Source: Department of Education
Title: Pandor: Environmental Education Programme launch
Address by the Minister of Education Naledi Pandor at the Old Mutual Out of the Box Environmental Education Programme launch, Johannesburg
Ladies and gentlemen
Far greater attention is being paid to sustainable development, nature conservation and awareness of the dangers humanity poses to the environment.
Environmental education is about the impact of the lifestyle choices we make. It is about the decisions we take that affect the air we breathe and the food we eat.
The fact that economic and social choices have a direct impact on our world means that children must be provided with an education that allows them to make choices that promote conservation and development.
The content of the curriculum must address the various dimensions that make up our world, consumption, waste disposal, energy sources and business interest.
Only last month Nick Stern came to South Africa to talk about his recent report on climate change for the United Kingdom Treasury. He spoke to several audiences particularly about the importance of addressing the problems of global warming.
His message was simple: "The scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response."
He was able to quantify the impact of doing nothing: ";Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don't act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more."
He continued: "In contrast, the costs of action - reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change - can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year."
The message was clear. The costs of doing nothing now will mean that costs in the future will be incalculable.
I have found that this issue, one that seems quite difficult to grasp, is one that children understand keenly once it is explained to them.
Children also grasp the immediacy of debates about non-renewable energy sources.
For example there is available evidence of potential disasters that are associated with our search for energy sources. The Chernobyl disaster is one of these. Our education programmes should use these as a means of providing full insights into the likely impact of our search for innovation.
And of course nuclear power is closely associated with the enrichment of uranium and the capacity to use that energy for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
That was second-generation nuclear power. Today we are pushing the boundaries in developing the technology for fourth-generation nuclear power in the form of pebble-bed reactors. South Africa is at the forefront in developing and building pebble bed reactors. Their unique characteristics are, first, that an uncontrolled chain reaction is impossible - a meltdown of the reactor core is impossible - and, second, they do not produce uranium and cannot be used for military purposes.
A second-generation power station generates 1 500 to 3 800 megawatts of energy. In contrast a pebble-bed reactor generates 100 to 200 megawatts, enough to power a small town.
Because government has chosen to develop pebble bed reactors, it does not mean that the debate on nuclear power is closed. We encourage our children through the curriculum to tackle these important issues.
Environmental education is not taught in one learning area. It is taught in a cross-curricular fashion, because environmental issues are to be found in every learning area.
For example, in Economic and Management Sciences teachers will aim to demonstrate the relationship between a healthy environment, social justice, and human rights.
The National Environmental Education Project, a professional development project located in the Department of Education, was instrumental in putting environmental issues into the curriculum. It was launched in 2000 and came to an end in September 2006. It spread the word among teachers and among officials.
The Environmental Project worked closely with the departments of Water Affairs and Forestry, Health and Environmental Affairs and Tourism as well as some parastatals to coordinate environmental education at school level.
Education can be improved significantly by promoting active learning in and about the environment. Environmental education deepens the relevance of classroom learning and strengthens school-community links.
The development of environmental literacy is a key concern in an emerging democracy. It is only when we know about environmental issues that we can consider appropriate development options and contribute to sustainable living patterns in an informed way.
Being able to participate as a responsible citizen in the life of local, national and global communities depends on an awareness of how environmental issues affect communities.
Our curriculum also responds to Africa-wide commitments we have made in regard to education about the environment. In Libreville in 2006 African Ministers of Education agreed to respond to the call to support the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), and to support the development of strategies for the implementation.
We agreed to ensure that the principles of sustainable development are included in educational development frameworks, programmes and activities at all levels, as well as to ensure that African cultures, knowledge systems, languages and ways of life are integrated into frameworks, programmes and activities developed within the Decade.
Sustainable non-governmental organisation (NGO) or corporate initiatives that assist in teaching environmental education in our schools are most welcome. There are many, from "Kids in the Park" to marine life exhibitions and study tours to pilot projects in the conservation of energy - energy-efficient schools.
I look forward to more "out of the box" experiences once we see schools working more extensively within this programme.
Issued by: Department Education
25 April 2007