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UPDATED: December 7, 2012 NO. 50 DECEMBER 13, 2012
Seeking a Climate Solution
China plays a responsible role in coping with climate change
By Yu Shujun

Sustainability Education's Long March

By Stephanie Tansey & Qi Ping

China's long-standing commitment to sustainable development is reflected by a decade of ongoing reform to the college entrance examination system and the inclusion of sustainability education in the national geography curriculum.

Questions concerning sustainable development and environmentally friendly lifestyles have appeared on the geography section of the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, since 2002.

Relevant items on the gaokao pertain to climate change, energy consumption, the ecological effects of hydroelectric dams, the economy's influence on the environment, and the pressing need to change human behavior.

Some are multiple-choice questions. Others are case studies which challenge students to explain environmental phenomenon, describe which human behavior caused it, and write about potential solutions to the problem.

Changes in the exam system in higher education complement changes in primary education. The junior middle school curriculum changed in 2011 to include compulsory geography courses.

The value of geography teachers has also improved. Zhu Kexi, master teacher in Beijing's Fengtai District in charge of geography, explained, "From 2002 to 2007 only professors and post-graduate students were permitted to grade the [national college entrance] exams and they would just follow the exam key. Then, in 2008, it was recognized that teachers, who are the ones who actually teach the subject, are an important piece in the grading system. This is because they can better assess the nuances of the written answers," she said.

Stephanie Tansey is the author of Recovery of the Heart: Dialogues With People Working Toward a Sustainable Beijing, published by New World Press; Qi Ping is a nature studies educator and primary school teacher

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