Italy Injects Environment Into Curriculum


Jason Horowitz
c.2019 The New York Times Company

ROME — Yes, children, climate change will be on the test.

Italy’s education minister said Tuesday that its public schools would soon require students in every grade to study climate change and sustainability, a step he said would put Italy at the forefront of environmental education worldwide.

The lessons, at first taught as part of the students’ civics education, will eventually become integrated throughout a variety of subjects — a sort of “Trojan horse” that will “infiltrate” all courses, the education minister, Lorenzo Fioramonti, said.

Environmental advocates welcomed the new subject matter, with some caveats.

Teaching children about sustainability is “certainly very important” said Edoardo Zanchini, vice president of Legambiente, Italy’s leading environmental group. But he warned that responsibility should not simply be passed on to children.

“Science tells us the next 10 years are crucial,” he said. “We cannot wait for the next generation.”

Fioramonti is a member of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which has long put environmental concerns at the heart of its identity. He has already become a target of conservatives for backing taxes on sugar and plastics, and for encouraging students to take part in climate protests last September instead of attending class.

Starting in September 2020, he said, teachers in every grade will lead lessons in climate change and environmental sustainability<strong>.</strong> That 33-hour-a-year lesson, he said, will be used as a pilot program to ultimately fold the climate agenda of the United Nations into the entire curriculum.

So merely studying place names and locations in geography class? “Forget that,” Fioramonti said. Geography courses will soon study the impact of human actions on different parts of the planet, too, he said.

Until August, 5-Star had governed Italy for more than a year with the nationalist League party, led by Matteo Salvini, who is still the country’s most popular politician, and who has a skeptical view of climate change.

But as President Donald Trump began pulling the United States out of the landmark Paris Agreement this week, Fioramanti said that every country needed to do its part to stop the “Trumps of the world” and that his ambition was to show children there was another way.

“The 21st-century citizen,” he said, “must be a sustainable citizen.”