Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi addressing a press conference in Dubai on Thursday to announce the 'Greening Education Hub; ahead of COP28. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE is set to begin a green revolution in schools with the launch of a “Greening Education Hub under the theme ‘Legacy from the Land of Zayed” at the upcoming UN Climate Conference COP28 in Dubai.

Simultaneously, the Ministry of Education (MoE) will launch a national cross-curriculum framework that will set standards for sustainable schools that promote gardening, green curriculum integration, teacher training, and parent awareness to ensure learning about climate action and sustainability in schools across the country.

Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, the Minister of Education, on Thursday announced the launch of the Greening Education Hub as part of the ministry’s efforts to achieve the goals of the UAE Green Education Partnership Roadmap in preparation for the country’s hosting of COP28.

The Hub near the Mobility Gate at the COP28 venue, Expo City Dubai, aims to highlight the importance of education in addressing climate issues and the need to include education in the official discussions during COP28 from November 30 to December 12.

The announcement was made at a press conference held at SEE Institute, the region’s first Net Zero Carbon Building located in Dubai Sustainable City, in the presence of Dr Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, Assistant Undersecretary for the Care and Capacity Building Sector at the Ministry of Education; and representatives of COP28.

Prioritising resource conservation

During his keynote speech, Dr Al Falasi noted that the UAE is located in a desert climate, characterised by intense heat and arid conditions. In the face of these challenges, the country remains steadfast in its commitment to prioritising resource conservation through innovative solutions. He emphasised that sustainability is of strategic importance and reflects the UAE’s values of preserving the environment and social traditions.

“Our ancestors lived in harmony with nature, taking only as much as they needed. Fast-forward to today and their age-old wisdom is still valid in our modern times. They recognised the vital importance of preserving precious natural resources for future generations,” he said.

The minister stated that the Greening Education Hub was born out of months of collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and is a leap forward in placing education at the centre of climate action.

“The UAE follows in the footsteps of the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and continues to mark significant achievements in environmental protection and sustainable development. Hosting COP28 is just another testament to the country’s leadership position in these vital fields. Today, we are honoured to carry on Sheikh Zayed’s legacy aimed at contributing to global sustainability efforts.”

He added: “We are on a mission to leave a legacy and ensure that the upcoming COP events continue to ignite the passion for effective climate-related education. This way, we can create a lasting positive impact on the future of our planet. By unlocking the full potential of education to address climate change, we empower our youth to lead the change, paving the way towards a more sustainable tomorrow for all.”

Cross-curriculum framework

Dr Al Shamsi told Gulf News that the cross-curriculum framework, rooted in the multifaceted nature of climate change, transcends individual subjects. “It fosters a seamless, cross-curricular approach, intertwining literature, science, physics, and social sciences. By integrating knowledge, skills, and values, the framework aims to instill behavioural change in students, preparing them to inherit and preserve the world. This approach extends beyond the classroom, with resources designed for both in-class and external curriculum programmes, fostering a connection between schools, communities, and the wider world.”

Standardising eco-friendly practices

While acknowledging commendable efforts currently existing in several UAE schools, the framework aims to standardise eco-friendly practices across all schools. “Our programmes set minimum requirements for every learner, educator, and school. It’s not merely about scoring but implementing a model. The Sustainable School Initiative, for instance, has key pillars, including gardening, green curriculum integration, teacher training, and parent awareness. We strive for schools to meet these requirements and foster a green culture universally.”

Dr Al Shamsi said the ministry’s initiatives encompass various activities designed for different age groups, whether integrated into the curriculum, content, and tool kits or as extra-curricular materials.

“Examples include awareness workshops on food security and beach cleaning activities in collaboration with Alef Education. We emphasise the Greening Communities initiative, extending beyond schools to involve students in developing eco-friendly projects. Partnerships with Greening Curriculum Pillar Partners support students in creating ecopreneur initiatives, with funding provided to sustain and transform these projects into impactful start-ups for the broader community.”

She said the ministry champions an incentivising model over an obligatory one. “Recognising our collective obligation to the planet and the environment, we believe that genuine behavioural change arises from passion, understanding, and a sense of responsibility. Emphasising schools as eco-champions, we seek proactive engagement driven by their recognition of the need for positive environmental impact.”

Pillars of the Hub

Earlier this year, the Ministry launched the UAE’s Green Education Partnership Roadmap in preparation for COP28 in cooperation with UNESCO and UNICEF. “In line with our commitment to achieving the goals of the partnership, we are working across four pillars: Greening Schools, Greening Curriculum, Greening Capacities, and Greening Communities. Four zones of the Greening Education Hub are themed around these pillars, with the fifth dedicated to the overall Greening Education Partnership and the sixth including the main stage (Erth Zayed),” said Dr Al Shamsi.

Educators’ Voice, Net Zero Heroes

“At the UAE Ministry of Education, climate education is one of our top priorities. We have already started implementing several initiatives, like the Educators’ Voice and Net Zero Heroes. We are confident the ‘Greening Education Hub — Legacy from the Land of Zayed’ will leave a legacy that other nations will benefit from in upcoming COPs. We want visitors to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to actively implement sustainability practices, extending their impact beyond COP28 and contributing to a lasting commitment to environmental stewardship.”

About Educators’ Voice, she told Gulf News: “With Educators’ Voice Activation at the Greening Education Hub, we’re uniting global educators to collaborate on climate change education. Five teachers from across the world, alongside five local teachers, will showcase impactful initiatives, ensuring hybrid participation for global educators to learn and share experiences and advancing the mission of the education hub.”

As many as 30 students aged from nine to 15 have been chosen as Net Zero Heroes to participate in the Greening Education Hub activities, she added.

Registration, sessions

Over the course of 13 days during COP28, the Greening Education Hub will include over 250 sessions and workshops, comprising 127 international sessions and 151 national sessions.

“The first four days will allow visitors with invitations. Visitors can register on the hub’s website to attend the sessions for schools and the general public scheduled for the rest of the days of COP28,” said Dr Al Shamsi.

The Hub has attracted participants from 38 countries and has the support and involvement of 99 NGOs and 36 national entities.

To enrich the discussions, 70 esteemed speakers will participate in the Hub’s activities to share their expertise and inspire attendees with their insights. The MoE will also organise 46 sessions. Moreover, the MoE has fostered partnerships with over 40 international partners, resulting in the development of more than 30 projects and activations around climate education.

Visitors’ experience

The Green Education Hub promises an immersive experience for visitors across distinct zones. The Greening Education Partnership zone focuses on showcasing the pivotal role of education in addressing the climate crisis. Sessions within this zone will highlight coordinated actions and political commitments. The Greening Schools zone will feature sustainable infrastructure models and successful case studies of schools implementing eco-friendly initiatives, presenting interactive displays of sustainable practices in educational facilities. Simultaneously, the Greening Capacities and Curriculum zones will outline systemic approaches to climate change adaptation, emphasising educators’ roles and integrating sustainability into curricula. Lastly, the Greening Communities zone will spotlight community-led initiatives, fostering collaborations among stakeholders to address shared sustainability challenges. With expectations of over 1,000 daily visitors and 500 students, the Hub aims to attract more than 18,000 attendees over 13 days.”