Today a group of 50 young people from the Teach the Future campaign will meet with MPs in Parliament. Hosted by Nadia Whittome, parliament’s youngest MP at age 24, they will present their ideas for teaching the climate and ecological crisis.
Teach the Future is a campaign started by young people who were unsatisfied with the lack of climate change education in school, college or university. While it may come up in certain subjects, climate change is not currently taught as part of the national curriculum and it is quite possible to leave school without having studied it properly at any point. To young people involved in school strikes, this is rightly seen as preposterous, a failure of the educational system to prepare them for the world they are growing up in.
Having organised the campaign and various protest actions, Teach the Future have now decided to write the law that they would like to see. If it were passed by the government, their proposed Climate Emergency Education Bill would be the first ever education legislation written by students themselves.
The bill would bring the climate emergency into primary, secondary and further education, with training for existing and future teachers. There would be funding for pupil-led action in every school, and all schools would have to be retrofitted to net zero standard by 2030. All new school buildings would be zero carbon from 2022.
“We are all aged 13-26 and in full time education, but have barely been taught anything about the climate emergency and ecological crisis” says Joe Brindle, 17. “So much of what we are taught about seems irrelevant given the way the world is going. We just want to be taught the truth and supported to make a difference”.
There is a precedent. Last year Italy became the first country to introduce climate change lessons for every child, and not just by tacking on some climate science here and there. Sustainable development perspectives are to be introduced across the curriculum. “The entire ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the centre of the education model” said the education minister. But then, Italy’s education minister is Lorenzo Fioramonti, wellbeing economy pioneer and author of books such as The World after GDP.
I suspect Britain’s education minister, Gavin Williamson, will be less enthusiastic. He’s dismissed school strikers as “grossly irresponsible” in the past, insisting that “in schools we are teaching children about climate change and that is where they should be.” Children who actually are in school are saying otherwise, so I look forward to hearing how their meeting has gone today and whether they can change his mind.