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The importance of integrating climate education in international schools

Updated 21 Aug 2023

With the recent spate of climate change fuelled weather events across the world, it’s become more critical than ever to include climate education in schools’ curricula.

There are a few international and local schools in the UAE, Venezuela and India that are leading the pack in implementing climate education programmes to prepare their students for the effects of climate change.

Why climate education matters

Children today report suffering high levels of what has come to be known as "climate anxiety" – feelings of worry about the environment and extreme weather events. Climate education can support youth who are experiencing climate anxiety by providing them with structured and accurate information. Moreover, children will get an opportunity to ask the questions they have about climate change in a safe environment.

Perhaps the most noteworthy benefit of integrating climate education is that students may be inspired to act and implement sustainability projects. Climate education is also essential for preparing students to become the professionals who will one day lead the charge in creating sustainable climate solutions.

Implementing teacher training in international schools

The first barrier to integrating climate education in international schools is the educators themselves. Most pedagogical frameworks do not include comprehensive sections on climate education, and teachers have not been trained in delivering this kind of education.

A growing body of research has found that children already have climate awareness and anxiety, which could be further fuelled by desensitised facts about global warming. Therefore, it is imperative for educators to be trained in providing age-appropriate and personalised climate education.

It is essential for professional development and university teacher training programmes to continuously adapt their curricula to prepare educators to effectively teach students about climate change and its related issues, which include social justice, environmental destruction and preserving indigenous knowledge.

International schools successfully adopting climate education

Some international schools across Asia have implemented sustainability projects as part of their curriculum while also ensuring there are opportunities to recycle, reuse and upcycle items throughout their campus. Tanglin Trust School in Singapore is one such school. This top international school has implemented an award-winning Eco Week. 

During Eco Week, students focus on implementing one UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) each day of the week. This is done through fundraising initiatives, upcycling and public speaking competitions, which allows the school’s students to apply the classroom knowledge they've acquired.

Alternative education schools in India have also proven successful in holistically developing children and growing their climate awareness. The Mahatma Gandhi International School is among the top 20 international schools in India, and it offers project-based and experiential learning that enables students to self-govern. This has led to the development of climate-conscious students who are keen to lead climate action projects such as picking up litter wherever they can. 

Additionally, Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, announced in November 2022 that the primary and secondary school curriculum would include climate-change training and environmental preservation. In the UAE, the Ministry of Education has partnered with UNESCO and UNICEF to build a green education framework. This involves creating sustainable campuses, training teachers on climate science, ensuring 50 percent of the schools in the UAE are green accredited and guiding students towards sustainable climate action.

As the world experiences more and more extreme weather events, schools will have to adapt their learning environments, curricula and teaching styles to effectively prepare their students to navigate a world experiencing the effects of global warming.

Integrating climate education throughout multiple subjects in the curricula is the first step international schools can take towards ensuring children are prepared for our changing climate.

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