A survey of over 1,800 UK-based academics and chemistry industry professionals found that most do not think the climate and environment content currently in curricula is good enough to help students further their education or related careers.
Conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) last year, the survey interviewed 619 education service providers and 1,198 people working in chemistry-related careers, to gather their views on the current state of green skills and teaching climate-related skills. The results were released this week.
The overall conclusion of the RSC is that these two communities feel that current curriculum content on climate change and sustainability falls far short of providing the knowledge and skills needed for tomorrow’s workforce.
There was near universal recognition of the importance of lessons directly related to the climate crisis and other aspects of environmental sustainability, for all age groups. Almost eight in ten respondents (77%) from academia and industry said it was “very important” to make a direct link to sustainability in chemical science courses. The proportion was even higher for primary and secondary teachers.
However, more than a quarter (29%) of respondents said that the current curriculum does not sufficiently encourage and support students in pursuing studies or careers in chemical sciences or sustainability. A further 40% said the current program is only “fairly” good in this regard. Overall, this represents nearly seven in 10 respondents dissatisfied with the current approach.
More than two-thirds (68%) of practicing chemists said they believed there was already a skills gap in terms of green jobs. Areas where jobs are struggling to attract talent, according to the survey, include carbon capture and measuring and reducing the impact of chemicals on the environment.
The RSC also interviewed 549 young people, aged 11 to 18. Among 16-18 year olds, half said they have already asked teachers for more detailed coverage of sustainability and climate change in lessons.
“We have a responsibility to educate and inspire young people throughout their education to prepare them for the challenges the world will face in the years to come – and the careers that come with it,” said Sarah, Director of RSC education and professional practice. Robinson.
“By the time a five-year-old child starting school this year leaves school, not only will these challenges be an even more pressing priority, but the job market will also look very different.
“Despite this, and the UK’s work to achieve two million green jobs by 2030 and net zero by 2050, many academics, professionals and students believe that current chemistry curricula do not enable students acquire the skills and knowledge they need to fulfill these careers and play their role as responsible citizens.”
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi came to COP26 to present a draft sustainability and climate change strategy for schools. This document outlined proposals for greening both the curriculum and the school areas themselves.
Subject to consultation, a final version of the Strategy should be published this year. In its current form, the Strategy makes no mention of chemicals or chemistry.
Lords turn to schools
In related news, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Environment and Climate Change announced this week the six schools it will work with to review the government’s green policies over the next 12 months. The focus will be on skills and education, but students will also be invited to comment on other sets of policies and how the Committee reviews them.
The schools selected are from Wirral, Stockton-on-Tees, Dundee, Port Talbot, Carrickfergus and East Sussex.
Students will participate in virtual meetings with peers to discuss the work of the Committee. The chair of the committee, Baroness Parminter, has pledged to visit each of the schools once the Covid-19 situation improves.
“It’s great to see so many young people keen to get involved in efforts to fight climate change and protect the natural world,” the Baroness said. We’ve had a lot of interest and I thank everyone for their brilliant offers to work with us on these big issues.
“We look forward to hearing from and working with the students who will help us do our job of holding government to account and ensuring policies meet climate goals. »