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Climate Change (Educational policy and practice for a changing climate)

Project Leader(s): 
Project contact person(s): 

Project team: Rachel Bolstad, Sinead Overbye, Sophie Watson, Jo MacDonald, Teresa Maguire, Kiri Edge, Renee Tuifagalele. 

This project began in 2019. It addresses questions about what changes or adaptations our education system may need to make in the immediate and short-to-medium term future, in response to climate change. 

We are seeking feedback on our research questions

During October and November 2021, we will be seeking feedback and engagement from a range of key stakeholders on our proposed questions and research directions for the 2021-2022 year. 

Draft research questions to guide our work in 2021-2022 (last updated October 18, 2021)

The team has identified a set of research questions that derive from an overarching idea: “What does good practice look like?”. The focus will be to seek good practices and “next” practices that show what the transition to a socially-just, climate-changed, zero-carbon future can look like in Aotearoa New Zealand, across a range of contexts – and how those involved in those practices got to where they are now.  The questions below are not in any prioritised order and may change as a result of our stakeholder feedback process. 

1. What is happening in education settings (e.g. schools) where climate change education and action is flourishing? (e.g. Facilities, transport, curriculum, student-led action etc.)

  • What systems, policies and practices are in place and how were these established?
  • What motivates people’s actions on climate issues?
  • What local and national system-level supports are used and needed?

2. What do young people want from their education settings (e.g. schools) in response to climate change?

  • How can schools support student-driven climate action?
  • How can schools leverage off self-driven student climate action to enrich student learning?

3. How are kura Māori approaching climate change and climate change education?

4. What can be learned from mātauranga Māori to guide climate change mitigation and/or adaptation practices in education settings?

5. What do/can effective Te Tiriti-based climate responses look like in education? What enables education (schools, kura, wider education system organisations e.g. climate and sustainability educators and programmes) to work effectively with mana whenua around climate change response?

Questions that guided the initial phase of our project in 2019-2020

  • According to national, international, and indigenous perspectives, how could Aotearoa’s education systems and policies respond to climate change?
  • To what extent is climate change considered an urgent issue or priority in the education system (for schools, kura, and in terms of system-level educational policy and planning)
  • What can be learned from kura Māori and kaupapa Māori approaches and responses?
  • What are the implications or impacts of student-, school-,  and community-led climate responses for the educational system in Aotearoa New Zealand?
  • What might education look like in Aotearoa New Zealand, if climate change mitigation and adaptation were factored into policy and practice across the system?

The project uses a mixed methodology. 

Read our reports

We have already published three research reports (See bottom of page for free full-text).

In 2019 we asked principals and teachers questions about  climate change and sustainability questions in the 2019 NZCER National Survey of primary and intermediate schools.

In 2020 we surveyed teachers and leaders from a sample of secondary and composite schools about whole-school and classroom climate and sustainability practices.

In October 2020 we published a report of key themes from key informant interviews including  youth perspectives, Māori perspectives, Pacific New Zealander perspectives, system/policy/academic perspectives, and educator perspectives. 

Articles and blogs

Rachel Bolstad wrote an article for NZ Principal Magazine, "Climate change - what can schools do?" March 2020, volume 35, number 1, pp. 24-28. To read the article click here. 

Check the NZCER blog for our posts, including this post about what the Climate Change Commission's report says about education, and a guide to the Emissions Reduction Plan for busy educators.

Rachel was invited to contribute an  opinion piece for Education International on Harnessing education's power for positive climate action.

Rachel was interviewed on RNZ Nine to Noon, discussing how to support young people with climate anxiety through engaging and acting in response to climate change.

Set Special Issue

We contributed to a Special Issue of Set: Research Information for Teachers (No 3: 2020) on the theme of "Climate change, education, and a sustainable future". Find it here

Are you interested in contributing to this project?

We are seeking to make further connections with educators and students involved in educational activities and responses relating to climate changeWe are especially interested in learning about solution-focused practices, localised activities,  effective collaboration with community organisations, and student engagement and agency. If you would like to contribute, please register on the form here.  

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Subscribe to receive occasional email updates here.