Teaching for tomorrow: OECD students’ environmental sustainability toolbox


In light of the growing climate emergency, there is an urgent need for education systems to equip students with the skills required to be environmentally responsible and contribute to the green transition. Recognising this, on the 6th of September 2022, the OECD in collaboration with the European Commission published research investigating the environmental sustainability competence of young people across EU and OECD countries.

The recently published research analyses data from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to facilitate an inquiry into the different aspects of student’s environmental sustainability toolbox. It additionally asks how education systems can go a step further and stretch the toolbox to push for a greener and more sustainable tomorrow.

The research takes heed from the EU’s Sustainability Competence Framework, which is one of the policy actions introduced in the European Green Deal to catalyse learning on environmental sustainability. The Sustainability Competence Framework identifies a series of sustainability competences that should be fed into education programmes to allow learners to develop attitudes, skills and knowledge that promote ways to care for the planet.

The findings of the OECD and European Commission’s research are wide ranging and positively highlight that most 15-year-old students considered in the purview of the study were aware of climate change and global warming. However, it also more worryingly reveals that environmental sustainability competence varies between students of different socio-economic backgrounds. ETUCE reiterates that this emphasises the need for education on sustainable development to be accompanied by equitable, sustainable, and adequate technical, financial and staff resources.

Overall, ETUCE welcomes that the OECD and European Commission’s research ultimately underscores the importance of education to ensuring that the protection of the environment becomes embedded in culture and society. ETUCE  takes a positive note that the research recommends a whole-school and interdisciplinary approach to work towards an education system that stimulates a flourishing future.

ETUCE is working closely with its member organisations to develop tools and training to build education systems that contribute to combating the climate emergency. The European Trade Union Committee is currently in the final stages of conducting a two-year project entitled “Education for Social Change: The role of Education Trade Unions in addressing sustainable development.” The project aims to build the capacity of education trade unions to address the impact of the climate emergency on the education sector. It will have its closing conference that will allow for stakeholders to present and reflect on the project on the 27th and 28th of October 2022. The closing conference will also be a stage for the launch of a research report and documentary on good practice.