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There is little doubt that the climate crisis is the most urgent global threat facing humanity today.

The climate crisis is scientifically proven and understood by most to be a direct and accelerating threat to millions, if not billions, of people. But discussions about climate change – and climate justice for the economically-challenged who are most likely to suffer the consequences – can be divisive and misunderstood. A fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Pearson College UWC leadership and across the United World College movement.

“Now, more than ever, we need leaders who can navigate the complexity of global challenges and forge local solutions,” said Head of College Craig Davis. “These are global problems that demand a unified response.

“Just as the UWC movement was created and nurtured in the post-World War 2 and Cold War eras to frame an educational structure to help prevent global conflict, Pearson is clarifying a vision of how we can rise to the challenge of developing new leaders with the skills and mindsets to address this urgent question of global sustainability and climate justice.”

With students living and learning together from more than 80 different countries, Pearson is positioned to prepare emerging leaders for this role and, as an institution charged with equipping change-makers, peacebuilders and global citizens, the College is called to act.

“The scale of the climate crisis demands we pursue solutions through many routes – as scientists, entrepreneurs and activists, as leaders in technology and global health, as collaborators in policymaking, political and private sectors and as positive changemakers in resource and financial sectors,” added Davis.

“We need people, young people, who will advance the compelling facts that spur development of strategies, behaviours and practical tools so we can deal meaningfully and collectively with the climate crisis and the disparities it exacerbates.”

A Climate Action Leadership Diploma Within the International Baccalaureate

In response, Pearson College UWC is reviewing what it would take to launch a new two-year Climate Action Leadership Diploma as early as the 2022-23 academic year. This would be tailored to support the student who brings a passion for addressing climate change and environmental stewardship within an International Baccalaureate career-based program framework.

“This is a hope-informed, place-based, solutions-focused experiential diploma driven by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would run in parallel with our existing two-year IB Diploma Program (IBDP),” added Davis.

While using the UN SDGs as an educational framework is innovative in the educational sector, an initiative by Pearson to make these climate action curriculum materials open source could amplify the impact exponentially. Initially, at least, course content will be made available to all other United World Colleges through an online global campus with potential future opportunities to share this wider audiences around the world.

What gives this initiative extra value is the pending participation of post-secondary institutions. Pearson already is engaging in active partnership conversations with Vancouver Island University (Departments of Indigenous/Xwulmuxw Studies and Global Studies at the School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences; VIU President Deb Saucier is an alumnus of Pearson), Royal Roads University (School of Environment and Sustainability; working to adapt short courses from their MA in Climate Action Leadership), the University of Victoria (School of Environmental Studies and Redfish Salish Sea School of Change; working to adapt and design field school experiences) and Dr. Elin Kelsey (adjunct faculty member at UVic School of Environmental Studies and a thought-leader in solutions-focused learning around climate change.

Students in this program will pursue a two-year curriculum that includes two to three IBDP courses, core Pearson/UWC requirements such as service learning, language development, personal, professional and life skills as well as Climate Action Leadership Diploma courses created in partnership with post-secondary schools and by Pearson educators.

“We’re aiming to cultivate a learning atmosphere that sees young people develop globally-relevant career skills and competencies who will apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios and situations,” said Davis. “Students in this program will be working at a high level, accessing university partnership-based courses and demanding experiential learning.

“During this past academic year, work on this initiative really accelerated,” he added. ”I’m pleased our faculty working group provided thoughtful input and practical advice to bring this to fruition as early as late summer 2022.”

There is significant work to be done to launch and nurture this innovative program. A full-time program coordinator is envisioned who will work with administrators, faculty and partners to successfully build student enrolment, curricula and institutional knowledge.

Specialized course content focusing on sustainability and climate justice will also benefit Pearson students enrolled in the IBDP, providing all with opportunities to gain skills and competencies in this critical field.

The International Baccalaureate organization has already indicated strong support for the Pearson initiative, noting that it is unprecedented and will help raise the profile of the challenging and fulfilling IB Career-based Program with Canadian universities.

“This planet is our global commons,” added Davis. “Protecting and managing this world requires the skills and capacity to effectively extreme diversity and forge positive futures for us all.”