An important review has called for nature and the environment to be at the heart of learning in schools. The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review looks at the cost of humanity’s impact on the natural world and suggests eye-catching and often radical reforms to avert future catastrophe. Giving greater priority to environmental education in the curriculum at all stages of learning is one of the recommendations.
The Dasgupta review is groundbreaking because it was commissioned by the Treasury rather than by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). This is an indication that the most powerful government department is embracing the need to tackle the harm that humans are doing to the environment. For example, the review proposes changing how we measure national wealth, moving away from equating progress with gross domestic product (GDP) and recognising the importance of natural capital.
Professor Dasgupta, who wrote the report, said:
Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them … Nature is our home. Good economics demands we manage it better.Professor Dasgupta, quoted on the UK government’s website
Professor Gupta talks of the need for us to develop an affection for nature and its processes. He goes on:
As that affection [for the natural world] can flourish only if we each develop an appreciation of Nature’s workings, the monograph ends with a plea that our education systems should introduce Nature studies from the earliest stages of our lives, and revisit them in the years we spend in secondary and tertiary education. The conclusion we should draw from this is unmistakable: if we care about our common future and the common future of our descendants, we should all in part be naturalists.Preface, The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review
In the chapter on education the review states:
Connecting with Nature needs to be woven throughout our lives … It is a cruel irony that we surround children with pictures and toys of animals and plants, only to focus subsequently on more conceptual knowledge, marginalising environmental education relative to the wider curriculum.Quote from Chapter 24, The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review
In its report on the Dasgupta review, The Guardian says that the review “would like to see an understanding of nature given as prominent a place in education as the ‘three Rs’, to end people’s distance from nature.” It should, in fairness, be noted that these exact words do not appear to be in the review itself.
Too many children are switched off learning as they struggle to see its relevance. A life-based approach will improve children’s motivation to learn. Life-based learning takes the current subject-based approach for children aged 5 to 11 a stage further. Subject content is respected — all of it — but it is delivered through nine life themes that directly address the challenges we face.
Three of the nine themes — Plant Life, Animal Life and Physical World — directly address our relationship with and appreciation of the natural world. A life-based curriculum will help children adopt the skills, values and practices that ensure they live sustainable lives in harmony with the needs of the planet.
Click to read and/or download the abridged version of the review
Click to read and/or download the review’s main messages
Click to learn more about the life-based approach to learning
Image at the head of this article by pasja1000 from Pixabay