Integrate climate change into school curricula

Thursday December 12 2019

Geofrey Kasumba

Geofrey Kasumba  

By Geofrey Kasumba

Last week, the education ministry and the National Curriculum Development Centre (NDC) officials, while appearing before the standing committee on climate change in parliament, notified the committee that the ministry has finished drawing out plans to have climate change studies incorporated into primary, secondary and tertiary institutions curricula.

On September 10, 2019, climate change was studied across all primary schools in Ghana. In collaboration with Ghana, Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana Education Service and National Council for Curriculum Assessment, teaching and learning materials were made and developed to support effective teaching and learning. Ghana became one of the first African States to integrate climate change into its education curricula.
Sustainable Development Goal Number 13 calls upon all countries to integrate mitigation and adaptation, impact reduction and early warning into school curricula.
Italy will next year become the world’s first country to make it compulsory for school children to study climate change and sustainable development.

There has been plenty of debate surrounding climate change education in schools, stemming from the recent student-led strikes.
Youth activist Greta Thunberg started a movement when she began advocating climate change awareness, encouraging students to take it upon themselves to cause change because the youth are not given adequate climate change education in schools.
Schools in several countries have started educating students on climate change, but as it’s a relatively new addition to the curriculum, not all are doing so effectively and climate change is passively taught.
Young learners need academic reasoning and structure in order to contextualise climate change and have an outlet to ask questions that will help put their fear at ease.

Teaching youth about climate change is not solely to spur them on to take action and do their part for their environment, although that is, of course, one aspect of it. It’s also to prepare them for the future as youth will be growing up in an era where they will likely be responsible for developing climate change solutions.
Schools can also start projects with the students and provide them with a more practical way of learning about climate change.
Learning institutions that want to impart climate change education to the youth must also make sure that they are leading by example in terms of sustainability and being environmentally-friendly.
The fragile nature of the earth today as a result of a changing climate is a danger to humanity as well as to our natural environment and thus requires urgent attention. Education is a most powerful weapon for such needed change and direction.

By integrating climate change into the curricula, this will help in raising awareness and promoting knowledge and skills-development, education is an essential component and a catalyst for responding to global climate change. Its importance has been increasingly highlighted at the international level. In particular, Article 6 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), encourages parties to promote, develop and implement educational, training and public awareness programmes on climate change and its effects. In addition, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) 2005-2014, emphasizing that climate change is one of the key action themes of this decade.

The nine-year developed 2013-2022 Uganda National Climate Change Learning Strategy, which aims at reviewing the higher education curricula to link it to national socio-economic development needs and those of the labour market. It also calls for enhancing environment awareness in delivery of education and sports services, integrating environmental concerns in educational and sports programmes. Other requirements are mainstreaming environmental issues in various curricula at all levels of the education system, which is expected to enhance environmental management in schools and institutions and also formulate sector-specific policies and implementation guidelines on environmental management. The strategy is in its seventh year of implementation only left with three years and yet not much has been achieved.


To ensure effective learning and deep understanding of the subject matter, climate change education should be integrated across school curricula at all levels. The complexities of climate change require it to be addressed using a holistic approach that draws upon a range of disciplines and areas of expertise, including climate science, policy, law, ethic, sociology, economics and culture, with the aim of an effective and inclusive knowledge sharing approach.
In addition, knowledge of climate change, its science, impact and coping measures has to be adapted to address and relate to specific target groups. Therefore, specific activities have to be developed and tailored according to age, school type and level as well as contexts and particular needs.
Mr Kasumba is the team leader CliMates ECOs Uganda and UNFCC/YOUNGO member.