Climate change education in Indonesia's formal education: a policy analysis | npj Climate Action – Nature.com

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npj Climate Action volume 3, Article number: 57 (2024)
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This article conducts a comprehensive analysis of climate change education within the framework of climate change policy and education policy in Indonesia. Employing thematic analysis on twenty climate change policy texts, twelve K-12 education policy texts, and seventeen expert interview transcripts, our study explores the congruency of climate change education in both policy domains. Despite the critical need for coordinated policies to optimise the design and implementation of climate change education, the analysis reveals a significant discrepancy between Indonesia’s climate change policy and education policy regarding this crucial aspect. Four key themes emerged: the marginalisation of climate change education, the lack of synergies between relevant policies and stakeholders, the predominant economic values, and the optimistic future outlook. The study also assesses the alignment between Indonesia’s approach and global trends in climate change education. The findings shed light on critical areas for improvement and development in the integration of climate change education within the Indonesian policy landscape.
Climate change is an ever-growing existential threat, impacting ecosystems, economies, and societies on a global scale. The urgent necessity to address this crisis has led to a growing emphasis on the role of education in fostering awareness, understanding, and action for combating climate change1,2,3,4,5,6. Gaining momentum during the 1992 Rio Summit, climate change education (CCE) aims to help increase climate change mitigation and adaptation capacity of communities by “empowering them with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes” to make informed decisions7.
While previous studies have explored various dimensions of CCE, such as curriculum and pedagogy8,9,10,11,12, there remains a notable gap in understanding its integration within the broader policy framework. This integration is particularly crucial in formal education settings, given the substantial influence that policy wields on educational systems13,14,15,16. Furthermore, effective specialised policy, such CCE policy that deals with complex and cross-cutting issues, requires coherence among multiple interconnected policy domains and their respective instruments17,18,19,20,21, or often referred to as policy instrument mixes22,23,24,25. In other words, successful CCE policy implementation lies in the synergy between proximate policy domains: climate change policy and educational policy.
Limited studies on CCE policy integration can be witnessed in the context of developing countries like those in Southeast Asia. Aikens et al.26 conducted a systematic literature review on sustainability education policy, revealing that approximately 50% of the investigated studies focused on the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. Specifically, studies addressing CCE policy were found primarily in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. These studies concluded that there was a lacking attention to CCE27, an insufficient enforcement mechanism28, and a lack of synergies between climate change policy and education policy—the closest policy domains of CCE29. The question is that whether the same trends can be witnessed in the context of developing country.
This study addresses a significant gap in existing literature by conducting a comprehensive policy analysis of CCE in Indonesia, thereby extending the dialogue on CCE beyond developed countries to include the context of developing nations. By exploring the applicability of insights collected from previous studies to diverse global contexts, this research aims to make meaningful contribution to a more comprehensive understanding of comparative CCE policies, particularly in regions facing unique socio-economic and environmental challenges. Furthermore, it opens avenues for future research to investigate CCE policy appraisal17, offering opportunities to assess their effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. Through meticulous thematic analysis, this research uncovers intricate patterns and interactions within Indonesia’s climate change and educational policies, illuminating the complex dynamics shaping the integration of CCE initiatives at the national level. By shedding light on previously unexplored aspects of CCE policy in a developing country context, this study advances the state of the art and provides valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners striving to address climate change through education on a global scale.
The rationale for this study lies in Indonesia’s unique position as the world’s largest archipelago, facing diverse challenges due to its geography, topography, and climate30,31. Despite vulnerability to climate change, the country is categorised at a lower-middle level in terms of preparedness and readiness32. As the fourth most populous nation globally and a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, Indonesia’s commitment to climate change mitigation and adaptation is evident in its revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)33 to the Paris Agreement. This study recognises the importance of understanding how climate change education is embedded in the policies that shape Indonesia’s response to this global crisis.
As there is yet to be a standalone CCE policy in Indonesia, the primary objectives of this paper address the following questions: (1) How is the concept of CCE perceived, integrated, and prioritised within both climate change policy and education policy in Indonesia? (2) To what extent is there congruency and incongruency in the conceptualisation of CCE within the domains of climate change and education policies? The conclusion of this investigation will involve the identification and elaboration of four primary themes derived from the analysis.
CCE is defined as the form of education designed to empower individuals with the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes necessary to understand and address the impacts of the climate crisis34. Education has a pivotal role in promoting climate action, highlighting that it not only raises awareness but also facilitates behavioural change for climate change mitigation and adaptation7. Education enables individuals to make informed decisions, extending the mitigation and adaptation capacities of communities. At its core, CCE aims for self-transformation, signifying a profound individual change35. This transformative process extends beyond the personal sphere, ultimately fostering societal transformation that encompasses a broader spectrum of social practices and knowledge35,36.
Studies on CCE mostly can be found after 2010, 18 years after the Kyoto Protocol26. These include studies that investigated student’s awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour associated with climate change37,38,39,40,41,42,43. Scientific misconceptions regarding climate change possessed by students were analysed44,45,46. Several studies have also looked at teachers’ perspectives of climate change47,48,49 and teachers’ professional development50,51. Moreover, extensive studies on CCE curriculum and pedagogy have been conducted8,9,10,11,12.
Nevertheless, current investigations on CCE studies have exposed a notable gap in addressing policy development and enactment26. Policies exert pivotal influences on the day-to-day happenings in schools, deeply impacting the lived experiences of those engaged in them13,14,15,16. Therefore, there is a growing call for more comprehensive CCE policy studies with empirical approach26,52,53. This demand arises from the fact that existing documentations, typically self-reports by governments or relevant organisations, tend to overly emphasise success stories while neglecting issues and failures53.
Furthermore, insufficient attention has been directed toward coordinating climate change policy with the education sector29. Adelle and Russell54 argue that addressing the complex and cross-cutting nature of climate change requires high-quality coordination among policies spanning multiple sectors. While the majority of climate change policies focus on energy, agriculture, and transportation, integration with the education sector is crucial for achieving the education and training goals outlined by the UNFCCC29.
In the context of England, Dunlop and Rushton55 analysed the sustainability and climate change strategy for education and children’s services systems, produced by the Department for Education. They identified an attempt to depoliticise the political dimension of environmental education (EE), stripping the government of accountability on the discussed topic. In addition, the strategy prioritised economic concerns, utilising terms such as net zero, green jobs, and green careers. A similar argument is presented in a study by Greer et al.27, investigating the climate change education policy landscape in England. They noted a dominance of economic values in the policy, resulting in a lack of attention to CCE and a deficiency of pro-environmental ambition within the policy landscape, ultimately disregarding the climate crisis in English education.
In the North American context, an incongruence between climate change policy and education policy was identified. Bieler et al.29 analysed climate change education policy coherence in K-12 education in Canada, finding limited references to climate change in education policy compared to references to education in climate change policy, characterising it as a shallow engagement (p. 79). In addition, the policy primarily focused on school energy efficiency, leaving some areas of CCE, such as pedagogy and teacher professional development, untouched. In higher education institutional policy, limited attention was given to climate change in terms of curriculum reform, research, and community outreach56. Meanwhile, Birkett and colleagues28 found a lack of CCE policy in New York City and presented strong recommendations to the municipality. These recommendations included the urgent establishment of an Office of Climate Literacy responsible for curriculum formation, teacher professional development, and funding mechanisms.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with over 17,500 islands and 80,000 kilometres of coastlines, faces increasing vulnerability to climate change due to its diverse geography, topography, and climate30,31. Despite experiencing climate change-induced phenomena like floods, droughts, temperature shifts, and rising sea levels57, the country is rated at a lower-middle level in preparedness for climate change32. This is concerning given projections of escalating risks such as extreme heat, flooding, sea-level rise affecting 4.2 million people by 2100, declining rice crop yield, and water scarcity, all with irreversible impacts on health, nutrition, poverty, and socio-economic inequality57. As the world’s fourth most populous country with over 275 million people and a rapidly growing economy, Indonesia ranks among the top 10 emitters of global greenhouse gas emissions58. Despite this, it has actively participated in global climate change initiatives since 1992 and recently revised its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement, committing to a 43% reduction in emissions with international support. In addition, Indonesia aims for net-zero emissions by 2060, emphasizing its long-term commitment to decarbonisation59. To ensure the success of these ambitious goals, public awareness, knowledge, and attitudes toward climate change, as well as perceptions of associated risks, must be considered to strengthen national strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation, with active involvement from the population1,2,3.
There is no comprehensive study that investigates CCE in Indonesia holistically. Only one study by Sofiyan and colleagues60 explored how climate change was incorporated into the curriculum, focusing exclusively on basic competencies—a fundamental and essential skill, knowledge, or attribute that individuals need to possess to perform effectively in a particular subject—and the syllabus of the geography subject at the upper-secondary level. Their findings revealed that the syllabus inadequately supported the climate change learning opportunities provided by the basic competence. The cause was identified as teachers’ lacking capacity and understanding of the topic. Moreover, the content exhibited an overemphasis on cognition or the knowledge aspect of climate change, disregarding socio-emotional and behavioural learning dimension61.
Studies on EE in the Indonesian context found that the notion of EE in the country’s previous curriculum—Curriculum 2013—is extremely limited62,63. There was no mandatory implementation of EE at the primary and secondary levels64. This might be attributed to the serious lack of political will, leadership, and interest in environmental matters from the government63. During the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development between 2005 and 2014, policies concerning the incorporation of EE into the curriculum were not mentioned by then the Ministry of Education and Culture—became the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology (MoECRT) in 2021 after being merged with the Ministry of Research and Technology63.
Several climate change studies have investigated the knowledge of climate change among Indonesian students62,65. Nugroho62 attempted to explore upper-secondary students’ knowledge of climate change in the case of Samboja City, East Kalimantan Province. Through questionnaire surveys, students were asked whether they had heard of the issue, whether they knew its main causes, and whether they perceived it as a global threat. He concluded that although students had heard of the phenomenon, their knowledge was incomplete and inconsistent. Similar conclusions were drawn by Sulistyawati and colleagues65, who conducted a study on climate change and its health consequences, targeting upper-secondary students in Yogyakarta City. They claimed that students’ understanding of climate change and its effects on health was inadequate. Both studies argued that there was a need for the inclusion of climate change education in the national curriculum.
Considering the background and gaps in the literature, this study aims to extend the body of knowledge by conducting thematic analysis of Indonesia’s climate change policy and education policy was conducted.
In terms of quantity, the concept of CCE in climate change policy appeared to be marginalised. The frequency of words related to education in climate change policy documents is presented in Table 1, revealing that the term ‘education’ was used only 149 times, covering a mere 0.02% of the entire documents. Notably, some instances of the term education did not refer to CCE but instead referred to the educational level of government staff or copyright permission for educational purposes. On the other hand, the term that was widely used to refer to CCE was ‘capacity building’, repeated 2215 times in the investigated documents with a coverage of 0.32%.
Nevertheless, the climate change policy underscored the importance of education, specifically capacity building, in addressing climate change. For instance, National Action Plan Addressing Climate Change66 and Indonesia Third National Communication on Climate Change Convention67 emphasised the need for capacity building among central and local government bodies, legislative bodies, and private and community sectors to prepare the country for climate change consequences and foster pro-environmental behaviour. Particularly, considering the crucial role of civil society and local and governments as the implementer of change at the grassroots level, the State Ministry of Environment68 argued that these groups should be the focus of capacity building efforts. Furthermore, the emphasised goal of capacity buildings was predominantly technical, aiming to nurture skills for low-carbon technology implementation, greenhouse gas emission monitoring, and emission reduction measures67,69.
Despite the acknowledged importance of civil society in combating climate change, capacity-building initiatives primarily targeted relevant stakeholders, mainly institutions directly involved in the five strategic sectors of climate change: energy, waste, industrial processes and product use, agriculture, and forestry and other land use. These stakeholders encompassed national sectoral ministries and agencies, local governments, and other institutions responsible for coordinating, facilitating, evaluating, and monitoring mitigation actions and accessing funds for them. In addition, the initiatives extended to private sectors, which have the potential to implement emission reduction actions67,70. A representative from the Directorate of Mitigation mentioned “…the problem is that the carbon footprint of the public is not yet accounted for, not yet measured. So, we can’t position these individuals as implementers of actions in a clearer context” (A).
Records indicated 91 capacity-building activities between 2000 and 200868, 41 between 2011 and 201467, and 1153 between 2014 and 202071, primarily conducted at the national level. The activities between 2014 and 2020 mainly concentrated in the energy (44%), forestry (27%), waste (16%), agriculture (8%), and industrial processes and product use (4%) sectors. However, it was admitted that the accuracy of the record was questionable as there was an absence of system that record, monitor, and evaluate the activities and their outcomes. This might be caused by the inadequacy of coordination among relevant institutions, inconsistencies of data and information about the activities33.
Within the limited references to educational initiatives, community members not directly involved in climate change strategic sectors, particularly children, appeared to be marginalised. Only one document explicitly mentioned ‘children’, acknowledging the Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation (C4A) initiative by the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection which emphasised the importance of children’s climate change literacy to enable them to actively participate in the climate change response as the agents of change, aiming to create a ‘Climate Smart Generation’67. Another document referred to the young generation as the agent of change, recognising their knowledge as an accelerator of transformation72.
Several references to CCE within formal education were scattered. The National Action Plan Addressing Climate Change66 first called for CCE-related topics in the national curriculum, emphasising education on sustainable environments and natural resources with a focus on energy saving topics. Although initially planned for implementation between 2007 and 2009, climate change topics were integrated into school curricula across subjects from primary to secondary levels only in 2011, initiated by the Ministry of Education and Culture67,71,72,73. In addition, there was a claim that the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency had developed a climate change curriculum67. However, it was found to be in the form of a textbook74 with no reported information on its utilisation, if at all.
In terms of quantity, CCE appeared to be marginalised in Indonesia’s education policy. Table 2 presents the frequency and coverage of words in the education policy documents. Analysis revealed that from tens of thousands of words in the investigated documents, education policy document consisted of 126 references related to ‘sustainability’ with a coverage not more than 0.02%. Meanwhile, the term ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ constituted of merely 128 references that is equivalent to not more than 0.02% of the whole documents.
It appeared that there were other issues more prioritised in Indonesian education, such as diversity and tolerance towards diversity, civic education, local language and arts, religious education. As Indonesia’s education system adheres to a decentralised education system, each province and region might have different priorities in terms of educational content preference and have the rights to select ones that fit the local context of the area75,76. Scholars have found that this local contextualisation can boost relevance for learners and thereby enhance the effectiveness of CCE6,11. Moreover, by the supervision of local governments and by following the standard competencies provided by the ministry, schools have the freedom to develop a school-level curriculum which includes school education objectives, curriculum content and structure, academic calendar, and syllabus for each subject77. In other words, there are competitions among subjects and topics to be prioritised at school level. This highlights the political nature of curriculum design and implementation in which the ones who hold power, for instance principals and local authorities, with their personal values, ideology, and interests, influence or even decide the ground reality at schools15.
Just after 2010, the term sustainability associated to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been included in the strategic plans of the ministry. One section in the strategic plan for 2010–201478 explained the need of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), emphasising the connection between human and nature, and stressing the importance of thinking about intergenerational justice.
Education produces morally noble individuals who become a blessing for the entire universe. Such individuals fulfil their needs by paying attention to the needs of the current generation and future generations (intergenerational sustainability). This paradigm invites humans to think about the sustainability of planet Earth and the sustainability of the entire universe. Education should cultivate an understanding of the importance of sustainability and the balance of ecosystems, namely the understanding that humans are part of the ecosystem. (p. 7) Surprisingly, the use of sustainability term did not continue in the strategic plan for 2015–201979. However, the term came back in the latest strategic plan for 2020–202480. The first reference of climate change term could be found in the document:
…the development of human resources under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Culture will take into account global trends related to the rapid progress of technology, socio-cultural shifts, environmental changes, and differences in the future world of work in the field of education at every level and cultural area. …in the field of the environment, the demand for energy and water will continue to rise, while natural resources will diminish in the next twenty years. The use of alternative or clean energy will increase to counter the impacts of climate change and pollution. Efforts deployed to sustain environmental sustainability and address various environmental issues will also grow. (p. 2)
The term became increasingly prevalent in recent documents, especially those enacted and published in 2022 as a part of the newly issued national curriculum, the Merdeka Curriculum. A key development was indicated in the Regulation of the MoECRT (No. 7 of 2022) regarding Content Standards in Early Childhood, Primary, and Secondary Education Levels81. This regulation marked a holistic reform in educational content. It sought to establish meaningful connections between sustainability and various secondary-level subjects, including religious education—Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism—and science, exclusively biology. Moreover, the term sustainability was notably referenced in the context of vocational secondary education, specifically within the fields of civil engineering and construction. Guidelines for the new national curriculum, the Merdeka Curriculum, explicitly stated ‘sustainable future-oriented learning’ as one of its five pedagogical principles82.
Particularly, the surge of references of climate change term could be found in the 1822-page Order of the Head of the Agency for Standardization, Curriculum and Assessment in Education about Learning Achievement in Merdeka Curriculum83 that comprehensively laid out goals of each subject matter in every education levels. Table 3 exhibits specific references of climate change by level, grade, and subject. Notably, there was an overfocus on science subjects in addressing climate change that aligns with global trends29,52,84,85,86. In lower secondary level, science subjects were expected to enable learners to think of efforts for preventing and addressing climate change. Meanwhile, in grade 10, physics subjects explicitly mentioned climate change with the focus on enabling learners to describe natural phenomena, such as climate change and global warming. Similarly, chemistry subjects at the same grade aimed to establish connections between chemistry concepts and global warming. However, in all upper secondary grades, only one non-science subject—sociology—aimed to cultivate learners’ sensitivity towards social issues, including climate change and global warming. Interestingly, geography subjects did not incorporate climate change as they did in the previous national curriculum60.
In referring to CCE, dissimilar terminologies were employed by climate change and education policies. While climate change policy adopted the term ‘capacity building’, education policy favoured the term ‘education’. This subtle yet significant nuance needs to be explored recognising the influential power of lexis, as highlighted by the field of environmental communication. Lexical choices play a fundamental role in constructing and framing issues, shaping messages, and establishing boundaries for public understanding and interpretation87,88,89. Particularly, Grolleau et al.90 argue that the selection of words in public policy requires careful consideration, as it can either weaken or reinforce support, ultimately determining the effectiveness of the policy.
Firstly, climate change policy utilised the term capacity building as an instrument in its educational initiatives. In fact, the involvement of the term education was mostly non-existent despite education is considered an area of capacity building alongside training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation as mandated by Action for Climate Empowerment of the convention71. This might be inevitable as climate change policymaking in the country is primarily coordinated by the Directorate General of Climate Change of the MoEF that work closely with the UNFCCC as the national focal point. Meanwhile, the term often used in the convention to denote CCE initiatives is capacity building.
The primary objective of these initiatives appeared to be the cultivation of skilled human resources to address the capacity gap in the government and the labour force, particularly in emerging fields of climate-associated industries, such as renewable energy and carbon finance. The Directorate of Regional and Sectoral Resource Mobilisation mentioned “…will lead to the emergence of new professions. …we will need vocational schools to train skilled personnel to work in the climate change sector” (E). Furthermore, this is supported by predominantly technical goals of these initiatives, including nurturing skills for implementing low-carbon technology, monitoring greenhouse gas emission, and designing emission reduction measures68,70. This perspective aligns with Khan’s definition of capacity building, that involves “any set of actions of individuals, societies, communities, and organisations to improve their abilities to perform tasks effectively and successfully in selected areas”91.
On the other hand, while there is yet an explicit mention of CCE within the education policy, the MoECRT is actively incorporating the term climate change into its ongoing plan to develop a specific competency map for CCE. Interviews with ministry officials and staff revealed a notable absence of the term capacity building in their discussions. This trend might be attributed to the influence of international organisations closely collaborating with the ministry, such as UNESCO and UNICEF, where the term education holds more prominence compared to capacity building7,32,34,35,92. Instead, the discussions were centred around their curriculum instrument.
Generally, education policy reflected the agent of change notion in addressing climate change. Through future CCE, education policy aimed to cultivate well-rounded individuals with a strong moral foundation and character with respect for the natural environment78. These individuals then envisioned to translate their ethical values into tangible action, thereby contributing to effective climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. This contrasted the direct goals on actions of CCE within climate change policy. Education entails a broader sense of lifelong learning processes as defined by Cremin as “the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit, provoke or acquire knowledge, values, attitudes, skills or sensibilities as well as any learning that results from the effort”14. The Agency for Standardization, Curriculum and Assessment in Education mentioned the currently being designed CCE aimed:
…to create students who have moral towards nature as one of their traits. From this moral standpoint, from the awareness that has been cultivated through education, we will encourage them to take action, even at the smallest level, within the family and school, but it’s the real action that we need. …The hope is that these values will shape the character of students when they graduate and enter society (I).
Problematically, the coordination among both policies and their relevant institutions appeared to be insufficient. This went beyond just dissimilar CCE terminologies by both policies. Although their objectives might have overlapped to some extent, climate change policies and education policies, such as national action plans and strategic plans, seemed to be primarily constructed within their respective ministries in what appeared to be a silo manner with little explicit engagement with other ministries. Consequently, the policy instruments and their documents, such as roadmaps, regulations, orders, and guidelines, were likely designed and deployed in a similar manner. For instance, the capacity building instruments by climate change policy focused on non-formal education, aiming to enhance technical skills among government officials and other relevant stakeholders. Meanwhile, education policy’s curriculum instruments focused on formal education with the goal of nurturing individuals with moral towards the environment and pro-environmental behaviours. Seemingly, each domain did not intent to invade the other, for instance the hesitance of climate change policy to enter formal education.
Furthermore, interviews revealed a sense of jurisdictional and responsibility shift between institutions. A representative from the Directorate General of Climate Change, when questioned about the future of CCE in the country, stated, “this question should be addressed to the Directorate General of Primary and Secondary Education and Higher Education in the Ministry of Education. They are the executors, the regulators” (A). However, a source in the MoECRT countered, stating, “but if we talk about how Indonesia can do many things related to climate change, the main stakeholders are not us. The main stakeholders might be the MoEF…” (F). Meanwhile, a staff member in a Department of Education at a provincial level also emphasised that “[the Department of Environment] should support it since they are directly related to the environment. As for the schools, they are responsible for implementing it to the students” (Q).
Blame for the lack of coordination in CCE efforts in Indonesia is often directed towards the country’s complex bureaucracy. A survey conducted by Political & Economic Risk Consultancy in 2010 ranked Indonesia as having the second most inefficient bureaucracy in Asia93,94. The term ‘silo mentality’ is commonly used by Indonesian public servants to describe the bureaucratic structure within the public sector93,95. This concept reflects rigid hierarchical structures that pose challenges to inter-agency coordination, as each entity seeks to maintain its functional territories and duel when overlapping mandates emerge19,93,96. This results in slow decision-making, contributing to bureaucracy inefficiency, and, in the worst cases, paralysis93.
A representative from the Directorate General of Climate Change acknowledged the bureaucratical complexity as a red tape while also believing in the capacity of personal relationships among personnel to accelerate decision-making processes: “The bureaucracy in Indonesia is unique. It can be red tape, a hindrance due to its complexity. If you go through the formal route, it takes time. But it can be overcome with good personal relationships” (E). At the local level, inter-agency coordination can be initiated through a morning coffee time, especially among staff at the lower organisational level (N). Although Peters96 argued that these networks could serve as a launchpad for coordination among ministries and agencies, this inter-ministry or inter-agency coordination is still heavily dependent on individual efforts and personal connections of government staff and personnel.
Nevertheless, the lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities related to CCE among these institutions poses a significant challenge to the design and effective implementation of CCE. Yoseph-Paulus and Hindmarsh97 indicated the existence of inadequate sectoral coordination in the country’s climate change measures both horizontally (inter-ministerial or inter-agency) and vertically (central, regional, and/or local government levels). This disjointed approach may lead to duplications and gaps in policy execution, hindering the integration of CCE into the broader education system.
Therefore, it is imperative to address this issue to foster a more collaborative and coherent effort, namely policy integration17,19,21,24,25, in advancing CCE initiatives in Indonesia. This policy integration involves four dimensions: “policy frame, subsystem involvement, policy goals, and policy instruments”20. As the institutions responsible for CCE have distinct mandates and functions, establishing clear lines of communication and collaboration is crucial to overcoming these jurisdictional challenges as recommended by Adelle and Russell54. One approach is to bring CCE under a unified policy framework with interconnected instruments, where dedicated entities oversee the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation throughout the policy process21,27. Peters96 suggested the use of superministries to enhance coordination among related ministries. In Indonesia, a system of coordinating ministries has been in place since 2019, fulfilling these coordination roles.
Similar findings with studies in the UK27,55 and Canada29, economic values were particularly pervasive in climate change policy, evidenced by terms such as just transition, green economy, low carbon economy, and sustainable economic development. Climate change policy placed emphasis on Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), providing countries bargaining space to deprioritise climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. The term ‘country-driven’98,99 underlies the rights of countries under the UNFCCC to negotiate their climate targets and measures based on their specific situation and priorities. In the case of developing countries like Indonesia, economic development remains a top priority. Despite its rapidly developing economy in the recent decades, 9.5% of the population still live below the poverty line100. A source from the Directorate General of Climate Change claimed:
…looking at it from a macro perspective, I will bring it back to the condition where we also need resources for development. Indonesia, stop! Don’t exploit the forests anymore. That’s impossible. It’s impossible because there are many mouths to feed (E).
Undoubtedly, the ministry’s motivation for addressing climate change was rooted from its adverse impacts on socio-economy, including economic loss and declining Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “The change of climate will be an additional constraint to achieve sustainable socio-economic development for Indonesia”72. For instance, climate change potential consequences on tourism could lead to business closures and airport shutdowns, causing damage to the local economy. In addition, climate-induced food scarcity may hinder international trade, thereby weakening the country’s overall economy101.
Under the NDC, all climate change initiatives in Indonesia must align with the country’s economic development goals as dictated by National Medium- and Long-Term Development Plan, including economic growth, poverty eradication, elimination of regional economic disparities, and increased job opportunities33,67,68,69,71,72,98,101,102,103,104. Mitigation and adaptation strategies must reflect the “triple track strategy which is pro-poor, pro-job and pro-growth”66, guaranteeing the fulfilment of economic development goals.
Particularly, within mitigation strategies, climate change policy emphasised the need to weight the impacts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction against the economy101. There appeared to be a dilemma regarding emission reduction, with a stance that “fluctuation in emissions is normal for developing countries”99, especially in the forest and other land use (FOLU) and energy sectors that are crucial in the country’s economy. Meanwhile, the MoEF67 argued that potential economic benefits of the adaptation measures should be thoroughly evaluated.
Specifically regarding CCE initiatives, there was a strong orientation towards economic opportunities. The notion of capacity building in climate change policy aimed to equip individuals, particularly those associated with the government or private sectors involved in strategic climate sectors, with primarily technical skills and competencies to monitor GHG emissions, access finance, and design emission reduction measures. Capacity-building activities were considered a means of addressing “just transition and decent work issues in mitigation and adaptation”33. Moreover, with the emergence of new fields such as renewable energy and carbon finance, the policy emphasised the importance of building or revitalising vocational schools to create a high-skilled workforce for the emerging fields.
Similarly, acknowledging the importance of high-quality human resources to boost and sustain economic growth, general education policy in Indonesia emphasised the need for formal education to contribute to the development of competitive, creative, and innovative individuals78,79,80. This gains significance as the country is projected to require over 113 million skilled labourers by 2030, driven by rapid economic expansion69. Furthermore, Indonesia is poised for a demographic bonus, with a population explosion in the productive age group expected to peak between 2020 and 2035, constituting 70% of the total population69,105. However, the potential advantage of this demographic shift could turn into a significant loss if individuals lack the necessary skills and competences. Therefore, education plays a pivotal role in ensuring economic growth through the production of skilled human resources for the workforce.
Evidently, economic values remain central to both climate change policy and education policy in Indonesia. Prioritising economic growth and national development priorities often leads to a downplaying of environmental ambitions106,107, potentially contributing to the marginalisation of CCE within these policy domains. This is particularly significant given the longstanding tension between economic growth and environmental concerns in sustainability education discourse. Gadotti108 argued that the current education system promotes “principles and values of an unsustainable lifestyle and economy”. Similarly, Sterling109 contended that education is “both part of the problem and the solution”, as it aims to promote sustainability while perpetuating an unsustainable society. Therefore, an overemphasis on economic values can undermine the focus on CCE within policies, potentially rendering it a ‘placebo policy’ that is merely for show55.
Despite the analysis pinpointing the marginalisation of CCE, the lack of synergies between relevant policies and institutions, and the predominant economic values in climate change and education policies, the future of CCE presents a positive and optimistic outlook. This is due to the introduction of the Merdeka Curriculum83, a newly issued national curriculum that can accommodate unconventional educational initiatives such as CCE. The curriculum aligns with principles promoted by ESD, emphasising learner centrism and action-oriented learning110. Notably, the reduction in the number of subjects in schools, focusing on essential subjects like literacy and numeracy, prevents curriculum overload and provides teachers with extra time and flexibility to incorporate CCE into learning activities81,111.
Furthermore, the Merdeka Curriculum strongly advocates for project-based learning, exemplified by the Pancasila Student Profile Strengthening Project (P5), a co-curricular instrument. P5 is designed to nurture students with specific profiles or competencies desired by the country’s education system, including global citizenship, mutual cooperation, creativity, critical thinking, and independence. P5 acts as a passage for achieving these goals by offering students the opportunity to experience knowledge and strengthen their characters through learning from their surroundings112. Importantly, P5 can accommodate CCE as the programme guidelines provide schools with several recommended themes developed based on SDGs112. They include I Love the Earth (p. 28) for early childhood education and Sustainable Lifestyle for primary and secondary levels (p. 30). Schools have freedom to select any themes that suit their local contexts and interests.
This development appeared to be spearheaded by the Minister of Education Culture, Research and Technology, Nadiem Makarim, who expressed growing concern about climate change as a national threat. In press interviews, he highlighted the inadequacy of the education system in raising awareness among students and parents about the importance of climate change and the environment, therefore, transforming the education system by integrating environment element into the curriculum became pivotal113,114. Accordingly, plans were underway since mid-2023 to design a dedicated CCE curriculum for formal education, with pilot programmes scheduled for 2024. The evaluation of pilot programmes will influence the decision to mandate CCE across all levels of schools in the country. The Agency for Standardization, Curriculum and Assessment in Education claimed that:
Recently, we have been working on developing the curriculum for climate change, as it is one of the concerns of the Minister. So, there will be specific competency maps for climate change competencies… This map will be used to determine whether climate change education will be explicitly integrated into subjects or included in teaching materials such as textbooks and teaching modules. (J) Furthermore, the Disaster Safe Education Unit programme, initiated by the MoECRT and the National Agency for Disaster Management, offers another avenue for incorporating CCE into formal education. As a part of C4A initiatives, this programme aims to conduct a participatory, risk-informed approach to: (1) protect school members from death, injury, violence and harm; (2) plan for educational continuity, and reduce disruptions to learning in the face of all kinds of shocks and threats; (3) promote the knowledge and skills of learners and duty bearers to contribute to risk reduction, resilience building and sustainable development115. Here, climate change is considered a threat. One strategic recommendation by the programme framework includes conducting curriculum review so that climate change adaptation and mitigation measures are incorporated.
Finally, the Adiwiyata green schools award programme emerges as a crucial avenue for CCE to commence in formal education. Launched by the Ministry of Environment in 2006, this incentive-based instrument116 encourages participating schools to enhance environmental knowledge and awareness117,118, evaluating them based on their responsibility for preserving the natural environment and fostering sustainable development. To maintain their Adiwiyata title, schools are required to implement eco-friendly initiatives, such as establishing green spaces, recycling programmes, reducing waste, and organising environmental projects and activities that must not only involve schools’ members, but also promote the participation of surrounding communities119. Studies have indicated that students in Adiwiyata schools exhibit better environmental knowledge and attitude compared to those in non-Adiwiyata schools118,120,121.
This study aimed to investigate the landscape of CCE within the framework of Indonesia’s climate change policy and K-12 educational policy by addressing the prioritisation of CCE and congruency of CCE notions between both policies, thereby contributing to the existing body of knowledge that predominantly focuses on the contexts of developed countries, such as the UK, Canada, and the USA. The analysis has revealed a multifaceted landscape marked by both challenges and promising outlook. Aligned with the trends in developed countries, in the case of Indonesia, the findings suggest that there is marginalisation of CCE in policy documents, coupled with the lack of synergy between climate change and education policies, underscoring the urgent need for a more integrated and cohesive approach for CCE policymaking. Consideration must be given to the roles of the general public, especially children, within climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives, as well as their involvement in CCE initiatives. The economic-centric focus in climate change policy and education policy, while crucial for Indonesia’s development, requires a careful balance with broader sustainability goals, acknowledging the urgency of climate change impacts and the necessity to swiftly mainstream CCE in the formal education. Nevertheless, the optimistic outlook lies in the ongoing efforts to integrate sustainability and climate change themes into the national curriculum. Further studies in other contexts, particularly in regions facing unique socio-economic and environmental challenges, are needed to enrich the understanding of comparative CCE policies globally.
Foremost, there is a need to differentiate policies, instruments, and settings of policy instruments as proposed by Hall122. Policies are defined as “high-level articulations of purpose and goals”123 or sets of objectives and actions that governments aim to either undertake or refrain from124,125,126. Policy instruments are defined as sets of tools or mechanisms used by the government to achieve their policy objectives127,128. Meanwhile, settings of policy instruments are specific ways and contexts in which the instruments are utilised128.
A thematic analysis was conducted on climate change policy documents and education policy documents to explore the concepts of CCE in both policy domains and assess their alignment. The selection of texts was based on their level of legitimacy, formality, and national coverage (Supplementary Tables 1 and 2). For climate change policy documents, a total of 20 documents realised between 1999 and 2022 were chosen, including policy texts, such as national action plans and NDCs; policy instrument texts, such as roadmaps; and settings of policy instrument texts, such as national communications and reports to UNFCCC. These documents were primarily sourced from publicly accessible websites of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF), specifically the document directory of the Directorate General of Climate Change (www.ditjenppi.org). Simultaneously, 12 education policy documents realised between 2003 and 2022 were selected, encompassing policy texts, such as educational laws, strategic plans; and policy instrument texts, such as national curriculum regulations, and curriculum guidelines. The collection of these documents involved searches on the MoECRT website (www.kemdikbud.go.id).
In addition, following the ethical guidelines by the University of Tokyo Research Ethics Review Committee, semi-structured interviews with experts were conducted in-person and online to gain insights into CCE policy planning and implementation from the perspective of government officials, and the positionality of their agencies and ministries. Seventeen anonymised experts were interviewed, including ten individuals from national governments and seven individuals from local governments (Supplementary Table 3). Informed consents were obtained. National government interviewees comprised officials from the Directorate General of Climate Change of the MoEF, along with officials from various relevant agencies and directorate generals under the MoECRT. Interviews with local government officials involved the Balikpapan Environmental Agency and the Branch of the Education Agency Region I of East Kalimantan. Excerpts in the text will be marked with alphabets symbolising the interviewee who said the statement.
Thematic analysis, defined as “a method for identifying, analysing, and reporting patterns (themes) within data”129, was employed using NVivo 14. Initially, climate change policy documents and education policy documents were classified into two distinct groups as illustrated in Fig. 1. Transcripts from expert interviews were then integrated into their respective groups: climate change-related experts were grouped with the climate change policy documents, while experts from the education sector were aligned with the education policy documents. A single codebook was developed for the analysis of climate change policy documents, and another codebook was crafted for the analysis of education policy documents. Both codebooks were constructed inductively through iterative reading. Finally, a thematic analysis of both sets of policy documents was carried out to explore the concepts of CCE in climate change policy and education policy and to assess their congruence.
Source: Author.
The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author (K.T). The data are not publicly available due to them containing information that could compromise research participant privacy/consent.
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I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the experts from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology of Indonesia who generously allocated their time to participate in this study. I am particularly indebted to Dr. Yuto Kitamura for his supervision and review of the paper. I also extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Layna Droz, Dr. May Aye Naw Thiri, Dr. Yasuko Kameyama, and Dr. Eiko Saito for their invaluable feedback. In addition, I am grateful to the SPRING-GX Programme at the University of Tokyo for supporting this research project.
Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Kelvin Tang
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Correspondence to Kelvin Tang.
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Tang, K. Climate change education in Indonesia’s formal education: a policy analysis. npj Clim. Action 3, 57 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s44168-024-00143-z
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s44168-024-00143-z
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