France has demonstrated its commitment to Environmental Education and Sustainable Development (EESD) by integrating it nationwide into primary and secondary school curriculum. Additionally, France offers various technical programs at the high school, or lycée, level for students to specialize in environmental fields. Specifically the National Strategy for Biodiversity has produced multiple outlets, programs, and committees in France - all with sections promoting missions for the education of biodiversity preservation.
Policy & Practice
In 2005, the French federal government, in association with local authorities, community enterprises, and members of civil society, enacted a national environmental education policy in all French schools under the National Sustainable Development Strategy. This project followed a one year experiment conducted in over 80 French schools. This policy involved four main parts:
- Introducing sustainable development to the curriculum by forming a national education policy in primary and secondary education.
- Training the teachers on how to approach this curriculum with the best tools, content, and methods that are centered around an environmental and sustainable development culture.
- Developing regional committees to monitor the system; to be continuously evaluating the program content, developing skills acquisition and the results that follow.
- Crafting regional partnerships around the project in conjunction with local citizens, authorities, and business communities.
Locally based partnerships are the framework for the roots of the project. Read more about the government project (2005) here.
Furthermore, in 2011, France committed to a National Strategy for Biodiversity (NSB) with the 2011-2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets crafted by Japan and adopted by the EU. This biodiversity strategy includes 20 targets to protect biodiversity efforts, of which numbers ONE and TWENTY included commitments to environmental education of biodiversity protection. Furthermore, in a professional context, all managers must integrate biodiversity preservation into their culture and decision-making criteria.
Target One commits citizens and decision makers in France to mainstreaming their biodiversity efforts only after being educated and familiarized with it. They will have to be aware of the values of biodiversity and what actions they can take to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity. This strategy mandate ensures that every individual has a body of knowledge they can use to make informed decisions in their daily practice.
Target Twenty commits the work to mainstreaming biodiversity issues in all education and training courses. The vision is to associate the term “biodiversity” with an embodied living vision that French national culture can be rooted in. French culture embodied in biodiversity will stem largely from the education and training that this strategy will feed into initial education programs; this means biodiversity in general, higher or vocational education, where processes are incorporated into the curriculum.
EE in K-12 Education
France was involved in the first national meeting for EE in February 2000. The evaluation of French EE efforts revealed their commitment to design teaching material, produce information on EE resources, train environmental workers, and foster a network of European and French-speaking countries in regards to EE. This national meeting for environmental education was an important step forward for first time policy makers, NGO representatives, private companies and media with the aim of making proposals for a national plan of action towards sustainable development and EE.
In this report “Environmental education in the educational systems of the European Union” French curriculum was shown to incorporate various topics in EE. Geographical aims explore relationships between the climate and bio-geographical human actions and consequences. Environmental Problems content discusses environmental responsibility of human intervention in environmental degradation. Values, Ethics, Attitudes, and Behavior content is aimed to educate pupils on civic responsibility and awareness of diversity and world evolution.
France offers the equivalent of agriculture high schools, known as lycée agricole. These technical schools are a special offering for young students to learn on the basis of environmental issues, specifically in regards to agriculture. Education discusses fighting climate change or preserving the Earth’s natural resources and biodiverse ecosystems. Lycée agricole is a complement to higher education programs that focus on agronomy, ecology, environment and human or animal health. This deserves recognition because the program curriculum trains students and leaders who are now going much farther than just learning about agronomy: “they’re discovering how to carry out and present tests on how to advise farmers” leading up a new generation of environmental educators in France.
At the Jules Rieffel Agricultural High School - EPLEFPA Nantes Terre Atlantique, the EcoResponsables initiative has students describe themselves as "young citizens who want to act in favor of sustainable development for the collective good." Since 2007, each year the EcoResponsables students have been taking action in volunteering for sustainable development. Through this program they discover the social world, learn to organize themselves in their work and develop their capacities to lead projects. Through the program they themselves are presented the opportunity to be educated on environmental practices, and they also are primed to become the leaders on the sustainable development goals that they will pursue.
Though it is not an association strictly for environmental education, the French Agency for Biodiversity (AFB) has 1,200 field agents that lead up the mission to monitor and raise environmental awareness. Additionally, they have a mission to mobilize the citizenry which fosters a commitment to give access to knowledge, inform and communicate with the citizenry, develop EE, and enable action and participation in everyday environmental decision-making. In regards to direct action, the AFB delivers awareness campaigns for EE that inform the citizenry on sustainable development programs.
Through the AFB’s Environmental Education and Sustainable Development (EESD) program, they have developed both Terrestrial (ATE) and Marine educational areas. The two main goals are: to restore the relationship of the citizenry with their natural, cultural, social and economic environments, and to teach the necessary values and behaviors that give the citizenry the knowledge to effectively and responsibly engage in environmental preservation. These innovative efforts are targeted towards young schoolchildren as well as to the general public.
EE in National Government
In 2016 The Climate Plan with its efforts to protect biodiversity, implemented the National Biodiversity Committee – a fully-fledged parliament for biodiversity in France. One of the missions of the committee is to carry out national programs for knowledge, observation and dissemination of information on biodiversity. Thanks to evaluations of the Plan and biodiversity studies, the collection of informed data is increasing.
National EE Campaigns and Funding
The Fondation de France offers a Green bonus to around 50 organizations every year since 2008 to recognize organizations that have shown great effort to reduce their carbon footprint with their work. These awards go to organizations regardless of their sector of activity, which encourages reduced negative impact all across the board in France.
Ekolien has a network of schools equipped by nature facilitators to propose educational sequences of the discovery of wildlife, per the request of teachers. Their online platform is a nature education tool providing numerous resources for Nature Education. They produce activities and videos on topics of the discovery of wildlife and habitats. They also provide activities for each natural environment that students may be able to explore, such as prairies and wooded areas.