Italy Becomes First Country to Mandate Climate Change Education

Italy Becomes First Country to Mandate Climate Change Education

In November 2019, Italy announced it would begin mandating climate change education for all students from ages 6-19, making it the first country on the globe to do so. The new policy requires that students spend 33 hours per year on climate change and sustainability. Teachers and schools were given the year to prepare to implement these changes, which began this year in September 2020.

How the policy impacts Italian schools

Teachers across the curriculum will incorporate climate change education, including math, science, and social studies teachers. Much like how American schools incorporate literacy into every subject area, Italian teachers will demonstrate how climate change has wide-reaching importance in every subject area and career field.

Italian Prime Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti, who is responsible for the new policy, is a member of the Five Star Movement, a leftist political party.

“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,” Fioramonti told Reuters when the new policy was announced.

A team of experts, including Americans Jeffrey D. Sachs, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development, and Jeremy Rifkin, an American economic theorist, were tasked with refocusing Italian public schools curriculum to give more time to climate change education, according to CNN.

Increased climate change concerns

In recent years, climate change has moved to the forefront of global political discussion. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, a majority of countries surveyed see global climate change as a major threat to their nation. The research center reports show increasing global concerns about climate change since it began asking about this topic in 2013. Ninety percent of people surveyed in Greece ranked climate change as a “major” threat, compared to 59 percent of Americans.

Although concerns about climate change rank higher in many countries outside the United States, a Pew Research Center survey from 2019 found that two-thirds of American adults say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change.

So will the United States ever see legislation mandating climate change curriculum in American schools?

Signs point to yes.

The current condition of climate change education in the United States

In 2013, the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the nonprofit Achieve all collaborated to develop the Next Generation Science Standards.

Before the development of these standards, there had been no real standardization of science standards since 1996, when the National Research Council published the National Science Education Standards. At the time, few states adopted them. By contrast, 19 states have adopted the NGSS, with another 21 states basing standards on the NGSS framework.

The NGSS incorporate standards that recommend teaching man-made climate change and its consequences beginning in middle school. Adoption of these standards is completely voluntary and happens at the state level.

Moreover, a majority of American adults favor teaching anthropogenic climate change, according to a 2019 NPR poll. The poll found that 80 percent of parents in the United States support the teaching of climate change. This includes two-thirds of Republican parents and 9 out of 10 Democrat parents. NPR reports a separate poll that demonstrates broad teacher approval – some 86 percent of teachers support teaching climate change.

On the other hand, each year states like Connecticut and Iowa introduce legislation prohibiting teaching about climate change. Other states have tried to pass legislation preventing schools from teaching any issue in a political party’s platform. This includes climate change.

For now, the world of science education will keep a close eye on Italy. The country is setting precedents as it implements its cutting-edge climate change and sustainability curriculum.

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Italy Becomes First Country to Mandate Climate Change Education

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Veteran Legend

I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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