Sustainability and the chemistry curriculum: the view from academia and industry
We have published part two of our report into sustainability and climate change in the chemistry curriculum, this time focusing on the view from academia and industry.
In part one of the report, published in November 2021, we published the results of surveys of educators and young people in the UK and Ireland, showing that both educators and students think that sustainability and climate change should be prioritised more highly in the chemistry curriculum.
Now, in part two of our research, we have found that practising chemists working in industry and academia – in other words, the potential future employers of today’s students – also agree that these topics need to be addressed directly in the chemistry curriculum.
Furthermore, 68% of respondents in this group say that there is a gap in current chemical knowledge and skills and those needed for green jobs now and in the future.
Empowering teachers to state the scientific consensus
Respondents from academia and industry also told us that it is particularly important that the curriculum states unequivocally the scientific basis for climate change, with several respondents saying that the wider social and political context should also be taught. This is particularly important given that, in part one of our research, 40% of those teaching chemistry to ages 16–19 years said they worried about teaching about sustainability and climate change because others might see them as controversial topics.
A key point for me is that… students and citizens also need to learn about the broader social, political, and economic landscape that has created these serious environmental problems. Technical knowledge is vital, but we need to look beyond merely technical solutions to these challenges.
Experts discuss the future of the chemistry curriculum
On 12 January 2022, we hosted a panel discussion to discuss how our findings should be used to steer the future of the chemistry curriculum.
The panel discussion was led by Ann Mroz, former editor of TES and THE, and the panellists were Sarah Robertson, Director of Education and Professional Practice at the RSC, David Paterson, a chemistry and physics teacher who also works for CLEAPPS, Christian Wakeford MP, and 17 year old climate justice activist Scarlett Westbrook.
We need to teach the truth and be prepared for the future.