Climate crisis education to be made compulsory in Italian schools

6 Nov 2019

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Italian students will be among the first in the world required to learn about the climate crisis in many subjects, ranging from geography to physics.

Starting next September, Italian public schools will be required to spend at least one hour a week of the curriculum focused on the climate crisis. According to The New York Times, students will learn about its effects on the world around them, but also how to live a more sustainable life.

Italy’s minister for education, Lorenzo Fioramonti, said this move will make Italy the first nation in the world to make the teaching of the climate crisis compulsory in subjects including not only geography, but also maths and physics. 

The hope is that these one-hour lessons across the 33 weeks of the school year will form the basis of a pilot programme that will eventually weave in the findings of UN-backed studies into Italy’s entire curriculum. 

Furthermore, Fioramonti said that the programme will be overseen by a number of climate experts including Kate Raworth of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute and the Harvard Institute for International Development’s director, Jeffrey D Sachs.

Within a few months of its launch, Italy’s ministry for education will be ready to train teachers on the new curriculum. 

Avoiding nonsense

Hinting at how the climate crisis will be taught, Fioramonti said that for children aged between six and 11, the ministry was thinking of using “the fairy-tale model”, where stories from different cultures will be used to inform them about environmental challenges.

Those a little older will be taught more technical details on environmental science, while those in high school will work through the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Complicating matters somewhat is Italy’s political situation. Until recently, Fioramonti’s anti-establishment party, Five Star Movement, was in government with the nationalist Lega Nord party, led by the outspoken Matteo Salvini.

Salvini has previously made sceptical comments about the climate crisis and earlier this year said that global warming was not evident in Italy given the country experienced a cold May. 

“That’s the kind of nonsense we want to avoid by educating children that this is the most important challenge humanity has ever faced,” Fioramonti said. “And I want to secure this before there is any change in government that can imperil that kind of process.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic