Climate Change

Teach The Future: The View Of A 15 Year Old

15-year-old climate activist Jude Daniel Smith, writes about his experience with Teach The Future and how and why schools need to do more to educate students on Climate Change.

My name is Jude Daniel Smith, and I’m a 15-year-old climate activist from Sheffield, England. Early last year, I set up Youth Strike for Climate Sheffield with some friends – since then, I have come to volunteer with UKSCN, and, most recently, with Teach the Future. Teach the Future is the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) and Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK) joint campaign to repurpose the education system around the climate emergency and ecological crisis.

As students studying across the UK, it is our experience that the majority of teaching and learning throughout the entirety of our education is misaligned from the systemic changes urgently required to make our society sustainable. Our education system routinely fails to educate, prepare and equip us, and our fellow students, for the climate emergency we are inheriting.

I joined Teach the Future as, being in Y10, I have gone through the education system without once being empowered to, nor taught how to, take action regarding climate change. As any youth activist would tell you, the climate emergency is the most crucial and time-urgent issue humanity has ever faced. Consequently, you’d believe that a multitude of comprehensive steps would have already been taken to enable young people to swiftly and efficiently mitigate the catastrophe at hand – despite this, those in power have continuously failed our generation, yet still expect us to amend the mistakes of humanity’s past.

Education is one of the few pillars of contemporary society which keeps its seemingly crumbling roof stable, so why is its potential – that being the fact it so easily could be the birthplace of classes upon classes of pupils armed with the knowledge they need to help fix the world around them – so nonchalantly ignored? This sense of urgency which I wish I did not have to constantly harbour is why I have such a passion for youth activism. I joined secondary school and, within days, began to realise and rationalise the utter scale of the shortcomings of global governments on an array of different issues. I would plead with my teachers to answer my questions about the world, about what could be done, but could never get a straight reply – I realise now that that is due to a simple fact. Educational facilities are not equipped to teach about the subject of climate change, yet people expect them to be the enablers.

In a survey collated by SOS-UK (*SOS-UK 2020) around multiple schools and colleges across the country, it was found that 75% of teachers would say they do not feel knowledgeable enough to teach students about climate change, and at the same time, only 4% of students would say they know a lot about climate change. These statistics are a disturbing representation of the root cause of both the climate emergency and anxiety stemming from it. Teach the Future aims to convert anxiety into agency through direct reform to all aspects of our education system; rather than just curriculum modification, we need a complete overhaul of our education system, detailed in our asks.

In England, we have three:

1. A Government-Commissioned Review

We need a review into how the whole of the English formal education system is preparing students for the climate emergency and ecological crisis.

2. Teacher Training and Qualifications

We need inclusion of the climate emergency and ecological crisis in teacher training and a new professional teaching qualification.

3. English Climate Emergency Education Act

We need the implementation of the ECEEA (English Climate Emergency Education Act) to ensure strives towards net-zero carbon schools, more investment into youth services and governmental support for climate activism.

In Scotland, we have four:

1. A Government-Commissioned Review

We need a review into how the whole of the Scottish formal education system is preparing students for the climate emergency and ecological crisis.

2. Teacher Training and Qualifications

We need inclusion of the climate emergency and ecological crisis in teacher training and a new professional teaching qualification.

3. Increased Priority For Sustainability

In School Inspections and Publicly Influencing Educational Rankings We need Education Scotland to ensure that the Chief Inspector of Education puts significant new emphasis on learning for sustainability in all HGIOS assessments from January 2021 and that it is included in the HGIOC assessment process for further education colleges.

4. A Scottish Climate and Biodiversity Emergency Education Act

We need the implementation of the SCEEEA (Scottish Climate and Biodiversity Emergency Education Act) to ensure movement towards net-zero carbon school; more investment into youth services and governmental support for climate activism.

The documents detailing our asks can be found on our website – www. teachthefuture.uk

As a young person, I can fully realise the ability of formal education, and that is why I speak out. I can imagine what it could be. Our education system often teaches us to compete with our rivals, not to collaborate with our friends, which is what will conceive realistic solutions. We are led to believe that sustainability and green development is a niche subject, not something that is fundamental to everything we learn and do. Multifarious necessary knowledge is siloed into isolated subjects in schools and colleges everywhere, despite the universal importance of the conversations which may arise from their mentioning.

The concept of the climate crisis along with its causes and solutions must be woven throughout our education system like a golden thread – not just stockpiled thoughtlessly into geography and science, which are for the most part optional (only higher Biology GCSE classes in my school teach a complete module on climate science, further consolidating inaccessibility to crucial topics using ‘setting’ as a barrier) – preparing my generation and generations to come to combat a world which seems to be, in many ways, against us.

Last year, I spoke about the policy which our government must implement in the House of Commons, and, as I said then, young people have sparked and will continue to keep alight, the flames of the climate revolution, and it must begin with education. If any readers can help us in our journey toward comprehensive climate education, as individuals or through the respective organisations you are a part of, please do get in touch!

Email

General – hello@teachthefuture.uk

Scotland – scotland@teachthefuture.uk

(*SOS-UK 2020) – This Schools and Sustainability survey can be found at: https://sustainability.nus.org.uk/our-research/our-researchreports/schools-and-sustainability/school-sustainability-survey

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