Climate change: Teaching them young

Aziz Idris

When it comes to teaching young learners about issues on climate change, reading from a textbook probably won’t be as impactful as other methods.

Youth now need to learn about the importance of climate change as it will determine their future survival. However, it is still a complex issue with so much information to digest.

To further generate interest among youth on the impact of climate change, the British High Commission in Brunei Darussalam in collaboration with the Ministry of Education organised ‘The Great Discussion’ for sixth form students from around the country to participate recently.

The Great Discussion was also supported by CfBT Education Services and Standard Chartered Bank (SCB).

Among the five participating schools this year were Sengkurong Sixth Form Centre (PTES), Meragang Sixth Form Centre, Tutong Sixth Form Centre, Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College (Maktab Duli); and Sayyidina Ali Secondary School (SMSA).

Deputy Minister of Education Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hajah Romaizah binti Haji Mohd Salleh presents the Best Panellist award to Awangku Md Nukman Syawqi bin Pengiran Md Salimin. Also in the photo is British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam Richard Lindsay PHOTO: AZIZ IDRIS
Students and supervising teachers from Sengkurong Sixth Form Centre in a group photo

This marks the third year the British High Commission has hosted the sixth form debate. However, this year’s format was slightly different, moving from a traditional debate competition to a forum discussion which allowed students to have more in-depth deliberations in a “real-life” setting.

The theme for The Great Discussion was ‘Climate Change’, which is aligned with Brunei’s ambition towards a low carbon and climate resilient pathway.

Students from PTES who were crowned champion of this year’s competition won the BND1,800 cash prize followed by SMSA with BND1,050.

At the conclusion of this year’s competition, supervising teachers from PTES Hajah Norhakimah binti Haji Mat Zhari and Khairina binti Ibrahim said the topic was relevant as it gives students the opportunity to generate more positive aspects on climate change awareness, such as real-life success stories and green practices.

“Climate change is a phenomenon where many may not fully comprehend the seriousness of its impact. Be it who or what you believe, its interpretation varies but one thing is clear, we are aware that the earth needs saving.

“The choice of topic (for the competition) on climate change is relevant and very relatable to all. It gives not only the students the opportunity to delve more into the subject but at the same time the format of the competition itself provides that medium to share their thoughts, opinions and views on the issues.”

Adding on, she said the students learnt a lot about the current problems of climate change.

The main part of the research they did was to include factual evidence, as what they have been taught in class. They also learnt the recent policies and actions that have been done and are still going on globally. This was evident for one of the participants, 17-year-old Awangku Md Nukman Syawqi bin Pengiran Md Salimin from PTES, who lauded the organiser for highlighting environmental issue topics. He believes that, as a youth, the discussion rounds made him understand the importance of climate change awareness, which is beneficial for building long-term habits.

“(Prior to the competition) I personally felt guilty for not taking 100 per cent climate action. I wasn’t really green caution about my decisions,” he said. “Through the competition, I started to reflect on my actions and my daily life routines. That has personally made me change my mindset towards how serious the climate change issue is.

“I believe, together as one, youth should come together and tackle climate change together and play their role as a member of society,” he said.

Awangku Md Nukman Syawqi was also awarded the Best Panellist during the competition. His teammates, Md Hazman bin Josli and Lianne Lim Ying Xing also shared the same sentiment. From their research, they found out that climate change awareness is a controversial issue and there’s plenty of “fake news” and faux studies that examine the impact of climate change.

In preparation for the topic, they gathered all the real facts by ensuring their sources are validated and backed by real scientific evidence.

“The more we researched, the more information we learnt about the impact of climate change and it is quite alarming. We used the competition as a platform to voice our concerns on the matter and at the same time hope to decimate the information with our peers,” said Md Hazman and Lianna.

“Youth like us learn best when you lead by example,” they highlighted, urging youth to invest some time on learning about climate change in order to make a better change for the future. “We believe if all youth joined together as one, we can manage to tackle climate change.”

Although schools do not specifically teach students on the topic of climate change, there have been initiatives by teachers to get students involved in being “green”. One of them is through competitions such as The Great Discussion. Others include encouraging volunteerism with NGOs, such as Green Brunei and BruWild.

“There’s not a lot of ‘teaching’ when it comes to getting students to be more involved in being ‘green’,” explained Hajah Norhakimah. “It is more of an involved experience where when students know or see for themselves the impact they made with their daily choices, it is easy to guide them making better ones.

“We also have the help from a lot of NGOs such as Green Brunei and BruWild where we were invited to share their mission and vision with our students. Again, it is more of a shared learning experience to take that step towards encouraging green practices,” she said.

In addition, it was shared that, at school, teachers can also lead by example by separating waste in classrooms and cafeterias, planting trees as well as encouraging students to turn off lights and air-conditioning when not in use, etc.