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Promotion of low carbon education...

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Promotion of low carbon education in education of energy and the environment

Shuichi Teraki

Jul.11,2011 The Education Newspaper

The unprecedented earthquake disaster in Eastern Japan and the accidents in the nuclear power plants from tsunamis made everyone recognize the meaning and role of disaster prevention education and energy education. Education on energy and the environment in elementary, middle and high schools are aimed for citizens with increased literacy of science and technology that participate in actions to conserve energy and resources, have awareness over the entire lifetime of problems that are involved, and have the ability to make decisions and take action to resolve these problems. (Study plans for energy and environment education, the Information Center for Energy and Environment Education, 2010)

There is a unit for "resources, energy, and industry" in middle school social studies. This unit discusses the importance for stable supply of resources and energy based on the viewpoint of natural security, fosters understanding of problems on energy and the environment that Japan is facing, and what can be done to build a sustainable society.
 The "industrial arts" field in industrial arts and homemaking emphasizes fostering of the ability to build a sustainable society and manufacturing capabilities. The course of study was revised to state that "development of science and technology resulted in development of computerization and improvement of living environments, however is also causing problems such as destruction of the natural environment and wasting of resources and energy" (course of study). However, the course also requires students to recognize that development of science and technology is contributing to achievement of a low carbon society and conservation of the natural environment, and to teach them to select information and technology necessary to improve their lives. This is extremely important to remove the belief in current students that science and technology is evil. In short, the power of education to achieve a low carbon society depends significantly on enrichment of science and technology education.

An example of low carbon education in the industrial arts field of middle school industrial arts.

The 7th grade unit "technology used in daily lives and industry: developing science and technology to protect the environment" promotes education toward the following two goals.

  • Reduce use of finite fossil fuel, and aim to achieve a prosperous society using renewable energy.
  • Know the current state of development of technology used to reduce greenhouse gas emission by power plants, transportation, and households.

The class starts with a comparison of the current situation of Japan with other countries that use solar, wind, or geothermal power generation. Next, the merits and demerits of power plants using thermal, nuclear, hydropower, and renewable energy are discussed in groups and summarized in tables. The class elaborates on the rapid developments in the performances and prices of recent electric and hybrid vehicles, and makes students realize that a Japanese light motor vehicle running on lithium ion batteries:

  • Are now being sold at under two million yen after subsidies (such vehicles were previously more than two times more expensive)
  • Became lighter through improvement of batteries that made up most of the weight of the vehicle
  • Have power terminals that can supply 100V AC for emergency situations such as during the recent planned power outages.

Finally, students understand that Japanese science and technology has significant influence in spreading of hybrid cars and fuel cell vehicles running on hydrogen, which in turn is contributing to achievement of a low carbon society.