From education to employment

Four ideas to help educators turn young people’s enthusiasm to action on climate change

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global group of climate scientists, recently set out a “final warning” on the climate crisis, as rising greenhouse gas emissions bring our world to the brink of irreversible damage.

This is an issue that should be of critical importance for all generations, but it’s young people who continually appear to be the most engaged. In survey after survey, when asked which issues are most important to Gen Z and its younger counterpart – Gen Alpha – climate change appears at or near the top of every list. Their concern with climate change is a major reason why young people across the world are at the forefront of the global environmental movement.

Younger generations are the driving force toward building a more sustainable future, but translating their enthusiasm into meaningful and lasting change isn’t easy. Educators and schools, as those on the front lines of education systems around the world, should without doubt play a critical role – but how?

A recent report from the EY organization through its corporate responsibility program EY Ripples, together with JA Worldwide explored this question by shedding light on which resources Gen Alpha and Gen Z are using to learn about sustainability and climate change. The findings were clear: Younger generations are extremely aware of global sustainability issues, but they rely more on social media than schooling when it comes to learning about them. The report also found that social media was rated the least trustworthy source of sustainability information, and that young people want more – and better – sustainability education from their schools and teachers instead.

How can educators around the world work with their students to make this a reality? Here are four ideas based on the findings of the report.

Instil a “sustainability mindset” among students

Educators should think about incorporating sustainability across as many subjects as possible, encouraging students to explore real-world challenges and develop innovative solutions across a wide variety of areas. This will help cultivate a “sustainability mindset” among students, encompassing an understanding of the interconnectedness between social, environmental, and economic issues, and how they relate to sustainability. Encouraging critical thinking and promoting lively discussions around sustainability issues can help students develop a holistic perspective too.

Foster collaboration and partnerships

Collaboration and partnerships play a critical role in addressing sustainability challenges, and educators can play an active role by fostering partnerships with local communities, businesses, and NGOs. By creating experiential learning opportunities, such as field trips, internships, and mentorship programs, educators can connect students with stakeholders who are working toward achieving sustainable goals. These collaborations help enable students to understand the real-world implications of sustainability and inspire them to take action. To give a practical example, the Ripples program is supporting those aged 16 and older through a free online learning collaboration with Microsoft called The Green Skills Passport, which is aimed at helping young people gain sustainability skills and eventual employment in the green economy.

Integrate technology and opportunities for collaborative learning

Educators should leverage the power of technology to advance sustainability education. Integrating digital tools and platforms allows for interactive learning experiences, virtual simulations, and access to vast resources, while helping facilitate data-driven discussions and empowering students to analyze and visualize global sustainability challenges. A good example of this in action is a collaboration between, Microsoft and the global EY organization which helps educate young people about ocean conservation through the application of AI, machine learning, and coding. Educators should also think about how to make the most of collaborative opportunities – like workshops and hands-on, classroom experiments – to make sustainability education engaging, accessible, and relevant to students’ lives.

Promote entrepreneurship and innovation

An EY study found that Gen Z is very entrepreneurially minded, coveting careers that allow them to generate original ideas and collaborate on solving global challenges. Educators should nurture this spirit in relation to sustainability. Encouraging creativity, problem-solving, and an entrepreneurial mindset can empower students to become changemakers in their communities. Incorporating project-based learning and design thinking approaches can provide students with the skills and confidence to develop and implement sustainable solutions. By showcasing inspiring examples of social and environmental entrepreneurship, educators can ignite a real passion for sustainability in their students.

We all have an important role to play, but educators have a profound opportunity in shaping the next generation’s understanding and commitment to building a sustainable future. By instilling a sustainability mindset, fostering collaboration, embracing technology and promoting entrepreneurship, educators can empower students to become agents of positive change, ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come. Together, we should seize the opportunity to inspire and educate the leaders of tomorrow.

By Julie Teigland, EY’s EMEIA Area Managing Partner

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.

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