#RealiTalk: Schools Safety Month with Pinoy Climate Reality Leader Bernardo Sepeda

This month in #RealiTalk, Dr. Bernardo Sepeda walked us through the impacts of the climate crisis on educational institutions in the country.


A Lasallian religious educator and formator since 1991, Dr. Sepeda is currently the Dean of Student Services and Mission of De La Salle Araneta University and an associate member of the National Research Council of the Philippines. An active Climate Reality Leader, he served as a mentor during Climate Reality Leadership Corps Global Traning last October 2021.


In this feature, Dr. Sepeda shared how De La Salle Araneta University has embedded sustainability, climate action, and disaster risk reduction into its curriculum and operations. 

How is the prevailing climate crisis affecting educational institutions in the country? How are climate change impacts (such as extreme weather events, rising seas, ocean acidification, rising temperatures, and changing rainfall patterns) affecting our students and the education system as a whole?


According to the World Population Review, the Philippines is ranked 55th (three steps down from the previous year) in 2022 in the Education Rankings. I believe that the climate crisis especially extreme weather events are contributory factors to the deteriorating state of education in our country, particularly in the area of teaching and learning for the following reasons:

1. When it is the wet season, we have more class suspensions due to stronger typhoons and flooding which lead to fewer opportunities for teaching and learning, ergo, lower aptitude among our students.

2. When it is dry season, we use more air conditioning units that emit more harmful gases into the atmosphere and we all know its effect on the environment. This leads to higher tuition fees which made quality education less accessible to more students. Hence, the public school system is over-populated, which leads to teachers having less contact/interaction with students due to the sheer number of learners needing guidance. This leads to mediocrity especially in the field of reading, science, and mathematics because these areas need more hands-on guidance from the teacher.

Are there systems/ programs in place to ensure that universities in the country are equipped to deal with climate-related disasters? Moreover, how is your organization De La Salle Araneta University integrating sustainability into your operations?

Each university implements in various ways the requirement set by law to respond to climate-related emergencies. Training on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) among students and faculty is regularly conducted to ensure that the academic community is ready. Committees/Offices/Units are established to ensure the implementation of said programs and activities such as but not limited to CLAYGO, zero plastic policy, recyclable water system, and tree planting activities. However, it is the integration in the whole curriculum of the values of climate justice/environmental awareness/caring for the environment that is the key for me. What I mean is that the values mentioned are not only additional topics but embedded in the very vision-mission of each institution.

As a university whose pilot programs are in the field of agricultural sciences, we have implemented a zero-waste management model in our Salikneta Farm, the laboratory of our BS in Agriculture. We also put in place a model farm that features various methods of urban farming which became the laboratory of our Integrated School Students in their subject on agriculture. We also integrated into our curriculum the values of environmental justice and care especially in Christian Living and Science subjects. We also offer specialized courses like Environmental Science in tertiary education. We even offer MS and PhD in Environmental Sciences.

While our educational institutions are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, they play a key role in climate action. What is the role of education in ensuring a low-carbon and climate-resilient future?

The most basic role of educational institutions is really to continue raising climate change consciousness and ensure effective truth-telling to combat the proliferation of disinformation on the matter. Second is modeling, i.e., being at the forefront of making the school community and its operation and processes carbon-neutral and climate-resilient.

The integration of values related to the care for the environment and creation is deeply embedded in our curriculum, especially in the Christian Living, Sciences, Social Studies, TLE, and Agriculture subjects. It is also part of our vision and mission statement. The challenge is really on the consistency of the actual living out of the values taught inside the four walls of the school. This is where the whole community approach will come in. The involvement of the parents, families, and outside community members is as important as the teaching and learning activities inside the school premises.

What are the other initiatives of De La Salle Araneta University in terms of strengthening climate change education in the country? How can we cultivate environmental awareness and sustainable living in schools?

In order for us to ensure that environmental awareness and sustainable living are rooted in our school community, it really starts with the incorporation of these values into the vision and mission of the schools. They should not be just added as a token response to the effect of climate change today. Once they are part of the vision and mission of the school, all the strategic plans and process follows. That way, we can ensure that a culture of love and care for the environment will be imparted into the hearts and minds of the whole academic community.