GEEP – 2 – an overview of issues facing the UK

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

As part of the preparations for the GEEP [Global Environmental Education Partnership] meeting in San Diego, I was asked to write two reports about the UK situation.  This is the first of them: an overview of environmental education [EE] issues in the UK.  Below is what I wrote in the powerpoint template they provided:

A. Snapshot of top environmental issues facing your country

  • Intensive farming & land use practices
  • Habitat degredation, fragmentation & loss
  • Loss of key ecological niches
  • Poisons / toxins in ecosystems
  • Biodiversity / species loss
  • Spread of invasive species
  • Over fishing of the seas
  • Air pollution in cities
  • Loss of soil fertility
  • Rapid population increase
  • Over-dependence on fossil fuels
  • Poor energy security
  • More frequent extreme weather events
  • The huge disconnect between people and the natural world
  • Poor public grasp of environmental issues and climate change
  • Minimal political interest, and a disregard of nature in decision-making
  • Weak political drive for improvement
  • Too little economic value placed on nature
  • An incoherent professional capacity building policy related to environment and sustainability, and
  • Insufficient ‘environment’ in the education system

The overall challenge is to manage the trades-off between energy policy, economic growth and the integrity of landscapes, habitats, etc

B. EE Stand Out Program(me)s

  • School bursaries for outdoor EE
  • Forest School initiatives
  • Eco-Schools programmes
  • National member organisations such as: Sustainability and Environmental Education [SEEd] and the National Association for Environmental Education [NAEE]
  • Many local / national EE NGOs and conservation organisations, such as: WWF ~ Oxfam ~ John Muir Trust ~ RSPB ~ The Wildlife Trusts ~ Friends of the Earth ~ Woodland Trust ~ Field Studies Council ~ Global Action Plan

C. National Mandate

  • The UK has four separate legal jurisdictions (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales), and each has its own school and university systems
  • Each jurisdiction has different policies on EE / ESD / etc.
  • Currently, there are no national mandates for EE / ESD / etc in schools
  • Scotland has a mandate for learning for sustainability as part of its schools ‘curriculum for excellence’
  • In Wales, education for sustainable development and global citizenship [ESDGC] is an entitlement of pupils in schools
  • There is UK-wide governmental support for global learning initiatives
  • The national curriculum in England contains references to environmental issues across many subjects and all age ranges
  • The are no national mandates in tertiary / higher education, although student organisations (eg, the National Union of Students) are very active

D. Looking forward

  • EE will flourish where school leaders are supportive and see its merits
  • Eco-Schools will continue as a prominent supporter of school-based EE
  • Building bridges between EE and global learning will help each of these
  • The current interest in forest schools and learning ‘outside the classroom’ will help providing that they remember to emphasise EE
  • There will be no central government support for, or encouragement of, EE in the foreseeable future

E. For further information

The most recent published survey of EE / ESD / etc  across the UK is:

Martin S, Dillon J, Higgins P, Peters C, Scott W. (2013) Divergent Evolution in Education for Sustainable Development Policy in the United Kingdom: Current Status, Best Practice, and Opportunities for the Future. Sustainability. 5(4):1522-1544




Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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