It looks like Italy is hoping to produce the next Greta Thunberg.
This week, Italy's Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti announced that the entire country of Italy will soon be required to teach climate change and sustainable development to all grade school students, as reported by Reuters.
Fioramonti sat down with Reuters to explain the details of the newest addition to Italy's public school curriculum. The minister told the news outlet that beginning in September 2020, all public schools across the country will be required to teach students about climate-related issues for 33 hours each year. The school year is typically 36 weeks long, meaning that's about one hour each week. This will apply to students of all ages, from grade one to grade 13, ages 6 through 19, he told The Telegraph.
Fioramonti and his team have visions of different models for different ages: elementary school students will follow the "fairy-tale model" and learn stories from different cultures that are related to the environment; come middle school, things will get more technical — perhaps the science behind climate change; and in high school, students will learn about the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, The New York Times reported.
“The entire ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the center of the education model,” Fioramonti told Reuters. “I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.”
As Fioramonti told The Telegraph, “Italy will be the first country in the world to adopt this framework." It actually makes sense that Italy is the first country to step up to the plate, considering Fioramonti's passion for protecting the environment. The New York Times pointed out that Fioramonti has publicly encouraged students to skip school to participate in climate strikes, and he's also a proponent of taxes on single-use plastics and airline tickets — which has earned him some criticism from conservative politicians.
Vincenzo Cramarossa, Fioramonti's spokesman, shared a few other details about the program with CNN. As he explained, the new lessons will primarily be taught in civics classes; but the themes will also be woven into classes like geography, math, and physics. "There will be more attention to climate change when teaching those traditional subjects," Cramarossa told the news outlet. Environmental issues really do relate to pretty much every school subject, so the more holistically Italian teachers approach this new program, the better students will understand the scope of the climate emergency.
Over the past year or so, students have really become the leaders of the climate movement. Ever since Greta Thunberg held her first school strike in August 2018, the movement — now known as Fridays for Future — has grown exponentially, with students all over the globe cutting class to strike for the planet every Friday. It's unfortunate that children are the ones holding the weight of the world, when it should be politicians and leaders doing so — but at least Italy's new policy will even better equip children with the knowledge they need to really make a difference.