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Illustration of people cooperating for environmental protection and sustainability.
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Climate Change Education. An analysis of the secondary schools curriculum in Nepal

Author: Irina Samson (2023)

Irina Samson holds a master’s degree in Human Rights and Multi-level Governance from the University of Padova. She is currently co-leading the Arqus Student Agora action of the Arqus Alliance. This in Focus article is an excerpt from her master thesis discussed, in November 2022, under the supervision of Prof. Alberto Lanzavecchia.
The objective of her thesis is to raise awareness of the risks Nepal is already facing and other countries will face in the future due to climate change and to stimulate governments and school teachers to take more action in order to educate children on climate change resilience.


 “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope, but I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”

Greta Thunberg, Swedish Activist


Short preview

Climate change is a direct threat to humanity, and the rise in global temperatures is jeopardising our future. Anthropogenic activities have caused serious climate change, and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in developed countries have weakened entire ecosystems. Without significant measures, we risk reaching a point of no return. Countries must adhere to their climate change pledges, mitigate and adapt to its effects, and build a resilient society. Developing countries with fewer resources will be affected the most, such as Nepal, which is highly vulnerable to climate change. Climate change education for children  is crucial, and Nepal's government has recently introduced it in the school curriculum. Secondary schools must intensively teach about the causes, effects, and climate change resilience using local examples.

Climate Change at a glance

Climate change is a current threat caused by human activities and its effects will only  intensify in the future. Climate change affects both the environment and human rights endowment. According to the 6th Assessment report of the IPCC, 40 percent of the world’s population is highly vulnerable to climate change.
The current pledges countries made in terms of climate change would still allow the temperature to rise up to 2.7°C, which is far from the 1.5°C envisioned in the Paris agreement.
Humans contribute to climate change mainly through deforestation, land use, greenhouse emissions,fossil fuel, urbanisation, and agricultural expansion.
As a consequence, we witness events such as sea level rise, glaciers melting, wildfires, droughts, and floods. These consequences will affect food security, health, and internal displacement specifically.
Good climate governance is fundamental. States have to unite and elaborate together on adaptation and mitigation policies, respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Nepal's vulnerability to climate change

Fig. 1: Political map of Nepal, © Peter Hermes Furian | Dreamstime.com

Nepal’s geographical position makes it one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change countries. Its GHG emissions are almost insignificant, contributing with only 0.027% to the global share. The country has a climate that varies through seasons and altitudes;temperatures have increased and the rainfalls have decreased in the Himalayas.

Nepal, due to its mountainous terrain, is susceptible to severe precipitation events, resulting in devastating floods and landslides. These events cause significant damage to human life, property, as well as natural ecosystems and the environment. According to Nepal's National Action Plan (NAP), by the end of the century, the snow mass will decrease by 80 percent. Natural disasters strongly affect livelihoods in Nepal.
Nepal is an agricultural country with 70 percent of the population depending on agriculture. Food insecurity, health problems, and internal displacement are visible consequences of climate change. A big problem is the small glaciers melting and big glaciers retreating, resulting in the formation of new glacier lakes and the potential dams breaking of the ones already formed.
Nepal is part of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto protocol, and the Paris agreement. Since 2009 Nepal has a Climate Change Council in charge of climate change policies. Internally, there are two action plans, the National Adaptation Plan for Action (NAPA) and the Local Adaptation Plan for Action (LAPA) that control nationally and locally the implementation of the climate change policies. In 2021 the Council of Ministers adopted the NAP, in order to work on climate change adaptation, by creating thematic sectors: agriculture and food security, water resources and energy, forests and biodiversity, public health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH),
The NAP mentions the necessity to educate and raise awareness within the community about the risks of climate change.

Article 6 of the UNFCCC specifies the need to raise global climate action through climate change education and training. Climate Change Education (CCE) helps build climate change resilience. Young people are directly affected and have to learn about the risk of climate change, how to adapt and react in situations of risk, but also how to take responsible decisions to protect the environment since they are the future agents of change.
It is essential to revise the curriculum, provide capacity building for teachers, and introduce innovative teaching methods to educate the next generation of policy-makers on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Climate Change Education in secondary schools curriculums in Nepal

In Nepal, the Curriculum Development Centre is the centre in charge of preparing the curriculum, textbooks and other resources. School system in Nepal has two levels: primary and secondary. Students enrolled in the secondary level of education do have climate change as a theme in their environmental subjects, but not as a separate subject. The curriculum is environment-oriented, with climate change being introduced mostly conceptually during classes. 

Nepal’s 2021 Third National Communication (TNC) to the UNFCCC, in its short part on education, training and public awareness, emphasises the fundamental role CCE has in building knowledge and raising awareness on climate change adaptation skills. TNC has reviewed the national curriculum and identified important gaps. These included more emphasis on environment and less on climate change issues, lack in personnel training and teaching materials, a current pedagogy that does not integrate case studies.

Field work

The study employed a qualitative multi-interview methodology to evaluate the feasibility of incorporating climate change-related classes and topics into the secondary school curriculum in Nepal. The fieldwork was conducted in the Bagmati Province of Nepal between June and July 2022. Over the course of two weeks, ten interviews were conducted with principals from both community and institutional schools. The interviews involved a semi-structured approach, employing a questionnaire consisting of six questions designed to assess the level of implementation of Climate Change Education in secondary schools in Nepal. The study was not aimed at generalising data but rather intended to explore the willingness of schools to adopt innovative approaches to CCE through local case studies, practical activities, and new teaching methodologies.
The data gathered through the interviews provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities for CCE implementation in Nepal's secondary schools. These findings have contributed to the development of recommendations for stakeholders at the government, school, teacher, and student levels.

Reflection on the findings and recommendations

The results have shed light on the practice of Climate Change Education in Nepal, highlighting the ambiguity in its implementation across community and institutional schools. The community schools are supported by the government and are very similar to public schools. Institutional schools are similar to private schools since they  are financed by parents and the trustees. These types of schools continue to grow despite the lack of funds from the government. The fees are not regulated by the government, so the amount may vary, depending on the school.
The findings suggest that the lack of differentiation between environmental and climate change topics has resulted in a vague approach towards CCE in both types of schools. Notably, institutional schools exhibit a more hands-on approach towards CCE, whereas community schools tend to focus on the conceptual understanding of the subject matter. The research also identifies the shortage of adequately trained teachers and teaching materials as a major obstacle to effective CCE in community schools. This hinders the development of students' knowledge and understanding of climate change. As a result, qualified teachers often prefer working in institutional schools due to better access to resources such as sanitation facilities, teaching materials, logistics, and technology, as well as higher salaries.
Furthermore, institutional schools feel compelled to offer high-quality and innovative teaching methods to satisfy parental expectations, given the high tuition fees charged by such schools. In addition, institutional schools tend to have stricter hiring standards for teachers. Additionally, they have established relationships with local organisations, allowing for the creation of collaborations and activities that enhance student engagement with CCE.

The problem of climate change education is complex and multifaceted, requiring the involvement of various stakeholders from the government down to individual schools. To address this issue, it is imperative for governments to incorporate concrete actions to address climate change in their education policies and curricula. The current curriculum has a focus on environmental issues, with limited attention given to the human-environment interaction and the causes and effects of climate change. It is essential to include topics on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the curriculum and encourage environment science graduates to teach in public schools by improving school facilities, salaries, and overall conditions.

Innovative teaching approaches and tools should be integrated into the curriculum and textbooks to enhance students' understanding of how to build climate change resilience. In-class activities, local case studies, field trips, meetings with local administration, organisations, and the local community can be used to supplement classroom learning. Additionally, schools should collaborate and organise joint activities between students, including competitions, research, and presentations on climate change issues and solutions.

It is essential to train educators in order to effectively teach climate change topics through action-oriented teaching methods. Central and local governments should organise training activities for public school teachers, particularly in remote areas. Teachers should also have access to scientific journals and additional material to improve their teaching.

It is also essential students are empowered to become agents of change in addressing the climate emergency. It is crucial for them to understand the urgency of this issue and to become involved in school and extracurricular activities that promote climate change awareness. Student-led campaigns and discussions with the municipality can help create a practical form of climate change awareness with visible results in the community. Only by involving all stakeholders and implementing these measures, it is possible to work towards a sustainable future.


Despite some changes to secondary school education to include weather, climate, and global warming in the curriculum, climate change remains a marginalised topic in Nepal. While subjects such as Science, Environment, Population and Health Studies, and Environmental Education have conceptual climate change information, there is overlap of topics and thus, a need for more comprehensive teaching materials, additional resources, and capacity building for teachers. Reforms are needed to distinguish between environment education and climate change education, with a clear emphasis on adaptation and mitigation, the future of communities, and empowerment. Innovative teaching methods that promote active student engagement in climate change resilience are also necessary.
The thesis was written during a time of catastrophic floods in Pakistan, where thousands of homes and crops were destroyed, and heatwaves have affected the country in early 2022. The intensification of climate change requires all countries to reduce GHG emissions and support vulnerable countries, while the latter must be aware of the threat and implement adaptation policies. Climate change education is a crucial tool for protecting communities, raising awareness, and training students to build effective climate change responses. Students will become the future decision-makers, making their understanding of local and global climate challenges essential.

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