This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.
The unconscious use of our planet’s resources; the increase in consumption as a result of the increase in productivity; the damage caused to the ecosystem by economic and social development, especially in the 20th century. Over the last half-century, the realisation that natural resources are not endless and inexhaustible has led people to consider the concept of sustainability. When education is at the centre of strategies for guiding the humans of the future, who will ensure sustainable development, policies, programmes and practices are expected to be restructured accordingly.
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest problems that we human beings have faced in our history is the climate crisis. Additionally, increasing local and global efforts have become inevitable if we are to leave a more sustainable planet to the next generations. All the world’s countries have already realised the danger and taken action. NGOs, universities and local governments—in short, everyone—try to find solutions to combat the climate crisis.
Since one of the major causes of the climate crisis is human activities, it is clear that people must be the solution. Raising people’s awareness of the climate crisis brings positive changes in global climate change indicators; here, educational institutions also have a great responsibility. Raising students’ awareness about the climate crisis—especially at young ages—contributes to the problem’s solution. As a computer science teacher, my efforts in this direction resulted in me being considered worthy of the Green Skills Award in 2021.
Education is not only the responsibility of schools, since the whole of society is affected by education outcomes. Therefore, all stakeholders’ contribution to the process is essential. Effective co-operation should be established for solving a vital problem such as climate change—so I made exactly this my goal. I tried to raise my students’ awareness by making universities, NGOs and local governments take action. For instance, we started the “I am Learning Coding, I am Embracing Nature” initiative with the Hacettepe University Lifelong Learning Center. As a result, students received environmental themed-coding training at the university. This idea reflects my teaching philosophy; while teaching coding to my students from an interdisciplinary perspective, I prefer environmental issues as a theme. In this way, I improve their coding skills and make them aware of environmental problems at the same time. Some of my students even started to design climate solutions with the software and robotic tools they developed.
In 2021, two of my students coded software that calculates carbon footprints and provides personalised recommendations. They also conducted extensive research about the carbon footprint while doing so. Similarly, four of my students, who won the international first prize in the FCH Go project contest, produced educational software explaining the importance of hydrogen fuel cells. On the other hand, I also support students to conduct social responsibility projects related to environmental issues. For instance, the students initiated a project to spread the use of bicycles called “Turkey’s Heart Beats with Bicycles”, working with celebrities from the world of art and sports to help build the first bicycle path in the city we live in. In the “Code 4 Nature” project, they went to a rural school and joined the students in their first coding experience, while providing products for environmental problems.
As a teacher, I try to be a part of the climate crisis solution. I care about my students’ designing solution-oriented products against the climate crisis instead of consuming them. By sharing my work with my colleagues and pre-service teachers, I strive to spread this model and contribute to a more livable world. Quality education is key to sustainability—but we can only solve the climate crisis with co-operation.