Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Italy Makes the Study of Climate Change Compulsory in Public Schools

Climate change is now embedded into the curricula of Italian public schools. The children in Italy are back at school for the first time since the coronavirus interrupted their education in March. Due to a law passed last year by the Italian government all students will now study both climate change and sustainable development.  The move makes Italy the first country in the world to make climate and sustainability mandatory subject matter. The new policy applies to children in Italy's public school system from grade one to grade 13, from the ages of six through to 19.

The announcement first came from Italian Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti in an interview he did with Reuters on November 4, 2019. Fioramonti is an economics professor who is well known for his support for green policies and Greta Thunberg's school strikes for climate. He has also written extensively against the use of gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of economic success. His proposal to levy new education taxes on plastic and sugary foods was included in the 2020 budget presented in parliament. He has also suggested levying taxes on airline tickets, gambling and profits from oil drilling.

In the Reuters interview Fioramonti let it be known that all state schools would dedicate a total of 33 hours or around one hour per school week, to climate change issues during the course of the school year. Subjects like geography, mathematics and physics, will be taught through the lens of sustainable development to make "sustainability and climate the center of the education model," Fioramonti told Reuters. "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."

Italy has taken the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals and turned them into a teaching model. The syllabus offers lessons on how to live more sustainably, how to combat the pollution, and how to address poverty and social injustice.

It is somewhat ironic that just as Italy's schools open even, the government was dissolved. The recent breakdown of the coalition between the hard-right, anti-migrant League party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (to which Fioramonti belongs) means Italians will either see the formation of a new alliance or a new election will be called. Prior to the unraveling, Mr. Fioramonti expressed confidence that his new educational addendum will survive even if the government does not. Fioramonti resigned in December 2019 because he did not receive the required funding to improve the country's schools and universities.

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