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The topic of climate change in secondary school textbooks in Tajikistan

The Little Earth prepared the final draft of a review of natural history textbooks for grades 6-11 for the presence of the topic of modern climate change in them. We asked the author and compiler of the review, Timur Idrisov (TI), to talk about some of the conclusions that can be drawn on the basis of the information collected.

- Is the topic of climate change represented in laws and education programs?

TI: - Working on the review, we came to the conclusion that climate change, as a separate direction or topic, was not represented in state laws and programs related to the development of education in Tajikistan. Climate change, as a separate topic that should be given attention, appeared only in the “State Comprehensive Program for the Development of Environmental Education of the Population of the Republic of Tajikistan for 2021-2025”. This program was adopted in April 2021.

- Are there any references to climate change in textbooks?

TI: - We managed to find very limited information on climate change in textbooks in some subjects for grades 6, 7 and 11. More information on climate change is presented in two 9th grade textbooks. In them we met a general description of the causes and possible consequences of global warming. And the Ecology textbook presents some data on the impact of climate change on Tajikistan.

- How good knowledge on climate change do students get?

TI: - Despite the fact that we found limited information about climate change in a number of textbooks, most of the students in grades 9-11 we interviewed noted that they either did not study such a topic or do not remember what materials were taught to them and what they studied. This suggests that there are issues that need to be addressed if we are to improve the quality of environmental and climate education.

It is also worth noting that during the survey, some students and even some teachers confused the concept of modern climate change with climatic zones or climatic factors of certain countries and regions, or with climate change of various geological periods, when climatic conditions changed due to natural causes, not dependent on human activity.

- Do teachers have sufficient knowledge on climate change?

TI: - Let me remind you that the purpose of the review was to analyze the materials on climate change that are found in textbooks. But when collecting and evaluating information, we read official reports and programs related to the development of education. The problems of shortage and insufficient qualification of teaching staff are noted in a number of official reports and education programs as one of the factors affecting the overall quality of education. During short interviews, some teachers also admitted to having either little or no knowledge of the causes and effects of modern climate change.

- Do students and teachers want to have the topic of climate change in the school curriculum?

TI: - Almost all teachers and students surveyed consider the topic of climate change to be relevant and believe that it needs to be given more time and attention. But I would like to emphasize that the group of interviewed teachers and schoolchildren is not representative, since our task was not to conduct a sociological survey, but to obtain additional information related to teaching the topic of climate change in schools.

- What else did you find out during the preparation of the review?

TI: - We found out that in schools, especially in rural areas, there is a shortage of new textbooks, including Geography and Ecology. There is also a problem of the lack of teachers themselves who have sufficient knowledge on the topic of modern climate change. In rural schools (and even some urban ones) it is not uncommon for one teacher to teach several subjects at once.

Despite some improvements, the situation with the provision of schools with laboratories, chemicals, methodological manuals and other materials on natural history subjects remains difficult and unsatisfactory, especially in rural educational institutions.

There are questions about both the outdated content of educational materials and outdated teaching methods for schoolchildren, which require changes in response to rapidly changing modern conditions and challenges.

- What conclusion can be drawn from the review of textbooks?

TI: - Materials on climate change currently presented in official school textbooks for grades 9-11 are quite limited and, to some extent, in need of updating. They are not able to form in schoolchildren the concept of the urgency of the problem of climate change and the need for urgent action to address the climate crisis.

This work is carried out within the project Program “Commitment to Climate Protection in Kyrgyzstan and the region of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia”, funded by “Bread for Peace”. Disclaimer: The opinions, findings and conclusions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bread for the World, MoveGreen and CAN EECCA.