The Italian government wants the fight against climate change to start in the classroom.
The country will be the first in the world to make climate change and sustainable development a mandatory part of school curricula next year, Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti announced Tuesday. All state schools will be required to spend 33 hours per year, roughly one hour per school week, studying climate change issues. The new program will be implemented in September 2020 at the beginning of the new school year.
“I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school,” Fioramonti said.
The first year of the new curriculum will act as a test program before eventually baking the UN’s climate goals into the entire curriculum. Subjects including geography, math, and physics will also be studied through the lens of sustainable development. A group of experts will advise the education ministry on the curriculum and will start training teachers in January.
Educators will take different age-appropriate approaches to teach students about the threats of climate change. For children ages 6 to 11 the ministry is considering using stories from diverse cultures that emphasize a connection to the environment and in middle school the curriculum would become more technical. High school students would learn about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Fioramonti has received criticism from conservatives in the first two months since joining the ministry, for his policies and for encouraging students to participate in climate strikes. He’s a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, a political party that sees the environment as a top priority, according to the New York Times. Fioramonti is working to educate the public on the issue after the popular right-wing prime minister Matteo Salvini, who is skeptical of climate change, left office in September.
Pushing taxes on plastic and sugary drinks in 2020 to discourage harmful consumption and generate resources for sectors like education, is high on Fioramonti's agenda.
Education plays a crucial part in the global response to climate change, according to UN agency UNESCO. When young people learn about the impact of climate change they are equipped to address the issue, change their attitudes and behavior and adapt to the climate-affected world.
“They [young people] are yearning to understand how the knowledge can be applied to foster sustainable development,” Fioramonti told HuffPost. “And they yearn for scientific education that can give meaning to their lives.”