17.10.2009 -

Interview with Monica Regisford-Douglin, ASPnet National Coordinator of Trinidad and Tobago


Climate Change Education: “Education is about changing minds, not passing exams”

To prepare students for the effects of climate change tomorrow, education needs to change behaviours today and students must learn to be adaptable and open to life-long learning. Monica Regisford-Douglin, national coordinator of UNESCO Associated Schools (ASPnet) of Trinidad and Tobago, sheds light on the shift in mindset needed to form citizens for the future.

How is climate change challenging Trinidad and Tobago?

The country has seen rapid development and industrialization in the last two decades. This is why we now face problems of pollution, rapid urban development, traffic jams – you sometimes need two hours to get to work! People can afford all the gadgets of modern life: they have several cell phones, cars, washing machine, dryer... There is not much talk about the effects of climate change yet which will probably come a few years down the road. This requires particular efforts to sensitize the government and society about upcoming challenges.

How do you address climate change in education?
Changing mindsets is one of our major challenges. Our society is very exam-oriented and there is a huge interest in education as a vehicle to move out of poverty. People are interested in a better life, not in sustainability. First of all, we have to make teachers understand Education for Sustainable Development. Teachers should think of education in a different way: The aim of teaching and learning is to improve your life and that of your neighbours and not to pass an exam.

What is the role of the UNESCO Associated Schools in Trinidad and Tobago in this process?
In 2007, the National Commission started a training workshop to bring values back into the classroom and to create holistic learning communities. The training was given to 600 teachers from primary school level - values have to be taught from an early age onwards! At the same time, ASPnet schools are engaging in a series of events such as the climate change workshop in commemoration on World Environment Day (5 June) and a beach clean-up last June. We are also planning a regional meeting of the Caribbean countries. Finally, one of our major activities is “Sandwatch”. This major ASPnet flagship project started in Trinidad and Tobago in 1997 when we became aware that there was a need for coastal preservation.

What did you take away from the International Seminar on Climate Change Education?
In order to create sustainable lifestyles, our teaching must be related to education for sustainable development and based on values.

The interview was conducted by Ulrike Storost, ASPnet International Coordination Team, UNESCO, Paris

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