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Low carbon education literacy required in training teachers

Shuichi Teraki

Jul.25,2011 The Education Newspaper

Most teachers did not have many opportunities to learn about energy and environment education, which is the foundation of low carbon education, and how to teach this topic when they were trained as teachers. Therefore, it is difficult to promote low carbon education while grasping the current complex and diversifying situation and causes of problems of the global environment. Furthermore, it is even more difficult to answer the demands for education in schools to resolve energy related in Japan after the March 11 events.
 There is much opinion to mandate courses related to energy and environment education in the teacher training curriculum as well as enhancing and mandating environment education related training in graduate schools of education and when renewing teaching certificates (Environmental Philosophy and Education Division, Environmentology Committee, Science Council of Japan. August 28, 2008). The Ministry of the Environment also recommends making environment education courses mandatory in in the teacher training curriculum (Seita Emori. 2010).
 Teacher training curricula in universities are requested to hold courses on energy and environment literacy and education regardless of the teacher training course, and make this mandatory in the future.

On the other hand, low carbon education literacy of current teachers is currently taught through training in study groups. Some of the examples are outlined below.

The National Study Group of Elementary and Middle Schools for Environmental Education has been carrying out hands-on studies on environmental education in elementary and middle schools for teachers since 1964. Recently, achievement of a low carbon society through environmental education is being studied as the topic "environmental education that fosters a rich human nature". The national conference for 2011 will be held on November 25 at the Oya Elementary School in Kesennuma City per the strong request of the superintendent of education of Kesennuma City. Results of training and field activities of teachers all over Japan will be reported, and much active discussion will be held on this occasion.

The on-site energy education training that the group is holding every year is taking place at a thermal power plant of an electric power company in the Greater Tokyo area. The plant uses a combined cycle using LNG as fuel. Power is generated using a gas turbine, and steam is heated to high temperature by the exhaust gas, which is then used for power generation with a steam turbine. This system has lower CO2 emission per generated power generated, and the participants of the training can learn about effective use of energy. My opinion is that this power generation method is a realistic choice considering the current urgent situation.

The Japan Association of Energy and Environmental Education has the following three purposes of establishment (2005)

  • Consider how to develop, use, and supply energy, which is the base of daily life and industrial activities, and how to conserve the environment from a comprehensive viewpoint toward building a sustainable society.
  • Foster the background for youths that will bear the next generation to be able to consider problems and issues on energy and the environment as their own and to appropriately make decisions and take actions.
  • Research education regarding energy and the environment that will foster decision making abilities and problem solving abilities based on the ability to think scientifically and socially, take actions in daily life, and make comprehensive judgments.

The proceedings of the national conference shows a high interest by teachers and university professors who train teachers on the importance of energy and environmental education because of the increasing sense of impending crisis regarding global environmental problems in recent years and global oil supply constraints from the rapid increase in energy demand by developing countries.
 Some examples that were introduced were "practicing energy and environmental education in collaboration with families and communities (elementary school)", where a wide variety of guest teachers were invited to teach and the results were disseminated inside and outside of the school, and "teaching nuclear power: answering questions by teachers and exchange of opinions (elementary, middle, and high school)" where teachers who teach students discussed about the role in energy and environmental problems and the safety and security of nuclear power. Another example was "practicing science and industrial arts studies that consider life with a smart grid (middle school)", which was a trial subject in an experimental school that teaches the basic knowledge and current situation on the relation between energy and society and the environment, which results in students learning how to judge by themselves. In fiscal year 2011, there were many manuscripts corresponding to recent issues, for example "investigation of student consciousness on society without nuclear energy", and "for an energy and environmental education that overlook the future".
 However, it is complicated to capture the entire society from the viewpoint of low carbon. Therefore, as of July 2011, there were no papers with the keywords "low carbon society" or "low carbon education", proving the low literacy regarding low carbon education.