Environmental education goes beyond beautiful trees and exotic wildlife.
Eastern Press Agency
The Supreme Court has spoken. It has directed all States, Union Territories and the Centre to include environment as a subject in schools, colleges, universities and professional courses "strictly and fully... . at least from the 2004 - 5 session". Governments could punish institutions that do not comply. The court had to give this directive because Magsaysay award winning environmentalist-lawyer M.C. Mehta had complained that despite the court's 1991 order, no State Government has bothered to include the science as a subject of study.
The court has also asked the NCERT to submit a model syllabus before April 2004. The UGC will frame a model for teaching universities.
Maneka Gandhi, head of People for Animals (PFA) is concerned. She wants them to talk about basics like resources, how to make them last, and how to support natural scavengers. In the current NCERT curriculum, the basics of environment are taught in primary classes. "But there is no uniform syllabus. It varies from state to state," said NCERT director J.S. Rajput. "We have been asking for a reduction in the curriculum load and will keep this in mind while deciding the contents of the new subject."
One organisation the government could consult is the Centre for Science and Environment. CSE's Environment Education Unit has been producing "quality resource material and programmes to bring about a more ecologically conscious way of thinking" among students. CSE also conducts Environmental Educators Workshops, eco-tours and distributes eco-tour manuals for teachers.
Surely, environmental education goes beyond beautiful trees and exotic wildlife. Children should be told of the moral, social and political (what are the major laws on environment?) aspect of protecting nature around us. They should see what we do in the name of development; what we do to our environment while trying to make life comfortable for ourselves like paving the area around apartment buildings to keep out dust. How growth in population severely strains land and water. "I am not sure about the books," says Ms. Lalitha, Headmistress, Children's Garden School, Chennai. "But yes, a syllabus is welcome." Geography teacher, Saraswathi Ragunathan believes compulsory study will help to sensitise kids on environment questions. "We do need guidelines," she says. "But this subject cannot be taught in a classroom. Why do children think Nature is in the countryside? The same sun shines in the city. They must be taught to observe changes around them, find out if it is restoration or degradation of our earth."
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