Hot topic: Education Ministry explores teaching climate crisis in classrooms

Climate organizations’ education forum welcomes move, but calls for minister to take personal lead

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Students at an elementary school in Efrat, near Jerusalem, make a rug out of plastic bags, June 9 2009. (Gershon Elinson/ Flash90/ File)
Students at an elementary school in Efrat, near Jerusalem, make a rug out of plastic bags, June 9 2009. (Gershon Elinson/ Flash90/ File)

A special team has been set up within the Education Ministry to recommend how best to integrate the climate crisis into school curricula.

Headed by Dr. Gilmor Keshet-Maor, who directs the ministry’s science and math division, the pedagogical team will report to the director general, Yigal Slovik, by the end of December.

A statement from the ministry said that the team was being assisted by a committee of scientists, led by Prof Itay Halevy, an earth scientist from the Weizmann Institute.

A separate, cross-departmental committee has also been established to assess the effects of climate change on the education system’s operations, logistics, buildings, and security, it added.

The statement noted that changes were also being made to the ministry’s policy on education for sustainability and would be set out in the director general’s policy statement.

The Education Forum of the Coalition of Climate Organizations welcomed the developments, saying that officials were beginning to grasp the gravity of the crisis, and noting that the situation in schools today was “far from satisfactory.”

Children being rescued by rubber boats from a flooded preschool in Rehovot amid powerful rains, December 6, 2018. (Channel 10 screen capture/ File)

“The few subjects and programs that currently exist in the curriculum do not equip all pupils with the knowledge, skills, and ability required to cope with the changing and challenging reality,” a statement from the forum said.

“To this must be added the lack of planning to prepare the education system to deal with increasing emergencies, such as fires, floods, and heatwaves.”

The statement said that changes would not come until the conversation about the climate crisis was held above the ranks of officials.

It called on Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and her director general to “stand at the forefront, take brave decisions, declare a change of policy, and budget the necessary resources.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton speaks at a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Tel Aviv, August 31, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We are educating the next generation with an emphasis on critical thinking, caring, and taking responsibility,” the statement concluded.

“It is time for the education minister to set a personal example.”

The Coalition of Climate Organizations operates within Life and Environment, the umbrella organization for environmental groups in Israel.

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