As countries prepare to participate in climate negotiations at the UN conference in Glasgow, educators and school leaders in India are calling for reforms to the environmental education offered in schools across the country .
The 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26) hosted by the UK begins on Sunday. More than 190 countries are expected to attend the meeting which will continue until November 12.
Principals say the current education offered on environmental issues in schools does not go beyond slogans and the making of posters on particular days such as “Earth Day” or environment” and called for a more hands-on approach to preparing students for the future.
At present, CBSE students must study a compulsory subject on the environment for the courses. However, school principals believe that there is a need to go beyond the ‘pen and paper’ mode when it comes to environmental education.
“The need of the hour is to make students aware of threats and climate change. Environmental education should be much more than light workshops held on special days like Earth Day or Environment Day,” Pallavi Upadhyaya, Director of DPS-RNE Ghaziabad told PTI.
“Students being the future decision-makers, they must be empowered to monitor their daily practices and commitments. Something as simple as saying ‘no’ to plastic and carrying around a paper or jute shopping bag can have a significant positive impact on our environment,” Upadhyaya said.
According to Seema Kaur, director of Pacific World School, the slogans “Save the environment” and “Save the trees” resonate in most schools, but sometimes only for a day.
“Cries to save the planet are heard everywhere, but in vain. Children are the creators of this planet, so right from the start, schools need to include environmental awareness programs in the life-skills curriculum,” she said.
“For example, organic farming, waste management projects, greenhouse gas impact should be implemented on a regular basis,” she added.
Anshu Mittal, Principal of MRG School, Rohini, said 21st century educators need to teach young learners to engage and address the environmental issues they face in their daily lives, such as saving water and electricity at home, short term use of bicycles. travel long distances, plant green trees, and allow them to make the connection between their small gesture and complex global environmental issues.
“This can only be achieved through experiential learning. Seminars, workshops should be included in our teaching and learning by the various environmentalists, NGOs imparting knowledge on rainwater harvesting, paper recycling, vertical gardening, recreating objects from waste,” she said.
Sangeeta Hajela, Director of DPS Indirapuram, believes that environmental education must be mainstreamed in Indian schools, seriously and definitively, as environmental degradation is no longer a gradual transformation.
“The process of school education remains incomplete without setting an example for students, so there is a need to change the course of environmental awareness from subjective to practical,” she said.
“Environmental awareness should not be a day-long or week-long pen and paper education, but a way of life, practiced every day, leading to habit formation,” she added. .
According to Divya Jain, founder and principal of The Class of One, an online-only school, the majority of environmental degradation results from a lack of education.
“We have incorporated SDG projects into the primary curriculum to educate children about growing up to lead sustainable and environmentally friendly lives. As India is a diverse country and every place here needs a different type of solution, all of our projects are location specific and help children better understand their location and find a solution. There is a compulsory environment class in the curriculum from primary level. A monthly activity is planned with parents as accomplices,” she said.
Shashi Banerjee, director of education at Shiv Nadar School, said they advocate developing children into environmentally conscious citizens who understand and act to minimize the broad impacts of climate change.
“One of our core values is responsibility and a sense of purpose, and our comprehensive environmental curriculum permeates all aspects of learning, from observing and reflecting on our resource consumption to separating waste. and tracking the carbon footprint of each event,” Banerjee mentioned.
“Our students are actively involved in recycling and reusing materials at school, and their projects promote environmentally sustainable solutions to existing problems,” Banerjee said.
Alka Kapur, Principal of Shalimar Bagh Modern Public School suggests that environmental issues should be addressed in a curriculum vision and should be indicated in the school’s policy and action plan while the physical environment of the school should be decorated to be a learning resource.
Neeraj Mohan Puri, principal of Satyug Darshan Vidyala, said students should be encouraged to implement the four Rs of conservation – reduce, reuse, repair and recycle at school and at home.
“Schools can also appoint student green ambassadors to lead the ‘green army’ charge. Schools can introduce a green assessment parameter in the annual progress card, on which children would be graded,” he said.