» “Teacher training in climate change education is in its infancy”
20.07.2011 - Education Sector

“Teacher training in climate change education is in its infancy”

©Fumiyo Kagawa

In advance of the tenth anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit (Rio+20), UNESCO is launching a Teacher Education Course on Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD) in late 2011. EduInfo spoke to Professor David Selby and Dr Fumiyo Kagawa of Sustainability Frontiers, an international alliance of sustainability and global educators, who have developed the course for UNESCO.

What does the new Teacher Education Course on Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD) hope to achieve?

In a nutshell, the course is designed to give teachers confidence in facilitating  CCESD inside and outside the classroom so that they can help young people understand the causes and consequences of climate change, bring about changes in attitudes and behaviors to reduce the severity of future climate change, and build resilience  in the face of climate change that are already present.

What are the distinctive features of the course?

David: First, it helps teachers to understand the causes, dynamics and impacts of climate change through a holistic lens. Second, teachers are exposed to a range of pedagogical approaches that they can use in their own school environment. This includes engagement in whole school and school-in-community approaches. Third, teachers can develop their capacities to facilitate students’ community based learning.  Fourth, teachers can develop future oriented and transformative capacities in facilitating climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction learning..    
Why is such a course needed?

David: As you know, there is an almost universal consensus in the scientific community that climate change is real and human-induced. There is a need for urgent and transformative action, locally and globally, to address the threat of potentially runaway climate change. There is no place for blind faith in ‘business as usual’ if society is to avoid the worst effects of the warming of the planet.  

Also, climate change is already profoundly and adversely affecting the lives of millions, especially those who are least responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases  - people of the South and indigenous people.  
Learning programmes are required to help learners engage with the full seriousness of the climate change threat, search for new meanings and values, and move into personal and collective empowerment and action.    
Fumiyo: UNESCO has identified the professional development of teachers in ESD as “the priority of priorities”. If professional development in ESD is at an adolescent stage, teacher education in CCESD is still in its infancy.  A number of studies and reports stress  that teachers lack support  in  addressing complex challenges of climate change in a holistic and interdisciplinary manner.  So there is a clear and present need to respond to climate change challenges through systematic teacher education programmes that are not restricted to a single discipline.  This course is an attempt to fill the current gap.

Do teachers really need further professional development to teach about climate change?

: Absolutely! The course is needed precisely because teaching about climate change is such a demanding task. Teachers need to understand what and how to teach about the forces driving climate change as well as its impacts on culture, security, well-being and development prospects. Their role is to show young people how they and their communities can respond to the threat.

David: Teachers also need to support learners in coming to terms with climate changed futures while at the same time fostering resilience, skills and states of readiness for personal and community empowerment. And, very importantly, teachers need to create learning spaces in school and community that develop ‘practical visionaries’, that is, learners with an energetic and positive vision for the future who also possess the capacities and dispositions to help make their vision a reality.  

Fumiyo: As you can see, it’s a tall order! This is why teachers need further professional development.

Related Links

Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development

Sustainability Frontiers

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