While the place of climate change in the new National Curriculum remains unclear, some of the proposals Michael Gove unveiled this week can help us learn to live more harmoniously with other people – and our planet.
Last summer, there was uproar when the government advisor in charge of revamping the National Curriculum suggested cutting climate change from the national curriculum. Our very own Matt and Helen affirmed the importance of educating children about climate change as a way to prepare them for employment within a low-carbon, sustainable economy. Education must prepare young people to deal with the challenges that the world is facing now and in the future. The 21st century world demands that we adopt sustainable models of organising our economies and societies, as a result of ever more evident climate change.
With Michael Gove releasing proposed plans for the National Curriculum overhaul this week, this focus has been dropped, as most media attention has turned to the plans to start teaching foreign languages to 7 year olds. While seemingly unrelated, this could actually prove to be incredibly useful in bringing British children up to be able to deal with the environmental and economic challenges they will face.
Learning a foreign language is not just an exercise in mastering grammatical structures – it opens students’ minds up to appreciating new ways of thinking, particularly how other cultures perceive and value the world (Futerra have a great blog on how untranslatable words reveal inherently sustainable outlooks). Climate change is forcing us to change our relationship to our planet – and interacting with other cultures gives us the opportunity to think about how we can live better on Earth.
Speaking foreign languages also enables you to interact with people from across the planet – essential training for living in a world where we face global challenges. Connecting people from around the world, including the young people whose future is most at risk, and enabling international dialogues to share ideas and solutions to global threats like climate change can help us collectively shape the future we want to see.
There’s another interesting parallel in the “back to basics” approach planned for the Maths curriculum. Living sustainably means making sure that there are enough resources available for us and our children in the future to live decently. That’s simple maths. The actions governments are taking now shouldn’t subtract a clean, fair future away from young and future generations – taking decisive action on climate change and setting up sustainable practices now will multiply the security and happiness available to today’s school children.
We can’t keep sustainability as a foreign language – based on a solid scientific understanding, climate change should be explored across the curriculum, to match how it will shape multiple aspects of the lives of future generations. Formal education must equip our young people with the skills and global outlook to be able to adapt to the challenges left to them, and to build a healthy and happier global society.