Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Education Attempts

A few fragmented attempts have been made to merge climate change adaptation education into the Pacific Islands curricula. Three significant ones are discussed in this section. The first was the 2001 Scientific Educational Resources and

Experience Associated with the Deployment of Argo Drifting Floats in the South Pacific Ocean (SEREAD) project. It generated awareness among Pacific communities, teachers, and students on topics such as sea-level rise and its local impacts (Partnership for Observation of Global Oceans 2001). However, a major criticism of this project is that it was limited to secondary school students. Since SEREAD, few programmes have offered regional inclusiveness.

The second attempt was the climate change educational resource, Learning about Climate Change the Pacific Way, launched in 2014 by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the German Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit. The Pacific Islands Climate Education Partnership (2016) initiated the Learning about Climate Change the Pacific Way project in the Pacific islands, using the following guidelines:

  • • Local knowledge offers time-honored wisdom about climate change.
  • • Scientific knowledge should inform adaptation and mitigation actions in concert with Pacific Island cultural values.
  • • Traditional Pacific Island cultural values that identify with and respect the natural environment should be central to climate change adaptation.
  • • Formal and community-based educational systems should be included to enhance understanding of climate change and decisions about climate adaptation strategies.

Nevertheless, the German-sponsored project has had trouble balancing local and regional context. The curriculum was produced for Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and Tonga, using 16 pictures to illustrate the causes of climate change, along with ways to adapt and mitigate its impacts on these six islands (Secretariat of the Pacific Community 2011). The eighth picture is specific to the island in-focus; all of the other pictures are applicable to all of the six islands, thus representing all Pacific Islands as one imaginary island called “Pasifika” that lacks any specific details about individual island ecosystems. Although the curriculum accounts for the power of tradition and uses pictures to communicate ideas directly, it omits traditional pedagogical methods of communication, such as story-telling. The project also does not cover all grades. Additionally, as this project relies heavily on top-down communication through government documents, it does not consider equally voices from the local communities. Last, it uses a web-based platform, which is not accessible to all islanders. Nevertheless, the Deputy Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) commended the programme and the fact that workshop participants were from different islands (SPREP 2014). He urged participants to share their newly acquired knowledge with their home islands. Unfortunately, without a deeper appreciation of the local contexts of each island and without the inclusion of all students, this project may not obtain its intended outcome.

Third, SPREP developed the 2013 initiative, Children Take Action—A Climate Change Story. Unlike the first two projects, Children Take Action—A Climate Change Story is not regional. It uses stories instead of pictures to teach children the basics of climate science in a simple and appealing manner. The stories are collected in a book that was made specifically for Kiribati and thus written in both the local Te-Kiribati language and in English (SPREP 2013). The dual languages ensure effective communication in a local language and help to teach English, as in the following excerpt:

Jone didn’t know what climate change was and asked his grandfather to explain. Grandpa told Jone that the Earth’s temperature is becoming hotter.

“My temperature gets hot when I am unwell,” said Jone.

“Yes!” said Grandpa. “The Earth is becoming unwell too. There is less food for the birds and the fish. That is why they are leaving our island.”

“What is making the Earth sick?” Jone asked.

“We are,” said Grandpa. “Gases from our cars, buses and factories are making the Earth too hot.”

“People are driving more cars and building more factories. So the Earth is getting hotter and hotter.”

“Just like putting too many blankets on me!” said Jone (SPREP 2012, p. 5).

This paper calls for a more inclusive curriculum for the Pacific Islands Region. At their 2011 meeting about climate change education in formal and non-formal education, the Pacific Islands’ heads of education agreed that current endeavours have not yet fulfilled this goal (UNESCO 2012). On the short run, the curriculum should combine these three education efforts, as well as others, in a coordinated Pacific Islands education management network. On the long run, a wholly new Pacific Islands curriculum should be developed.

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