Teachers: curriculum needs to step up its climate-change focus to meet green skills gap

Energy & Climate Change

The gap between the growing green economy and the number of people available to fill skilled jobs within it has been much publicised.

And while several government funding initiatives are supporting apprenticeships and training to create a pipeline of new talent, a new survey conducted by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has revealed that this push needs to start earlier, with an overhaul of curriculum in the UK.

In a two-part report entitled Green shoots: A sustainable chemistry curriculum for a sustainable planet the RSC surveyed current educators and school pupils as well as practicing chemists, academia and industry.

Both elements of the report revealed the current curriculum was woefully lacking in providing pupils with an adequate understanding of the challenges presented by a changing planet, and the role they can play in helping to support it both now and into the future.

The report comes many months after CIWEM’s chief executive Terry Fuller added his signature to a letter to Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson and Michael Gove MP urging them to support the Jim Knight Bill, with the latter making a call for compulsory climate education.

The RSC’s survey revealed that 84 per cent working in 11–19 education said it is very important that the chemistry curriculum includes content that directly relates to sustainability and climate change.

Further figures showed that 91 per cent of those working in 5–11 education think there is too little content in the science curriculum that directly relates to sustainability and climate change, with one such educator saying:

“Personally, I think [sustainability] should be the bedrock of the whole science curriculum (and the other subjects as well).”

Another described stalling progress on climate education by saying: “The curriculum is so similar to the content I was taught 25 years ago, and the world has changed so much.”

In the second part of the survey 67 per cent of practising chemists said sustainability and climate change in the chemistry curriculum should be a high priority for government.

68 per cent of practising chemists also argued that there is a gap in the knowledge and skills chemists need for green jobs now and the future.

One chemist commented: “We could open up a whole world of potential to all these young bright minds to explore and discover how chemistry could help solve some of the climate and sustainability challenges, but we do not have any inclination to “tap” that wonderful resource.”

Practising chemists also outlined what they felt young people studying chemistry at school most need to learn about in relation to climate change and sustainability, and this included the below:

1. Carbon literacy: the science and relative impact of how sectors and individual actions contribute to climate change.

2. The finite nature of resources, element conservation and critical raw materials.

3. The scientific consensus in relation to climate change and how it is established.

4. Pollution (air, soil and water)

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