By Ashni Dhaor:
A circular dated 1st February, 2005 by CBSE addressed to all schools states: “…the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has directed all educational agencies in the country to make environmental education as a compulsory component of the system from the current academic year”. Hence, schools all over India were introduced to environmental education as a subject. The aim of this move was to sensitize children about depleting natural resources, eradication of many natural species, increasing pollution, global warming and so on. The circular also asks the schools to organize activities wherein teachers and students shall engage in environment conservation. The question that arises here is this- are all of these guidelines being implemented?
“(i) What is an ecosystem?
(ii) What do you mean by natural environment?
(iii) Which are the major components of the environment?
(iv) Give four examples of human made environment.
(v) What is lithosphere?
(vi) Which are the two major components of biotic environment?
(vii) What is biosphere?”
This is an excerpt from the back exercise of 7th class NCERT chapter on environment. The whole curriculum of CBSE, to which a majority of schools in India are affiliated, has just one chapter on environment which only educates children about what the environment is made of and various terms which they need to learn in order to answer the above questions. It fails to educate children as to what they can do to preserve the environment and what lifestyle changes can be adopted in order to conserve nature. These chapters are usually taught to the students at the end of the year and carry not more than 3 marks in the final exams. Students appear for their final exams after mugging up definitions for various terms and pass with flying colours; without ever understanding how they could have been an asset to the environment by careful lifestyle changes and conservation.
A majority of schools affiliated to CBSE do not have environment education as a separate subject. Though yes, one or two chapters about the environment at the end of the science or social science book do exist. On a personal account, we were told by our science teacher to read those two chapters on environment as a ‘sure-shot 2 marker for board exams’ , that is, to mug up the important terms in the chapter and secure at least 2 marks in the exam. Rather than doing at least one activity which nurtures the little minds on how to preserve nature, these chapters are never even taught as seriously as the others.
“We do conduct an activity where children are taken into the school ground and made to plant trees, but that activity usually turns out as a ‘free period’ or a ‘picnic’ for children”, said a social science teacher on condition of anonymity. These tree plantation drives are organized by many schools to inculcate a habit of preservation among children. Children are taught to recycle, reuse and refuse plastics. But is this enough?
Along with teaching children about what they should or should not do, an element of innovation must also be instilled in them so that they can ponder upon ways to make the environment more sustainable. Not only students, but teachers too should invent in various projects in order to set an incredible example for all. Children should be made aware about the recent developments and inventions happening in science to preserve nature and should be motivated to be one of those great minds who are the pioneers of these new developments.
Environment education should not stop at school but should continue through college as well. “Environment education must be compulsory for students at all levels. The system should be such that the students are graded on how they participated in conserving the environment and how they made a change rather than just clearing their exams”, said Rajshree Chatterjee who teaches Environment Communication at IP college for women, which is compulsory subject in the fifth semester of bachelors of mass media and mass communication (BMMMC) in University of Delhi. She also feels that there is a dearth of environment journalists in India because effective communication is what will create awareness about environment preservation in the society.
Greater effects can be created in the environment when there is seriousness among students for taking up environment conservation as a career. The schools should also counsel children as to how they can choose environment as a career and be environmentalists. After taking environment preservation as a career, a person can join the ministry of environmental affairs, NGOs, and various global organizations like World Nature Organisation (WNO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The rate at which our environment is depleting demands emergent attention and care from the coming generations. Proper environment education in India is the need of the hour. Though students are being taught about the environment in schools, but a lot more still needs to be done. Their curricula sure makes students aware about what is happening to the environment, but seldom does it give them a chance to think and innovate. Environment education needs to be taken seriously, not only to score marks, but to save the environment which we all know is rapidly degrading.