Should Earth and Environmental Science be promoted in school curriculums?



Tree growing out of book

Ensuring Earth and Environmental Science receives attention equal to that of 'traditional' sciences in schools could promote interest in sustainability-related career paths.

Credit: Wikimedia

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Teaching Earth and Environmental Science in schools with the same significant focus as biology, chemistry and physics is imperative, given its critical role in combating the environmental, energy and economic crises the world faces, the Geological Society of Australia (GSA) has said.

In two submissions to Australia's National Curriculum Board, the GSA has supported the development of a proposed National Science Curriculum covering all years from kindergarten through to high school, but has warned that the new curriculum will be a 'make or break' opportunity for Earth and Environmental Science (EES).

The GSA has described the science as having been "left in the classroom cupboard" for decades, in order to make way for studies in the traditional sciences of biology, chemistry and physics.

"We fully support the need for students to be well-grounded in [those sciences], but a solid grounding
in EES is just as critical given the centre-stage role this discipline is now playing in combating the major...crises of the 21st century" GSA President, Peter Cawood, said.

"EES is already at the centre of global efforts to develop cost-effective responses to huge challenges like climate change, drought and water contamination, salinity and other environmental degradation, geo-hazards like tsunamis and earthquakes, the need for clean and reliable baseload energy, threats to food security, the contamination of productive land and the impact of urban development on land health," he said.

He added that as well as holding the key to a sustainable future, the discipline also underpins much of the knowledge base of other sciences and allied fields such as agriculture, climate science and ecology, and provides a 'real life' context to engage students' interest in science.

Promoting EES in primary and secondary schools could also promote the number of Australians studying in the field at the university level, which has been in decline for the past 20 years.

The GSA has advised strongly against a National Curriculum Board recommendation that the fourth science
subject at senior school should focus on Environmental Science only, arguing that Earth and Environmental
Science is "joined at the hip", and that effective Environmental Science can only be taught in full appreciation of Earth processes and how they evolve over time.

It has also urged the Board to convene an advisory body comprising the GSA and other organisations in formulating Earth and Environmental Science subjects for Australia's schools.