global trends from across countries’ policies and practices (Figure 1). By comparing like for like, they enable countries to learn from peers and foster policy dialogue. They can also support global target-setting and benchmarking in diverse contexts – particularly when used in combination with global indicators, regional and national surveys and polls, and qualitative information. A new brochure, titled Climate Change Communication and Education Country Profiles: Approaches to Greening Education Around the World, summarizes these trends and highlights some particular country approaches.

Figure 1. Countries have adopted a variety of CCE laws and policies
Percentage of education systems with specific CCE-related laws and policies

Source: PEER profiles.  

Climate change education 

A vast majority (87%) of countries have laws, policies or plans supporting the integration of climate change in primary and secondary education curricula, something that the GEM Report will be starting to formally monitor in a new global greening education indicator from next year.  For example, in Chile, climate change is addressed in pre-primary, primary and secondary education as part of a broader National Environmental Education Strategy. In Ethiopia, environment and climate change is covered as a cross-cutting issue in all study subjects for grades 1 to 12. In Indonesia, climate change was mainstreamed into the school curriculum in 2011, while in Italy, Law 92/2019 introduced the transversal teaching of civics (which covers climate change) in the first and second cycles of education.  

Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates, a cross-curriculum framework as part of a Greening Education Hub reform that “fosters a seamless, cross-curricular approach, intertwining literature, science, physics, and social sciences. By integrating knowledge, skills, and values, the framework aims to instil behavioural change in students, preparing them to inherit and preserve the worldwas announced this week at the opening of the COP28 Summit. 

The new country profiles also show that initiatives encouraging social, emotional and experiential learning are emerging. Some of the examples featured in our brochure show where the social and emotional approach is prioritised, including in Iceland with Astrid, a digital platform which aims to reach students early to inspire action and combat climate anxiety with scientific evidence. Cabo Verde and Ecuador also apply both cognitive and action learning dimensions in their approaches.

Emphasis on encouraging learners to learn by their actions is seen in Ghana’s National Pre-Tertiary Education Curriculum Framework and Morocco’s ‘One Student, One Tree, One School, One Forest’ project that has engaged an estimated 6 million students to plant seeds and cuttings in school grounds and surroundings. In Qatar, schools were encouraged to submit research projects on environmental issues in a competition. Extracurricular activities also encourage climate action in countries such as Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Namibia, Côte d’Ivoire, and El Salvador. Often these take place with the support of the community as in Saint Lucia and Cameroon. 

The importance of green and sustainable schools is also growing. One example is the Eco-Schools programme, now implemented in more than 43,000 schools globally, but also at the national level as in Kenya, Indonesia, India, Israel, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.  

Teachers’ role in climate change education is emphasized in most of the 80 countries.  Modules and resources on CCE are available to teachers as in Thailand and Viet Nam. In El Salvador, the 2019 National Teacher Training Plan aims to elevate education standards, with a particular focus on climate change. In New Zealand, several resources for teachers are available online, including the Science Learning Hub, Pūtātara, and Rangi, incorporating Māori principles. More structured training such as professional development and pre-service training for teachers is also available in some countries (e.g. in Cambodia, Israel, Scotland, and Uruguay), but it is less common. 

Climate change training at the tertiary level and capacity building, particularly in TVET, are also becoming increasingly important as in Italy, Fiji, Sweden, and Cuba. In Cuba, for example, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agrarian Network on Climate Change conducts research and provides training on climate adaptation and mitigation in the agricultural sector.  

Climate change communication 

Countries often turn to public awareness campaigns to improve climate-responsible behaviour. In Bolivia, national campaigns such as ‘Your Plate, Your Planet’ aim to promote sustainable food choices. In India, a custom built, 16-coach train called the Science Express Climate Action Special acts as a mobile climate change science exhibition. The train has travelled more than 160,000 kilometres and reached more than 20 million people. Malta’s national public awareness campaign in social media #ClimateON aimed to shift its citizens’ habits towards living in a low-carbon society 

Yet despite progress, more remains to be done. For starters, only 38% of the 80 countries have a national law, policy and strategy specifically focused on climate change education. In addition, budget allocations for CCE are scarce. Only a few countries, such as Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Italy, Portugal and Zambia have publicly available CCE budgets. In Cabo Verde, for example, the anticipated expenses for implementing a climate education plan from 2022 to 2028, are estimated at approximately US$1.5 million. In the United Arab Emirates, the first dedicated fund on climate change education, the Greening Education Partnership Multi Partner Trust Fund, will be established at COP28 in 2023 to mobilize resources. 

Another area needing attention is that, while countries generally have ambitious plans for monitoring, evaluation and reporting on CCE, only a few collect data in this area, including Lebanon, Nauru and Portugal. The Greening Education Partnership, a global initiative launched by UNESCO, is working with member states to monitor their progress in the four key pillars of transformative education: greening schools; greening curriculum; greening teacher training; and education systems’ capacities and greening communities. In this respect, the Sustainable Development Goal 4 High-Level Steering Committee requested the development of a benchmark indicator on the extent to which national curricula cover climate change education. 

As countries follow different paths and approaches to achieve their goals, the country profiles enrich the perspectives of education planners and decision-makers on this issue. We hope you find them of use.  



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