Our schools are not meaningfully engaging students in understanding the climate emergency

Zamzam Ibrahim
August 10, 2019

In the past few weeks we have seen 7.6 million people worldwide rise up to strike for climate action. This has been led by young people fighting for their future.

I was proud to stand before a crowd of 100,000 in London on Friday 20 September and call for the radical reforms our education system requires.

The growing strikes have shown that if young people are not getting the education they need in the classroom, they will take to the streets to call for change.

As NUS National President, I represent 7 million students in further and higher education and we know that 85% of students think their institution should take action for sustainability and 60% want to learn more about it. But why not more? Why don’t 100% of students in our colleges and universities want to be learning about these issues?

The problem is upstream. Our schools are not meaningfully engaging students in understanding the climate emergency and ecological crisis. And this is not the fault of individual educators or individual schools – it is the fault of the entire education system.

It is for this reason that I am so proud to launch the Teach the Future campaign. As president of SOS-UK, NUS’ sustainability charity, I am excited to be working with our friends at the UK Student Climate Network to demand six changes to our education system.

We want to see a government commissioned review into climate emergency learning entitlement. We need to see the climate emergency and ecological crisis incuded in teacher standards so our educators are equipped to teach these topics. We need a National Climate Emergency Education Act to galvanize the resources and commitment needed to educate the next generation of leaders. We call for a national climate emergency youth voice grant fund to provide funding to young people to make a different here and now and a youth climate endowment fund to fund extra-curricular youth-led action engaging peers, teachers and parents in the climate emergency.

Finally, we demand that all new schools are built carbon-neutral and all schools are carbon-neutral by 2030, in line with scientific targets.

This won’t be easy, but it is necessary. It is irresponsible for young people not to learn about the crises they will inherit. We need an education system that will equip young people with the knowledge, skills, attributes, and values to create a more just and sustainable future for all.

You can support Teach the Future by sending an email to your MP asking for their support and you can spread the word using #TeachTheFuture

Zamzam Ibrahim,

NUS President