Betreff: ESPERE Newsletter - Special edition
ESPERE Newsletter - Special edition - 2008-09-12
Dear friends, users and supporters of ESPERE,
in this special edition we would like to discuss with you the question:
-- How is the situation about climate literacy in schools?
The interest in the energy and climate debate is growing globally. But how is the present situation in schools? What do we, the pupils, the teachers, the public, really know?
The term "climate literacy" became topic of new debates. New websites like this US based http://climateliteracynow.org/ are witnesses of the process. But, if you are a teacher, how do you see the situation in your country and in your school?
ESPERE as a project informing about the climate system on a global scale would appreciate to mediate in a discussion on climate literacy. We would like to hear your personal opinion and share with you the opinion of other teachers in other countries. We seem to have many problems in common and could probably work together on solutions. Please take a few minutes in order to respond to this questions, so that we all can benefit from each other.
-- What do other teachers tell?
Here is a little summary of opinions from about 20 science and geography teachers. We will inform you in any case about the progress in this survey, if you participate in it:
The state of climate literacy in European schools is generally considered not satisfactory.
Since climate sciences are not regarded as a core topic in the curriculum, reductions in the teaching volume often entail strong reductions just in such amendatory fields. For example, in Germany and Hungary the amount of lessons has been reduced so that teachers have more problems than before to cover the topic appropriately. Nevertheless, the environmental topics were reported to be popular in Hungarian schools and among the pupils. From Portugal it was reported that climate issues do not have importance in the curriculum. Pupils do not regard climate change as a major problem for their future.
Although the scientific consensus became rather stable, some teachers are still sceptic, that human made climate change really exists and speak about “scaremongering by governments in order to raise revenue by increased taxes”. It is very likely that such positions are due to a direct or indirect influence of the controversial media discourse which gives a different idea than the wide consensus in science.
Positive news from Denmark. As the climate summit 2009 takes place in Copenhagen, there is a strong focus on the topic. Although biology, geography, chemistry and physics are taught as four different subjects, great emphasis is put on co-operation between the subjects, and there are no set lesson plans or specific books that must be used. So within the general framework the teachers have good opportunities for “climate teaching” and with the summit of 09 in mind, lots of educational material is being offered.
In contrast to this exceptional situation most teachers state that climate science and climate impacts are not taught in a comprehensive context and cooperation between subjects is poor. The result is, what a Czech teacher called “scattered information”, scattered over several terms and over several subjects. Teachers are tempted to hope that students can put the puzzle pieces together by themselves. But not only international studies, also the
experience of teachers reveals that this is not the case. The interviewed teachers confirm the results of several studies that phenomena like the ozone hole and the greenhouse effect are still mixed up in the minds of the pupils as they were 20 years ago, in the Czech Republic or Romania as well as in Norway, Spain, Austria or Germany. Romanian and Polish teachers told also, that teachers and students are used to a system in which facts are learned by heart. This is not favourable for climate related topics including uncertainties, political debates and strategies for problem solving.
Although little more than 20 teachers told their opinion so far, it can be concluded, that there is a critical gap between the scientific understanding of climate topics and the understanding of most of the European students.
What do you observe in your classes, your school, your environment?
Please send us an E-mail and tell us!
( email@example.com )
With many thanks in advance!
Elmar Uherek for the ESPERE Steering Committee