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Ministries add environment education to school curriculum
Khoury and Diab announce the new environmental education curriculum at the Education Ministry in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra/HO)
Khoury and Diab announce the new environmental education curriculum at the Education Ministry in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra/HO)
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BEIRUT: Lessons on animal and plant life, ecosystems and the importance of environmental preservation will be making their way into the country’s school curriculum for the first time next year, education and environment officials announced Wednesday.

Environment Minister Nazem al-Khoury and Education Minister Hassan Diab launched the National Policy for Environmental Education in Lebanon and a strategy for implementing it at schools across the country with the help of several environmental organizations. It’s one of the largest environmental government reforms made this year and represents an important gain for activists.

“When we give environmental understanding to students, they will work to protect the environment after their graduation,” Khoury said at the launch. “Environmental education is as important as literature and other scientific issues and has become a primary concern.”

Lebanon struggles with indifference toward environmental degradation in the country. Littering is pervasive and environmental laws are often ignored. The curriculum change and strategy for teaching it was a significant step to educate the younger generation on the importance of the environment.

Classes will teach about the diversity of Lebanon’s animals, plant life and natural resources and how they sustain life in the country. The curriculum change also deals with major environmental topics and problems in Lebanon and the world.

“We are all hoping that environmental education supports protecting and conserving Lebanon’s environment and saving environmental degradation,” Khoury said.

The curriculum and strategy emphasizes hands-on experiences and outdoor activities. By teaching the basics of how the environment works in an engaging way, students are meant to be given a new appreciation for nature and care more for the country, said Sawsan Bou Fakhreddine from the Association of Forests and Development.

The curriculum overhaul is part of a broad education reform plan that was launched last year to allow schools and teachers to teach more relevant and important material, Diab said.

He added that as long as there was sufficient funding, teachers could begin to be trained at workshops this year in how to teach the new content.

Environmental organizations have been working for years to try to stop environmental degradation in the country and revive the country’s wilderness resources.

Groups like the Association of Forests and Development have planted hundreds of trees to reseed the country’s forests while the United Nations and other international groups have launched multi-million dollar environmental projects to increase government regulation of the environment.

Many projects have been met with only limited successes.

The Environment Ministry has expanded its projects and been bolstered by United Nations operations, but measures to create stricter laws with more effective enforcement have been stalled in Parliament.

“Today we are taking a first step in a million miles to spread environmental awareness,” said Khoury “Students are the fastest in achieving changes in our way of life.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 18, 2012, on page 4.
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