Climate change should be taught to all students from primary school and be embedded in a range of subjects, a senior science curriculum expert says.
As the Abbott government launches a review of Australia's school curriculum, the dean of teaching and learning at Curtin University, Dr Vaille Dawson, told Fairfax Media climate change was not explicitly mentioned until year 10 under the national system and should be introduced earlier.
She said climate change was the most significant social issue the world was going to face and every student should have access to sound, evidence-based material on the underlying science. She said relating science to major social issues such as climate change also helped better engage students.
''Many teachers are already teaching climate change to younger students. But the rationale about getting it more explicitly in the curriculum is so that every teacher teaches it,'' she said.
Dr Dawson - who is due to present her views at a conference held by the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society next month - said the current curriculum review did not look like it would include more climate change, or other cutting-edge scientific areas, into schools.
''It concerns me it will be a back-to-basics approach that will again make science an elite subject that it used to be. Science needs to be for every single student, not just for our future scientists,'' she said.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne has appointed Professor Kenneth Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly to carry out the review.
A spokesman for Mr Pyne said the review would ensure the national curriculum was robust and appropriately focused, and the government would not pre-empt its findings, due mid-2014.
Dr Donnelly - who could not be contacted on Thursday - has criticised the role of sustainability in the curriculum on his blog in recent years saying: ''It's also the case that the history and English curriculums are politically correct and new-age with an undue emphasis on sustainability, indigenous and Asian perspectives.''
Canberra University earth and environmental science associate professor Leah Moore - who was on an advisory panel for the prep to year 10 curriculum and involved in writing earth and environmental science curriculum for year 11 and 12 - said she was concerned some teachers were not confident in conveying the scientific principles behind climate change.
''I'm worried that there is a risk you can teach them about issues without teaching what causes them or the evidence for understanding them,'' she said.
The deputy dean of Monash University's education faculty, Deborah Corrigan said teaching of sustainability was too inconsistent.
Science Teachers Association of Victoria president Soula Bennett said she was comfortable the curriculum gave teachers the opportunity to raise climate change at early grades.
But she expressed concern the review could mean a narrowing of the curriculum.