As countries gear up to participate in climate negotiations at the UN conference in Glasgow, educationists and schools principals in India are calling for reforms in environmental education offered in schools across the country.
The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) being hosted by the UK is beginning on Sunday. Over 190 countries are expected to participate in the meeting which will go on till November 12.
School principals say the current education offered on environmental issues in schools does not go beyond slogans and poster making on particular days like “Earth Day” or “Environment day” and have called for a more practical based approach to prepare students for the future.
At present, CBSE students have to study a mandatory subject on environment for classes. Principals, however, believe there is a need to go beyond “pen and paper” mode as far as environmental education is concerned.
“The need of the hour is to sensitise the students about climate threats and change. Environmental education should be much more than light-hearted workshops being organised on special days like Earth Day or Environment Day,” Pallavi Upadhyaya, Principal, DPS-RNE Ghaziabad told PTI.
“Students being the future decision-makers, need to be made responsible denizens to keep a watch on their daily practices and commitments. Something as simple as saying ‘no’ to plastic, and carrying a paper or jute bag for shopping can significantly impact our environment positively,” Upadhyaya said.
According to Seema Kaur, Principal, Pacific World School, the slogans of “Save Environment” and “Save Trees” resonate in most schools but only for a day at times.
“The hue and cry about saving the planet are audible all around but to no avail. Children are the makers of this planet, hence from the nascent stage only, schools must include environment awareness programmes in the curriculum focusing on practical knowledge,” she said.
“For instance, organic farming, waste management projects, the impact of greenhouse gases should be implemented on a regular basis,” she added.
Anshu Mittal, Principal, MRG School, Rohini, said, the 21st-century educators must teach young learners to engage and solve environmental issues which they face in their day to day life like saving water and electricity at home, use of bicycles for short-distance travel, planting green trees, and allow them to make the connection between their small act and complex global environmental problems.
“This can only be achieved through experiential learning. Seminars, workshops must be included in our teaching and learning by the various environmentalists, NGOs imparting knowledge for rainwater harvesting, paper recycling, vertical gardening, recreating objects using waste materials,” she said.
Sangeeta Hajela, Principal, DPS Indirapuram, believes environmental education must be incorporated in Indian schools, in all earnestness, and in a definitive manner, as environmental degradation is no more a gradual transformation.
“The process of school education remains incomplete without setting up an example for students, therefore it is necessary to change the course of environmental awareness from being subjective to practical,” she said.
“Environment consciousness should not be a day-long or a week-long pen and paper education but a way of life, practised every single day, leading to habit formation,” she added.
According to Divya Jain, Founder and Director, The Class of One, an online-only school, the majority of environmental degradation arising from a lack of education.
“We have integrated the SDG projects along with the primary curriculum to sensitise kids to grow up to lead a sustainable and eco-friendly life. As India is a diverse country and every location here needs a different kind of solution, all our projects are location-specific and help kids to understand their location better and find a solution for it. There’s a compulsory environment class in the curriculum from the primary level onwards. A monthly activity is planned with parents as accomplices,” she said.
Shashi Banerjee, Director of Education, Shiv Nadar School, said they advocate nurturing children into environmentally responsible citizens who understand and act to minimise the vast impacts of climate change.
“One of our core values is the responsibility and a sense of purpose, and our comprehensive environmental curriculum permeates every aspect of learning, right from observing and reflecting upon our consumption of resources to waste segregation and tracking the carbon footprint of every event,” Banerjee said.
“Our students actively participate in recycling and reusing materials in school, and their projects promote environmentally sustainable solutions to existing problems,” Banerjee said.
Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern Public School Shalimar Bagh suggests that environmental issues should be addressed in a vision of school-based curriculum and should be indicated in school policy and action plan while the physical environment of the school should be decorated to be a learning resource.
Neeraj Mohan Puri, Principal, Satyug Darshan Vidyala said students must be encouraged to implement the four R’s of conservation — reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle at school and at home.
“Schools can also appoint green ambassadors from among the students to lead the charge of the ‘green army’. Schools can introduce a green parameter of assessment in the annual progress card, upon which the children would be graded,” he said.