Co-author: Barun Sharma
The University Grants Commission (U.G.C.) issued the following letter on June 19, 2017, to various universities and colleges for implementing compulsory environment education for undergraduate courses of all branches as per the directives of the Supreme Court.
Let us review the 8 Unit Module syllabus that has an innovative design under the Ability Enhancement Compulsory Courses (A.E.C.C.- Environmental Studies). This A.E.C.C.- E.V.S. Module was framed by a High Expert Committee.
Unit 1 refers to “Introduction to Environmental Studies” which requires two lectures to conclude. Unit 2 covers the topic “Ecosystems” which needs a total of six lectures. Unit 3 would take eight lectures to complete. It talks about natural resources and, renewable and non-renewable resources. Unit 4 and Unit 5 delve into biodiversity and conservation, and environmental pollution respectively. Both these units require eight lectures to complete the portion. Unit 6 would take seven lectures while Unit 7 would require six lectures to complete their topics that are- “Environmental Policies and Activities” and “Human Communities and the Environment”. The final unit, Unit 8 that has field work has been assigned a period of five lectures to conclude.
The U.G.C. team of experts merely did a copy and paste job while framing the A.E.C.C.- E.V.S. module. This eight unit module has a striking similarity to the one provided by Indira Gandhi National Open University’s Post Graduate Diploma in Environment and Sustainable Development (P.G.D.E.S.D.).
The U.G.C. has so far issued as many as five letters for compulsory implementation of environmental education. This is a basic environmental studies syllabus that could have been well-taught ages ago. I don’t know what has been creating such an undue delay in the implementation of this module, despite it being India’s premier regulatory body. It is tragic that an educational implementation requires a judicial hammer every time.
U.G.C. has never even issued a letter to appoint people with a degree in environmental studies to join as faculty in universities. A large number people that hold degrees in environmental studies are sitting jobless. They are fully capable of delivering lectures according to the given syllabus.
However, the U.G.C. has been making a mockery of environmental education in India. Prestigious environmental positions are being occupied by people who do not have a background in environmental studies. Even the highest positions in the Central Pollution Control Board and various state pollution control boards are not being held by people with the specific background.
The biggest irony with environmental science in India is that the premier Indian Forest Services Examination does not have Environment Studies within the list of optional subjects assigned for IFS Examination. The condition of environmental education is the worst in lower academic levels where the subject is being taught by anyone whether they come from the right background.
Professionals coming from a non-environment studies background, that hold key positions in the bureaucracy are somehow responsible for the terrible situation. There has been a huge umbrella of consultancies that have been exploiting environment degree holders by paying them poorly. These consultancies are being hired for things like environmental impact assessment, audit, certification, carbon credit etc. All of this could have been avoided if the resource person would have been an expert in dealing with major environmental operations and assessments.
The government could have created more jobs and could save undue expenses on consultation. These consultancies exploit environmental professionals by hiring them on low salaries of around ₹10000 – 30000 per month. Policy discrimination has marginalized environment degree holders as well as environmental education.
We have been witnessing the government’s commitment to protecting the climate.
Firstly, India has ratified Paris Climate Agreement in October 2016 and is now legally bound to reduce carbon emission by 30%-35% of our Gross Domestic Productivity of 2005 level in accordance with Nationally Determined Contributions.
Secondly, India is committed to fulfilling the United Nations Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (S.D.G.). The thirteenth S.D.G. specifically deals with climate change and many other sustainable development goals deal with the environment.
Thirdly, the long-term plan for the next fifteen years is significant as India signed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. It outlines the need for understanding disaster risk at national and local, as well as global and regional levels, and call for strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.
Therefore, a sound environmental policy shall occupy the core central position around which climate, development and disaster risk reduction shall play the peripheral role.
The major question that arises is whether the incumbent structure of environmental education is competent enough to deal with achieving such long-term global objectives or not. There is no separate environmental science subject at 10+2 level in so many states. Universities have introduced diverse environmental courses in under graduation and post-graduation levels, but a majority of the universities lack expert lecturers & professors in different environmental streams in all over India. A large number of environmental graduates are passing out every year from colleges where the subject is being taught by a professor who does not even hold a degree in environmental studies.