Advancing a Framework for Climate Change Education in Singapore Through Teacher Professional Development

Cities like Singapore have implemented numerous planning norms and policies that are aimed at addressing rapid urbanization. These efforts, however, have largely been state-driven and state-led. In other words, important behavioral norms such as the reduction of consumption of materials and energy have not necessarily been inculcated or accepted (Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Singapore, 2008). For instance, while there have been many public events and campaigns through mass media aimed at raising awareness, such campaigns only galvanize a small portion of the population to change their behavior in order to mitigate climate change. Schools, however, provide a favorable environment whereby environmental measures such as recycling activities can be put in place to promote positive attitudes and behaviors toward climate change. Formal lessons, in addition, can help to reinforce the concept of climate change and this in turn may influence students’ knowledge, attitude, and behavior towards climate change.

While climate change education (CCE) exists in pockets within the formal curriculum in Singapore (Goh, Tan, Chang, & Ooi, 2009), how this is implemented and enacted depends largely on the key stakeholder – the teacher. When teachers consider teaching about climate change, they commonly focus on changing human behavior to mitigate the effects of human-induced climate change. This, however, may not be effectively carried out because relatively few educators and students are able to articulate the importance of climate change or the best ways to understand the topic of climate change. 

There is, in fact, no explicit pedagogical content knowledge articulated for climate change education.  In this paper, I argue that in order to inspire active learning, it is necessary to first foster critical thinking. Before we can develop a robust approach to teaching about climate change, educators must first have a good conceptual understanding of what and how a topic should be taught. To this end, a workshop was developed to allow geography teachers to build capacity through concept mapping and to understand the conceptual lens through which climate change education can be framed.

Prior to the workshop, an expectations-building exercise was conducted through email correspondence. Key areas of concern for the participants included learning how to be able to introduce climate change as a topic, learning how to engage students, and educating students to realize the large scale impact and consequences of climate change.

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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