Italy Mandates Teaching About Sustainability

Public schools will require all students to learn about the environment.

Nov 29, 2019


Italy Mandates Teaching About Sustainability | Public schools will require all students to learn about the environment.

Besides reading, writing and arithmetic, Italian schoolchildren will receive lessons in sustainability. This new decision could put Italy in the lead for environmental education.

The decision was announced In early November 2019 – shortly before Venice flooded due to climate change –  and will go into effect starting September 2020. All students at every grade will be required to learn approximately 33 hours a year – or one hour a week – about  sustainability and climate change according to the New York Times

The law is the first of its kind, making Italy a pioneer in country-wide environmental education. 

Italy’s Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti, who is part of the anti-establishment Five Star movement, is one of Italy’s progressive and green advocates; earlier this year he encouraged students to participate in the student climate strikes and has backed environmental policies, such as a plastic tax.  

The new environmental curriculum will be used as a pilot program to eventually incorporate the climate agenda of the United Nations into the country's teaching.

Fioramonti, told The New York Times that instead of just studying the names and locations of places geography will comprise much more. " Geography courses will soon study the impact of human actions on different parts of the planet, too."

Naturally, material taught will be appropriate for each age range. Currently the thought is to teach elementary school children using the “fairytale model” which uses stories of diverse cultures and their connection to nature as a means of educating.

Middle school students would be taught more technical information, while high schoolers will be able to analyze more complex international reports, such as the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

Scientific experts will help the ministry design the curriculum, and internationally renowned professionals such as Professor Jefferey Sachs, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development and Kate Raworth of Oxford University will act as peer reviewers. The ministry hopes to be ready to train teachers by January, 2020.

This new curriculum has been hailed by environmentalists. But Edoardo Zanchini, vice president of Legambiente, Italy’s leading environmental group said that teaching school children about sustainability and climate change is really important but that the responsibility should not be passed unto them.

“Science tells us the next 10 years are crucial,” he said. “We cannot wait for the next generation,” Zanchini said.

While there is no similar mandate in the US, National Public Radio  said that their  recent survey showed that 80 percent of American parents' support teaching climate change education in schools. In fact, the support goes across the political divide.

If more countries follow Italy's lead, the children of the world can educate their parents, and this can lead to real change.

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Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.