Education is a key building block of the society. What we learn in school, college or from our parents and elders stays with us and forms the core of our being. From the very beginning, we are taught languages, skill-based subjects and even practical applications of science and technology. A large part of what we know about our society, our values and our culture come from the education that we receive early on.
But sometimes it feels like there is a huge gap that needs to be bridged between education and real-world issues for the young generation to take action on. Though we find that children today are ready and willing to take action, it is lack of knowledge and direction that is hampering their growth.
Looking at the current global waste management and pollution crisis, we realise that so many thinktanks working on finding solutions and driving public participation, yet what can help save the crisis from escalating any further is missing. There is no mainstream curriculum or structured course for school children that can teach them about sustainability and make them aware of the ill effects of over-consumption. This education is, at the moment, largely imparted through workshops and projects which have limited participation and impact, and the shift in behaviour is also short term. Education on social issues such as these is largely left for parents to deal with.
With the changing structure and new corporate governance rules with an increased focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, it makes a lot of sense to have waste management practices as a part of the curriculum for higher studies as well. This way, not only can these graduates be aware of the best practices but also bring in efficiencies in organisational operations which will go a long way in aligning with larger governance goals and also bring in more responsibility in organisations when it comes to societal participation.
In India, as a country, we already come from a culture of sustainability and conscious consumption. It has only been in the last few decades that the habit of buying new things endlessly and disposing of what’s broken instead of getting it fixed became prominent. A lot of economic and social factors have also contributed to fueling this mindless growth leading to the current waste catastrophe. The remedy for this lies in large-scale social action which has to be driven by mass scale, participation by public and change in consumer behaviour.
So, instead of leaving aside environmental studies for master’s level and specialisation studies, it will do us good if we can build a curriculum which starts right from early school level and gradually sensitize the children on issues relating to waste, pollution, consumption and environmental hazards. This will help us not only deal with the impending crisis but also raise a generation that is socially conscious, environmentally sensitive, aware and ready to take responsible action.
Ira Sahai currently works as the Head of Programme for Resource Mobilisation at Chintan