Md. environmental lit wins international acclaim

Maryland’s environmental literacy standards today became the first set of standards to receive an award from the World Future Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Maryland State Department of Education said in a press release.

The World Future Council of the IPU recognized the state’s environmental literacy standards, which have been used as a model by other states, including Kentucky and Utah, by awarding the Silver Future Policy Award at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, at the 133rd IPU Assembly.

“We are grateful for the recognition of Maryland’s innovative work,” said Guffrie Smith, president of the Maryland State Board of Education, who noted that the state has been a leader in environmental education for 25 years. “To this day we work hard to ensure teachers and students have the resources and support they need. We pledge to continue our efforts to support global environmental standards and help all students become capable stewards of our planet.”

The state standards in environmental education were the first in the nation to require that students be environmentally literate prior to high school graduation. They have led to positive impacts in knowledge, behavior, and local action, as well as broad improvements in student learning across a range of subjects.

The Maryland State Board of Education established an Environmental Education By-Law in 1990, which initiated environmental education standards for the state’s public school students. Twenty-one years later, the state board approved a regulation requiring all Maryland students to complete a comprehensive multi-disciplinary program in environmental literacy prior to graduation. The first group of students covered in that regulation graduated last spring.

The IPU gives awards to policies, not to people. The Gold Future Policy Award was presented to Zanzibar’s Children’s Act, a response to child abuse and violence in the semi-autonomous part of Tanzania. The law is designed to promote and protect child rights and has led to a marked societal change in attitudes toward children in Zanzibar.

A second Silver Policy Award was bestowed on Finland’s Basic Education Act, which guarantees that children have equal access to high-quality education and training irrespective of ethnic origin, age, wealth, language, or location.

“This prize celebrates policies that help us to do the right thing by creating the right rules,” said Jakob von Uexkull, founder and chair of the World Future Council. “Children are among the most vulnerable group facing a host of the world’s emerging challenges.”