Tomsk Region (or “Tomsk Oblast”) is one of 85 top-level political divisions of Russia, located in Western Siberia, with a population of over one million people. Tomsk Region has an impressive area of 316,900 square kilometers, which is larger than the United Kingdom, Italy, or New Zealand.
The System of Lifelong Environmental Education (the System) in Tomsk Region is one of few regional environmental education initiatives in Russia of this scale. In 1977 the USSR hosted the first intergovernmental conference on environmental education, but subsequent development of regional or national-level associations for environmental education was slow or did not have a strong influence on educational policy. In 2005, The System of Lifelong Environmental Education was created in the Tomsk Region to coordinate environmental education at the regional level. Currently Russia is expanding upon federal-level and regional-level associations for environmental education. The new Interregional Association for Environmental Education functions at the federal level, while the System of Lifelong Environmental Education in Tomsk Region is one of the leading professional associations at the regional level.
Organizers of the System include several departments of the regional government including the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, the Department of School Education, the Department of Professional Education, and the Department of Culture and Tourism. A formal program, Lifelong Environmental Education in Tomsk Region, and the regional government budget support the System.
Organizations participating in the System of Lifelong Environmental Education are grouped into one of three levels of environmental education centers:
- First-level centers include regional governmental departments and other organizations, which develop environmental education curricula, conduct professional development for environmental educators, and organize conferences and workshops.
Second-level centers include municipal-level organizations such as libraries and afterschool educational organizations, which organize specific environmental education programs and environmental conservation activities.
Third-level centers include public schools and kindergartens that promote environmental education in their curriculum and afterschool programs.
As of 2017, there are 12 first-level environmental education centers, 20 second-level centers, and 77 third-level centers. All municipalities of Tomsk Region have a variety of these three levels of centers, and each unique combination serves the local need for environmental education and engagement. The government plans to support the System of Lifelong Environmental Education through 2020, with the possibility for extension.