ERG SES H 05, Policies in Education
The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2014) states that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are rising and are “extremely likely” (ibid: 4) to have caused the warming of the atmosphere and ocean, and sea level rises. Continued greenhouse gas emissions will lead to further changes in the climate system and “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” (ibid: 8). Although the efforts of all levels of government, educators and policy makers have been acknowledged in the environmental education research literature (e.g. Læssøe et al., 2009, Læssøe and Mochizuki, 2015) the response from education has been criticized as being slow and, according to Jickling (2013) environmental education has failed to challenge the status quo. Amidst mounting evidence that inadequate progress is being made in response to climate change, my research is seeking to examine the role of schools in response to issues of climate change. To do so, I will compare the perspectives presented in current research literature, policy texts and those shared by various practitioners involved in climate change education.
This paper will make two main contributions to furthering understanding of the role that education could or should play in response to issues of climate change. First, drawing on the work of Michel Foucault and followers (e.g. Dean, 1994, Escobar, 1984, Ferreira, 1999, Gough, 2013), it will present a ‘history of the present’ of climate change education in England. This ‘history’ will examine factors that have led towards the present-day role of education (as suggested by government policy) and provide insight into the ‘regimes of power’ that might be operating “inside, outside and alongside the state” (Ferreira, 2009) to govern education in the context of climate change. This history will allow for reflection on how we are governed and how we govern ourselves and others in relation to climate change responses.
Second, it will examine recent academic perspectives on the role that education could or should play in response to climate change and how they correspond with established theoretical models of environmental education, such as Sauvé’s ‘currents’ (2005). Sauvé’s currents do not seek to establish strict boundaries, but they categorise and map environmental education approaches and discourses to assist researchers and practitioners make sense of the field. In response to Sauvé’s invitation for critical discussion and development of the ‘currents’, this paper will consider how academic perspectives on climate change education - a concept that is not explicit in Sauvé’s original mapping - intersect with this theoretical approach.
The paper will conclude by comparing perspectives from the research literature with those present in policy. This insight might help researchers from England, Europe and further afield to reflect upon the similarities and differences between the literature and policy in their jurisdiction, and on their role in challenging the ways that education is responding to climate change.
This paper will present the findings of a critical review of research literature from various fields, such as environmental education, science education, climate change and social justice. The first part of the paper, recognising the important role for research to critically document policy (Læssøe et al., 2013, Jickling and Wals, 2008), will build on Gough’s (2013) ‘history of the present’ of environmental education and offer findings from a 'history of the present' of climate change education in England up to and including recent international and English policy texts that articulate a climate change role for education. This section will include some of the findings of a discourse analysis undertaken on key policy artefacts and illustrate how dominant discourses are governing the relationship between climate change and education (Foucault, 1980, Ferreira, 2009, Ferreira, 2013).The second part of the paper will also present findings from my critical literature review that identified emergent themes on the role that education could and should play in response to issues of climate change and then analysed these themes in relation to Sauvé’s currents. A subsequent empirical study, to be undertaken after ECER 2018, will examine policy enactors’ perspectives on this role and what influences these views. Participants will include policy makers and policy influencers, teachers and educators in England who have had recent engagement in climate change or climate change education, and others from relevant yet diverse fields, for example, business, media, health or computing. An interpretive qualitative analysis will compare the ideas and discourses of the practitioners with those emerging from the literature and policy to identify similarities and differences between the perspectives.
The research literature highlights myriad difficulties in specifying a role for education in response to issues of climate change with scholars, such as Reed (2010), asserting that education can either lead society out of the crisis or prevent it from doing so. These challenges for educators and researchers are troubling as they highlight, for instance, the inherent messiness and non-linear nature of education, the dominance of the global economic growth agenda, and the uncertainty regarding the timing and impacts of changing climate systems. While highlighting these complex challenges, the literature offers similarly complex solutions and educational approaches. Some call for adjustments to pedagogical practice towards, say, a citizenship education that is concurrently global and local, others seek paradigm shifts towards education framed around principles of justice, renewed spirituality and connection to nature, and others predict futures where institutionalized education, the current dominant model, will face significant disruption. Although my research is in its early stages, I anticipate that the perspectives and arguments offered by the literature and those set out in policy responses might both reveal the presence of the dominant economic growth agenda, with the former identifying and criticizing such an agenda and the latter revealing it as dominant in policy discourse. I also anticipate that the literature might express an urgency for education to act and, in some cases, to play a role in leading society's response to climate change, a role that might be less apparent in policy. The insight from the comparison between the literature and policy will, in the short term, reveal some of the factors influencing the present situation in England. It will also provide the foundation for the subsequent empirical phase of my research examining the perspectives of practitioners, policy makers and policy influencers on education's part in this global challenge.
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