Monday, May 20, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Climate education for Bangladeshi children: Necessity or luxury?

Climate literacy is a necessity in this perilous phase of climate change and environmental collapse

Update : 27 Sep 2022, 11:22 PM

The climate crisis is one of the gravest of all hardships that humanity has confronted on this earth till date. Even though it is grim for each and every living being on earth, for those of us who are children today, like me, or those not even born yet, our words cannot entirely express the injustices we are going through presently, and potentially will go through in the days ahead.  

Children in Bangladesh, according to the UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index rank 15th which is classified as being in “extremely high risk”. The climate crisis is threatening more than twenty million Bangladeshi children’s lives. This year’s climate change-fueled floods in north-eastern Bangladesh affected at least 3.5 million children living in that region. It is ruining their health, education, nutrition, and indeed their childhood. 

For that reason, we, the children, are the innocent victims of this crisis; our contribution to causing this catastrophe was the least, and yet we endured the most. To survive on this planet and make it acceptable for human habitation, we must possess the knowledge, skills, and consciousness. For that, we do not have any alternative except incorporation of quality climate and environmental education at all levels of school curriculum. Climate literacy is a necessity in this perilous phase of climate change and environmental collapse. 

Climate education stands for the education that targets to educate people to understand, recognize, and realize the causes and consequences of climate change, prepares them to survive through the impacts of this catastrophe, and motivates the community to take proper actions to adopt more sustainable ways of life, take part in the decision-making, while also leading their own localities towards climate resilience. Climate and environmental education at all stages of our school curriculum will enable the young generation to live through this crisis with more resilience, insight, and awareness. 

Bangladesh, as the seventh most vulnerable and imperiled country to the climate crisis, currently has a small volume of climate and environment related information in its primary, junior-secondary, and secondary school textbooks. Most of those contents included in the science and social science textbooks have introduced the basic components of the environment, natural disasters, environmental pollution and means to cope with them.

The materials only put a light focus on climate change, as well as mitigation and adaptation. However, we are in need of wide-ranging materials relating to the current situation of the globe and Bangladesh due to climate change and policy-making. 

The sectors that are affected by climate change in Bangladesh are agriculture and fisheries; forestry and biodiversity; hydrology and water resources; coastal zones; urban areas; and human health, particularly for vulnerable groups, but contents that go into them give the impression to be either lacking or too concise. The English for Today textbooks have included one or two chapters in each class which mention tree plantation, renewable energy, nature, and climate change briefly, yet they do not appear to be sufficient, considering the broadness and urgency of this catastrophe.

Most importantly, no individual subject or learning field called “climate and environment” exists. Therefore, the current status of climate education in the Bangladeshi school curriculum may not be age-appropriate, adequate, and elaborate enough, considering our dire vulnerability. 

The topic of climate change and environment needs to be taught through an all-inclusive and integrated approach, addressing the topic of climate and environment as a distinct interdisciplinary subject. Building the adaptation and resilience capacity of our communities, and young people as climate leaders helping build a climate resilient future for our nation, should be one of our foremost goals.

Indeed, these issues need to be developed and tailored considering age, specific contexts, and settings of the student. We must also keep in mind that our teachers, similarly, need to be trained to teach the subject regularly, creatively, and engagingly, by adopting innovative pedagogy. 

So, in March 2021, I launched a nation-wide petition campaign as the youngest-yet person to ever do so. One of our key demands in that campaign was inclusion of quality and detailed climate and environmental education in the school curriculum. Even though it was initiated by me, it soon became the petition of all. More than 2,000 people from home and abroad signed this petition enthusiastically, and prominent figures of the climate justice arena in our country also endorsed and encouraged our demand.

Prof Dr Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change And Development (ICCCAD) stated, "I am truly impressed by the exemplary dedication of Aruba Faruque towards her country, and it has been a pleasure to support the petition for implementing the planetary emergency declared by the Bangladesh Parliament and also the recommendation to include climate change in the school curriculum in Bangladesh."

During our campaign, we found it difficult to make our ministry officials realize that the current status of climate and environmental education is simply not compatible with the severity of this crisis.  The petition was submitted to our Honourable Prime Minister in September 2021. But we received tremendous support from the people of the climate justice movement. Finally, in May 2022, we received the good news that our restructured school curriculum will have a new learning field named “Climate and Environment” amongst nine other fields.

It is a magnificent victory, not only for the climate activist community, but also the future generations. This accomplishment, moreover, has given us the realization that advocacy works if it is pragmatic, realistic, and strategic. Indeed, there is nothing more instrumental than young people’s actions to save ourselves during this planetary emergency.

We are thankful to our authorities for listening to our demands to incorporate climate and environmental education in our school curriculum. Now, we should also deal with the question of elaboration and quality while shaping this emerging learning field suitably. 

Perhaps, the best thing about education is that it passes on from one generation to another. Literacy is the most efficient pathway to start the ball of change rolling from the roots of a community as it focuses on engagement.

The climate crisis is an awfully unequal crisis, where the least emitters are suffering the severest scenarios. Hence, to get justice, we must get the picture of this catastrophe from the depths and act from our own roles and standpoints. Creating a knowledge-based young generation may be one of the best sustainable solutions to have our actions turn into a concrete outcome.

Aruba Faruque is a 16-year-old climate and environmental activist studying in 10th grade at Sabera Sobhan Govt Girls’ High School, Brahmanbaria. She is the youngest climate petitioner of Bangladesh. She can be reached at [email protected].

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