Today’s reality of the environment is far from a glossy magazine cover. With the prevalence of about 1.5 lakh schools (both govt. and private) in India, how many of us were taught the concept of Sustainability?
If the curriculum focused more on the ecological side of science, today’s problems of ecology would have had solutions.
Sustainable Education covers the development of students, communities, and schools to take responsibility towards the Environment. Current concerns including the rise in prices of petroleum and ethanol can be given better solutions to, using Sustainability. With environmentalists focusing upon theory and practicals as the base of Sustainable Learning, the Indian Education System needs to erase the practice of rote learning.
“Sustainability is a very important concept and must be included within the curriculum as a broader scope of analysis. This is because as a child, I didn’t know the existence of the concept. It was only in college that I had a deep curiosity and a liking towards nature and its surroundings. So, students must know that a peaceful ecosystem can co-exist amongst other human operations. In today’s time, Sustainability can be a bonus factor for any company who wishes to inculcate it within its strategies,” said Shaurya Shukla, an Environmentalist.
Instead of including Sustainability as a subtopic, it must be allocated as an analysis-based piece. Schools are focusing more upon practical methods of teaching. There needs to be a balance between theory and practical topics. Many times, the concept is misinterpreted and is considered not as important as the others. This approach towards the topic must be changed as the future relies on the Sustainability of its habitats. Furthermore, the Government must train teachers, who also graduated through rote learning to educate themselves upon the advances in the Environment.
A perfect example would be the appreciable effort put in by the villagers in the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest in Eastern India, who work on educating the villagers on co-existing with tigers. There, they apply art, communicate through drama and use play to become a messenger. Such initiatives should be encouraged beyond the conversations held on social media, which reminds us about the adverse environmental effects created with the usage of metal straws and bamboo forks, initially termed as #zerowaste.
If villagers and children of rickshaw drivers can walk to schools in flip-flops to enhance their learning towards Sustainability under Environmental Science, Private Schools in cities should give it the importance that it needs. “An equal balance by performing activities, putting forth situations, and giving them real-life examples, along with portraying science-oriented pointers and bulletins can make a difference,” said Shanmuganathan Arumugam, an Environmental Health Safety Specialist at Rane Madras Ltd. (RML).
But unfortunately, post the 2003 court directive of training teachers to incorporate issues regarding Sustainability, the Indian Government has miserably failed. The Government Schools often stall at spreading information that is deemed necessary and should be provided to every student. Since most of the population in India belongs to the below poverty line (BPL) category, they are the sector that needs to be concentrated upon, in terms of sustainable education.
“Educated students must do their bit towards spreading the word. Not through written procedures, but pictorial representations. Effective workshops and pamphlets must be held and distributed in schools that are unable to afford,” Arumugam added.
Vijai D Vidyadhar, an Environmentalist and Social Activist also added by saying, “What is the point of talking about the concept, if one does not have an acceptable attitude towards Mother Earth? Everybody can vocalize upon Sustainability, but is anybody bothered about the future? At the school level, a broader analysis and experiments need to be conducted.”
In the name of Environmental Science, students are told to retain information that might not be useful on a day-to-day basis. The solution to this existing and growing problem is to correct the current system, wherein, the students’ cognitive thinking and creative potential are taken into consideration. The Director of the Government-Supported Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Kartikeya Sarabhai stated that after the court order, it took about three years for Indian Schools to include Environmental content within the curriculum. But, only 10% of the schools emphasize upon Environmental issues.
When asked about students being the future of the environment, Shanmuganathan Arumugam answered, “Definitely, they have a greater role to play. If they are taught about Sustainable Education, they will think out of the box and create an impact.” Adding on clarity, “Students should be held responsible towards nature and should be active caretakers of the planet for the future generations,” Shukla added.
With experts in the field expressing concerns towards students lacking the knowledge of an unsustained environment, the Indian Government has been showing little or no interest. Teachers and students often tend to ignore the importance of Sustainability by labeling it as ‘common sense.’ People are moving towards a ‘know-it-all’ attitude, that will bring the worst out of the environment and is ultimately deemed to be unfit for future generations.