Education and awareness building regarding sustainable development have been part of China’s educational curriculum for over two decades. First policies regulating general environmental protection and climate change education have been promulgated since 1994. In 2003, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued the first policy on environmental education for primary and secondary education: “Guidelines for Implementing Environmental Education in Elementary and Secondary School”. Additionally, provisions regarding education of the public in order to tackle climate change through emission reduction as well as energy and resource savings to ensure the sustainable development of China have found entry into past Five-Year-Plans. More recently, awareness and capacity building on “low carbon emission” behaviour have been inscribed into China’s National Climate Action Plan 2014 -2020. Moreover, the plan links public education and behaviour with fostering innovative thinking, solution seeking and knowledge sharing among industry, university and research to ensure future development and fast adoption of low-emission technologies.
Since the early 2000s, various organisations concerned with environmental education were set up: e.g. the Shanghai Environmental Education Center, a joint program between Shanghai’s Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministries of Education with the aim of fostering environmental education at all levels of schooling; UNEP and Tongji University founded the “Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development” to provide an interdisciplinary and international learning and research platform for sustainable development; China’s oldest NGO “Friends of Nature” which – among other tasks – has been engaging in teacher training on environmental topics.
Today, primary and secondary schools across China teach environmental topics as part of a “green education” mandate. Topics range from soil desertification, waste separation, biodiversity, the promotion of low carbon travel and responsible consumption, to recycling and behavioral guidance on good “low carbon behaviour”.
The primary school (Grades 1- 6) curriculum focuses on fostering young pupils’ curiosity for their living environment, i.e. animals and plants, how they feed and what they need to thrive. Classes called “Nature” with relevant teaching material are taught in some schools. Depending on teacher and school, topics like CO2, climate change, pollution etc. are taught as part of other courses. Some schools organize “Environmental Protection Days” or extra-curricular lectures.
Secondary school education (Grades 7 – 9) subsumes education on environmental matters including climate change into the overall science classes like “Chemistry’, “Physics”, “Geography”, “Life Science”. The general approach to the topic is a utilitarian one embedded in the argument that the environment has to be protected in order to continue the economic development of China and secure the well-being of its people, current and future generations.
Complementing the official curriculum where relevant resources and capacities are short, some schools partner with companies providing knowledge on science topics like chemistry and health, sustainable logistics, forestry or water hygiene. Or they work with organisations like STEM Cloud, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education, to foster the next generation of engineers and scientists able to create innovative technologies to fight climate change. STEM Cloud materials on “air”, “CO2” and science related topics can be downloaded for teachers from their website: http://www.stemcloud.cn/cloudclassroom/courses. The NGO “Friends for Nature” publishes a regular newsletter with information useful for campaigns on current topics like garbage separation. http://www.fon.org.cn/index.php?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&layout=category&Itemid=205.
Official materials do not seem to be publicly accessible through online sources, however, an online search shows up plenty of material tailored to children by concerned teachers or volunteers, as this example from Santang Primary School in Dalian’s Changxing Island Economic Area shows. It starts off explaining why environmental protection is important, what environmental labels and international environmental days are and then delves into a more practical section which looks at protecting biodiversity and the natural environment and provides guidance on how to avoid pollution. Each chapter starts with highlighting the function of a certain environment, before it talks about the damage and everybody’s responsibility to avoid the damage. What is remarkable is that the material also asks the children to engage and influence their parents by sharing their insights and involving them into research for homework, thus exerting subtle pressure on parents to rethink their behavior. https://wenku.baidu.com/view/6a2d1400690203d8ce2f0066f5335a8103d26602.html.
Activity Rating: ★★★ Right Direction but Needs to do More
Education on climate change and environmental protection has been existing in primary and secondary schools across China for over two decades, albeit in different levels of intensity and content depth. As part of the official curriculum, e.g. as part of other science related courses relevant materials are standardized. However, there appear to be no stand-alone courses specific to environmental topics. Teaching climate change and environmental protection beyond the official level seems to depend on the choice of individual teachers who also bring relevant material tailored to their class. Extra-curricular environment or climate change related activities depend vary from school to school and region to region, depending on interest of teachers and willingness of the school management and parents to embrace such topics. While some schools appear to dedicate both curriculum time and extra-curriculum time to education on the impact of human behaviour on environment and climate, other schools seem to stick to the bare minimum.
Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below.
We commend China on having recognized early on the need to make knowledge on how to protect the environment and fight climate change available to the public. Policy support of the past 25 years have certainly contributed to fostering today’s generation of university students and young professionals keen on working towards a more sustainable China. At the same time, we believe that with the current climate crises, China can still step up its efforts in the education of its young generation and make dedicated courses on environmental protection and climate change part of the standard curriculum, along with standardized textbooks and teachers’ training. In addition, the government can consider tapping into all available resources and make it easier for NGOs or companies to access schools and supplement academic knowledge with hands-on practical examples on applied science to battle pollution, emissions or help save resources.
Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China
Minster of Education: Baosheng Chen
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager: Annette Wiedenbach
Chinese translation by Jolin
为了拓展课程资源和视角，有学校和一些从事化学健康，可持续物流，林业和水源卫生等领域的企业建立了合作关系。比如有学校和STEM云中心合作。STEM 云中心是一家非营利性组织，致力于提供科学、技术、工程和数学方面教育，旨在孵化下一代工程师和科学家，使其具备应对气候变化技术创新的能力。相关资料可从STEM 运中心以下网站下载： http://www.stemcloud.cn/cloudclassroom/courses
此文由Climate Scorecard国家经理Annette Wiedenbach撰写。
Qingqing Han, Education for Sustainable Development and Climate Change Education in China: A Status Report, p. 66 http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.985.6805&rep=rep1&type=pdf
China’s National Climate Plan 2014- 2020, p. 39 – 44
Personal experience in corporate environmental education fostering in secondary and tertiary education institutions e.g. through former Bayer Young Environmental Envoy program
Interviews with parents of children in primary & secondary education in Shanghai, Beijing, Fujian.
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