Traditional wisdom passed down through communities and informal environmental education are popular teaching methods in India. On the formal education front, India does, however, actively promote environmental education. A 2003 Supreme Court decision mandated that formal education in India include environmental education. This distinguished India as one of few countries to have the highest court emphasize on the importance of environmental education. According to a UNESCO research, the decision caused nearly 300 million pupils in 1.3 million schools to receive some environmental education instruction.
Numerous environmental issues currently facing the planet put not just the survival of the human species but also the existence of the entire living system in jeopardy. The most intellectual animal, the human, is completely to blame for all the problems, including air, water, and soil pollution, ozone layer loss, global warming, climate change, the loss of forests and biodiversity, and changes to the terrain. Despite having been endowed with intelligence, the human species is harming the environment for its own self-interest. The most urgent requirement at the moment is to teach the next generation about the environment so that they have the fundamental knowledge necessary for a deeper understanding of environmental challenges. The new education policy of the country brought about by the Government of India needs to incorporate such courses in curriculum.
Environmental education focuses on aspects of human behaviour that are more directly connected to how people interact with and comprehend their biophysical environment. Environmental contamination is one of the most prominent issues the world is now dealing with. The ecology has suffered as a result of excessive human exploitation of nature. Making people aware of environmental damage is urgently necessary. The quality of the environment may alter due to citizen involvement and education.
A 2016 UNESCO report titled ‘Education for people and planet’, advocates that education should be one of the primary method used to address the human induced environmental crises.It further states that “Education shapes values and perspectives. It also contributes to the development of skills, concepts and tools that can be used to reduce or stop unsustainable practices.” Further the UNESCO has highlighted the following aims of environmental education:
- The goal of environmental education is to demonstrate how interdependent the economic, social, political, and ecological systems of the modern world are, and how national decisions and actions can have global effects.
- In this approach, environmental education need to support the creation of a new international order that would ensure the preservation and enhancement of the environment by fostering a sense of responsibility and solidarity across nations and regions.
- The major goal of grassroots environmental education is to successfully educate people and communities on the complexity of the built and natural ecosystems.
- Moreover, to have the knowledge, attitudes, values, and practical skills necessary to take an active role in identifying and resolving societal problems, as well as in the management of the quality of the environment.
There are several ways that environmental education benefits the environment. Additionally, it benefits society by giving a realistic portrayal of the outside world. This is specifically its flaws and terrible injustices, and by promoting more consciousness and understanding, examining new terms and visions, and learning new methods and instruments, we can address these.
The best aspiration of humanity and the most effective way to achieve sustainable development is environmental education. It is possible that formal environmental education or schooling alone are not the only sources of environmental education. This comprises both conventional knowledge acquired in the home and community as well as informal and non-formal modes of instruction and learning.
The major goals of Environmental Education are as follows:
Creating awareness: Assisting individuals and social groups in learning about pollution and environmental degradation.
Knowledge: To assist social organisations and individuals in learning about the environment, especially the environment in other parts of the world.
Attitudes: To encourage people and social groupings to adopt a set of environmental preservation principles.
Building Capacity: To assist social organisations and people in acquiring the abilities necessary for discriminating between objects based on their appearance, sounds, textures, habits, and habitats. to improve one’s capacity for unbiased judgments and conclusions.
Participation: To give individuals and social groups the chance to actively participate in all aspects of environmental decision-making.
India is a highly diverse country in terms of its climate, geography, geology, ethnicity, flora, and fauna, society, and economy. Therefore, environmental education in the country has to be location-specific. Let’s have a look at the current state of Environmental Education in India:
- There are close to 200 environmental studies departments in universities and colleges across the country. They provide degree or diploma programmes that address every facet of environmental engineering and sciences.
- There are other programmes leading to diplomas, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and Ph.D.s in environmental sciences or environmental studies. In addition to this, the departments of civil engineering and chemical engineering provide M.E., M.Tech., and Ph.D. degrees in environmental engineering.
- There are also postgraduate degree programmes in environmental management and courses leading to M.Sc. degrees in environmental toxicology, chemistry, biology, or geology.
- Environmental education at the doctoral level is also available in a large number of autonomous Research and Development (R & D) institutions founded by the central government, state governments, and agencies such as CSIR, ICAR, and ICMR i.e. formal education in environmental science or engineering is available in India up to the highest possible level.
- Instead of producing generalists, environmental studies programmes need to be restructured to generate specialists in environmental botany, environmental zoology, environmental chemistry, environmental economics, environmental sociology, etc.
- The curricula for these classes should be quite specialised and include options for teaching students in areas of interest such as environmental toxicity, marine ecology, limnology, forest ecology, environmental analysis, and other fields.
The topic of environmental education in India is currently not very engaging or educational for the pupils. It ought to be improved so that it expresses a crystal-clear connection to the environment and environmental problems. The content must support an integrated thematic as well as multidisciplinary approach that expresses ideas through grand concepts and overarching themes rather than discrete units. The learning should be connected to the outside world in the material.
The course material should be created with a practical focus, be localised, and support a broad awareness of the environment in that location. The content should also make a connection between the pupils’ daily activities and behaviour and their surroundings. effectively are key factors in its durability. One of the primary issues with the proposal should be the teacher training. There should occasionally be camps held to train the teachers. Teachers should be given a manual to help them assist the students in their practical work, and self-contained, self-explanatory workbooks should be made available.
According to D.H. Meadows, environmental educators on every continent create resources and teaching strategies that are as diverse as the planet’s various ecosystems and cultures. He outlines a few fundamental ideas that form the basis of all environmental education. Levels of being, complex systems, population expansion and carrying capacity, ecologically and socially sustainable development, knowledge, unpredictability, and sacredness are few other points to ponder.
The need of the hour regarding for improving the impact of Environmental studies in India, is to have training programs that generate quality professionals to handle hazardous waste issues, lawyers and other specialists to create government and industry policies, rules, and regulations to safeguard the environment, and engineers to create technology and products to stop environmental degradation.
In order to assess the costs of environmental pollution and depletion and develop solutions that are socially, economically, and in other ways fit for the globe, economists, geographers, and social scientists will be increasingly needed. A new generation of environmentally conscious and ethical leaders in business is required, ones who can research how goods and services influence the environment. Jobs involving the environment would be in high demand in the years to come. Consequently, environmental education is a field of study and a component of all other fields of study, which also has a tremendous scope in terms of job creation.