Climate action is becoming a subject in Leaving Cert shake-up

29 Mar 2022

Image: © dehweh/

As part of plans to prepare students for ‘the challenges of the 21st century’, young people in Ireland will soon be able to study climate action at school.

Ireland’s Leaving Cert is getting a new subject – climate action and sustainable development.

It was announced today (29 March) as part of a planned reform of senior cycle education, one of the aims of which is to “empower students to meet the challenges of the 21st century”.

The new subject will be ready for fifth-year students in certain secondary schools starting in 2024.

While climate and sustainability are already touched on in a number of existing Leaving Cert subjects, some have described the current system as “inadequate” and called on the Government to teach students about the climate crisis and empower them to take action.

An Oireachtas education committee was told last year by experts and business leaders that issues such as the climate crisis would need to be tackled in Leaving Cert reforms to prepare young people for the challenges of the future.

The plans announced today were informed by a report from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, which noted that this stage of education should help students as they “enter an adulthood where global challenges such as sustainability and climate change … can have very local and personal impacts”.

As scientists give a “dire warning” about the consequences of climate inaction and Ireland sets out its own climate action plans, the climate crisis is getting more attention at third-level education institutions in Ireland.

There are courses such as a BA in climate and environmental sustainability at Dublin City University and an MSc in climate change at Maynooth University. Dublin City University’s new Centre for Climate and Society is also looking at how areas such as politics, media, education and policy can influence climate action.

Revealing the plan for Leaving Cert reform today, Minister for Education Norma Foley, TD, described it as an “ambitious programme” that would help meet students’ interests and prepare them for future careers.

“Our current system has many strengths,” she said. “But we know that it can be improved … to keep pace with the changes in practices internationally and to meet the needs and expectations of our students and of our society in preparing our young people for the world ahead.”

Other planned changes include the introduction of a drama, film and theatre studies subject, revised curricula for all existing subjects, and an emphasis on additional assessments outside of the traditional final written exams.

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Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic