Who really thinks that environmental education will save us?

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates

A wise academic once said to me that you're quids in if you've got some data; that is, if you've done some proper research.  The problem with being retired from research is that you don't have data any more and have to rely on others.  That's why I was pleased to see the recent research reports from King's College Understanding Environmental Education in Secondary Schools – even though I didn't agree with all of its conclusions.

Of course, having data is only a first step; it's what you make of it (and what you do with it) that is important.

The first Policy Perspectives report made three recommendations:

  1. The government should establish a coherent national policy which sets out a vision for environmental education in secondary schools. The policy would shape future National Curriculum reforms and national assessments.
  2. The national policy should recognize the multiple dimensions of environmental education (e.g. about, in and for the environment) and ensure that all dimensions are given equal footing throughout a student’s school career.
  3. Young people should be given the opportunity to think broadly about local and global environmental issues and encouraged to develop a sense of ownership and agency.

Here, I'm focusing here on the first of these.

Well, it's a long time since a government did [1] and there are no signs of one doing so again any time soon in the UK in part because of other commitments (Brexit / saving the NHS / overthrowing global capitalism / creating a progressive, swords into ploughshares foreign policy / etc).

Worse, the current government thinks it's already done enough: DEFRA because of the 25 year plan to improve the environment (A Green Future), and the DfE because of what's in the national curriculum and exam syllabuses, and (together with DEFRA) because of their Children and Nature Programme.  This sets out to deliver actions that they have committed to in A Green Future and encourages children to be close to nature, in and out of school.  This is aimed in particular at those living in areas of high disadvantage.  The problems of the world are not important in any of this.  The programme is there just to help young people, especially disadvantaged ones, feel better.  Even then, it's all on an opt-in basis.

I think that the government thinks it's done enough in another sense as well.  Whilst we might really want to believe our own rhetoric [*] that it's education in general (and environmental education in particular) that will save the world, government doesn't.  It thinks that this will be done by government, treaties, business, technology, innovation, enterprise, agencies, think tanks, trade, aid, etc where there are no children in sight.

It's because of this that it's happy with a pared-down curriculum offering and won't be listening to us anytime soon.


* It's a long time since I thought like this.

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates


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