UPDATE, 25/03/2013: Thanks for all of your RTs and comments about this article. There is a really simple way to petition Michael Gove on this issue if you care enough about it, which I'd really appreciate you signing and spreading word of - it's at: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/hey-gove-why-can-t-we-talk-about-the-environment
Conservationists and environmental groups are used to fire-fighting recently. Their persuasive pressure hoses seem to be being sprayed everywhere: from pesticides to palm oil, to epidemic badgers and economic barters.
Among all of this, we are being asked a quieter question, and it is quite simple. “Does it matter if we stop teaching young children about the need to protect the environment?”
Having just read the government's proposed update to the National Curricum I can’t help but smell burning…
The document is part of a public consultation (running until the 16th of April 2013) on changes to the national curriculum, implemented by the government, that will occur in the autumn of 2014. According to the Department of Education, they are seeking a curriculum where “all pupils will leave primary school able to progress to more challenging study at secondary school, supporting greater breadth and depth of learning.”
Though there are some aspects of the new proposed curriculum I really rather like (e.g. seasons, an early focus on evolution, a recognition of great scientists) there is a hole in this new draft curriculum, which is rather subtle. It is this. Today when a child reaches Year 1 and 2, the curriculum outlines that:
5c. Pupils should be taught to: care for the environment.
Then, when pupils reach Years 3-6 the curriculum outlines:
5a. Pupils should be taught: about ways in which living things and the environment need protection.
In the government’s new version, these have gone. In their new proposal they want pupils, instead of being in Year 1 or Year 2, to wait until Year 4 until hearing about the importance of protecting the environment. Even then, the environmental message has been cut back to a clunky and diluted requirement that pupils… “recognise that environments are constantly changing and that this can sometimes pose dangers to specific habitats.”
This is obviously not an oversight or an accidental omission. The government, perhaps understandably, want the next generation to be armed for the “global race” and environmentalism can fly in the face of this. However, I can’t help but think we’re setting the next generation up for a fall if we fail to highlight clearly, at a young age, how human actions can impact on the environment, often negatively, and why this matters. Frankly, it's another mistake that our children may later pay for.
I haven’t seen much said about this issue. If you think it’s important I would urge you to email your thoughts to the consultation – this may certainly help. However I suspect it will be the big guns (The National Trust, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts) and their members who can make most impact. Bizarrely, so far I have seen very little mentioned about this from any of these organisations, even though I respect the good work they do in the field of education. Too many fires, perhaps? I welcome their comments (and yours) below.
The deadline for comment to the government's proposed new curriculum, once again, is the 16th of April 2013.
Thanks, Jules - @juleslhoward
ADDITIONAL NOTES: If you happen to be an environment/conservation NGO member, can I ask that you contact your organisation and ensure that they comment on this government proposal, if they haven't already. If you think it matters, please do spread the word to your contacts.
Any of the supportive comments received on this blog I will collate and send to the Department of Education.