Italy introduces compulsory climate change study for all state schools

Young protesters make their voice heard at the Strike 4 Climate rally in Sydney in September. Source: AAP

The world-first curriculum changes will come into place when the country’s school year starts in September 2020.

Next year Italy will become the world’s first country to make it compulsory for school children to study climate change and sustainable development as announced by Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti.

In an interview on Monday, Fioramonti said all state schools would dedicate 33 hours per year, almost one hour per school week, to climate change issues from the start of the next academic year in September 2020.

“The entire ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the centre of the education model,” Fioramonti said.

I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.

Many traditional subjects, such as geography, mathematics and physics, would also be studied from the perspective of sustainable development, said the minister.

Fioramonti is the Italian government’s most vocal supporter of green policies and was criticised by the opposition in September for encouraging students to skip school and take part in climate protests.

In Australia, climate change in curriculum is left to the school’s discretion. 

Despite Australia signing the Paris Agreement in 2016 - which outlined the importance of developing climate change education -  there has been no cohesive program introduced to state schools.

Over the years, climate change ‘curricula’ have depended on who’s been in government. 

A 2005 Government statement outlined an education plan that lead to the creation of the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI).

The initiative sees the federal government work with states and territories to implement teaching about sustainability. Each state creates a program, and schools can become ‘sustainable schools’ not just through lessons, but also in how they manage resources and property.

For example, a number of Western Australian schools have introduced ‘water/waste wise’ schemes and bushland/dune revegetation programs.

Elsewhere, the Australian Capital Territory has the ‘Actsmart Schools’ program. Every school in the territory is signed up to this program, which provides support to cut emissions, encourage recycling, protect biodiversity and integrate lessons about sustainability into classrooms. 

In 2009, a second national plan, Living Sustainably: the Australian Government’s National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability, detailed how the government was going to bring climate education into classrooms.

Except it never did - meaning learning about climate change (as opposed to just sustainability) in the classroom comes down to schools themselves. There are resources made available, but it’s up to the teachers whether or not they’re included in learning. 

In 2010, the Australian government withdrew funding and support for the AuSSI.

The Feed reached out to federal Education Minister Dan Tehan and the Department of Education for comment.

In a statement to The Feed, the Department of Education said, “Teachers can choose to teach about climate change through the Foundation-Year 10 Australian Curriculum learning areas of science, humanities and social sciences.”

“The Australian Curriculum embeds sustainability across learning areas as a cross-curriculum priority.”

The Department did not confirm if there is intention to for a nation-wide climate change-focused curriculum, instead reiterating that it's up to states and territories to implement curriculum.

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