Environmental Studies – in SPOTLIGHT to save INHERITANCE
The Indian education system and schools can play a major role in igniting young minds, connecting parents and all stakeholders, using schools as incubators of change. Schools have powerful capacity to connect human resource in the country, ensure change of mindset and promote sustainable action.
If the world is saved, it will be saved by people with changed minds, people with a new vision. It will not be by people with old minds and new programmes. It will not be saved by people with old vision but a new programme” – Daniel Quinn, The story of B
The death of a wild elephant in the state of Kerala created a frenzy of petitions and emotional outpouring when Mohan Krishnan, forestry officer posted an emotional apology to the elephant on May 30. The accident took place in all probability, near farmland where locals place fruit filled with firecrackers to discourage animals from damaging crops.
The post on FB reached out to millions across the world and grief poured in. My reaction was of shock and grief and as a Head of School; I wanted to reach out to the student community to highlight the grave injustice meted out to an animal and how as a community and an intelligent compassionate being we have failed in our duty. The outrage was compensated by immediate action and public stand by various government agencies. What could be done was done and hence in the media the attention shifted to another burning matter.
It led me to seek more information about these incidents and it was horrifying to learn that not only wild elephants, which stray but many captive elephants also, die a shameful death.
In 1909, in his essay Tapovan (‘Forest of Purity’), Tagore writes: “Indian civilization has been distinctive in locating its source of regeneration, material and intellectual, in the forest, not the city. India’s best ideas have come where man was in communion with trees and rivers and lakes, away from the crowds. The peace of the forest has helped the intellectual evolution of man. The culture of the forest has fuelled the culture of Indian society. The culture that has arisen from the forest has been influenced by the diverse processes of renewal of life, which are always at play in the forest, varying from species to species, from season to season, in sight and sound and smell. The unifying principle of life in diversity, of democratic pluralism, thus became the principle of Indian civilization.”
The communities in Indian sub continent had a culture of living in harmony with their surroundings for thousands of years.
Going back to the earlier example, poaching for tusks is a large-scale phenomenon in spite of the fact that the pachyderm is accorded with the highest degree of protection in under the Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act. According to Project Elephant, three per cent of India’s land total surface is elephant country and only 10 percent of this is affected by conflict. With only 24% of the corridors being under forest cover in 88 elephant corridors, the elephant
enroute gets lured to the food crops. According to P. Aravindan, a wildlife biologist with expertise on elephants based in Coimbatore, a fragmented corridor for elephants is as good as no corridor”… 70 percent of the area falling under designated elephant corridor is one kilometer or less. It is that fragmented. How does the elephant travel, then? This leads to conflict as the human settlements in these corridors are primarily agrarian and elephants are lured to the food crops.”
Loss of inheritance…
This case of wild elephant dying due to firecracker-infested fruit highlights the loss of our inheritance-inheritance of culture and values, inheritance of resources & indigenous knowledge, inheritance of self-reliance. It is evident that there is a shortfall in the management, governance and advocacy. Apart from this at macro level of governance the factors mainly – emotional disengagement of the many in village with their surroundings, more takers for the philosophy to control and harness all possible resources, uncontrolled excessive consumption due to commercialization leading to unsustainable production to generate revenue at any cost, made the natives/villagers in our country pay dearly.
22 April was proclaimed, as International Mother Earth Day by the United Nations General Assembly 2009, which felt that it was necessary to promote Harmony with Nature so as to cater to the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future.
I believe that the Indian education system and schools can play a major role in reversing this by igniting young minds, connecting parents and all stakeholders, using schools as incubators of change. Schools have powerful capacity to connect human resource in the country, ensure change of mindset and promote sustainable action.
History of EVS education
Empowering school education with environmental protection and conservation focus, National Policy on Education (1986) states, “There is a paramount need to create a consciousness of the environment. It must permeate all ages and all sections of the society beginning with the child. Environmental consciousness should inform teaching in schools and colleges. This aspect will be integrated in the entire educational process”.
In 2004, the NCERT undertook a massive national consultation to review of the national curriculum framework towards which 21 National Focus Groups were set up on various problems and connecting subjects in school education; Habitat and Learning was one of them. National Curriculum Framework (NCF, 2005) supported that schools have a major role to play in ensuring that socialization into a culture of self-reliance, peace-oriented values, resourcefulness and health. NCF incorporates many curricular thrusts including Habitat and Learning which emphasizes the need for EE/EVS at the school level for moving towards sustainable development.
The key elements of the thrust can be divided into 3As –Approach, Action, Attainment.
The focus group ‘Habitat and Learning’ advocated the need for
- Developing training modules
- Teacher empowerment/education
- Development of activities and projects
Goals of EVS integrated Curriculum
“I think young people really want to know where they’re living, what’s around them, how they’re connected to it, and they want to know how that fits into the bigger picture of the world.” – Mary Colwell
Based on the NCF 2005, EVS for primary classes deals with the study of our environment (physical, biological, social and cultural) with an emphasis on its preservation and conservation. It is an integrated multi-disciplinary subject, with insights from sciences (physical, chemical and biological), social studies (history, geography, civics, etc.) and environmental education (protection and conservation). EVS in the NCERT textbooks is woven around six common themes – Family and friends, Food, Shelter, Water, Travel and Things we make and do.
Each theme begins by helping children explore their immediate ‘self’ to include his/her family (environment), neighborhood, the locality and also the country. It helps children to use the contents and methods of science and social sciences and environment to solve environmental problems or issues in future. The learning situations or experiences of EVS help children to explore and connect with their natural and human made surroundings.
There is a need to bring the physical environment aspect of EVS to centrestage and class III learning outcomes as defined in NCERT publication 2017 would be used to show that all expectations can be met. Approach could also be divided into three types of learning experiences for the learner/ curricular expectations.
Learning About the environment:
This experience should be able to raise awareness about natural and environment from lived experiences. The learner should understand natural systems and its complexity and the impact of human activities upon these systems .The learner should foster environmental awareness and concerns. Appreciate the diversity in nature –Plants and animals in different countries as well as tribal life in various places, community eating etc. and respect them.
Suggested pedagogical processes are-
- Observe and explore the immediate surroundings, i.e., home, school and neighborhood for different objects/plants/ animals/birds for their concrete/ simple observable physical features (diversity, appearance, movement, places of living/found, habits, needs, behavior etc.)
- Discuss with elders and find out from where we/birds/animals get water, food (plants/animals, which part of the plant we eat etc.)
- Show sensitivity for plants, animals
- Describe need of food for people of different age groups; animals and birds, availability of food and water and use of water at home and surroundings
Learning Through the environment:
The experiential hand on approach gives reality, relevance and practical experience to learning through direct contact with the environment and develops important skills of data gathering and field investigations.
Suggested pedagogical processes are-
- Identifying simple observable features (e.g. shape, colour, texture, aroma) of leaves, trunk and bark of plants in immediate surroundings
- Identifying simple features (e.g., movement, at places found/kept, eating habits, sounds) Of animals and birds) in the immediate surroundings critically think to guess/estimate and
- Predict about the happenings, situations, events and the possible ways to check, verify, test them
Learning For the environment
The learner under this approach should understand the need to conserve and protect the natural resources such as fuel, food, water, electricity at home along with forests and animals and develops an informal concern and sense of responsibility for the environment and is motivated to improve it. Few Suggested pedagogical processes are –
- Discuss with elders and find out from where we/birds/animals get water, food (plants/animals, which part of the plant we eat etc
- Shows sensitivity for plants, animals, the elderly along with differently abled
- Describes the availability of food and water and use of water at home and for surroundings animals and birds
- Share experiences of their relationships with pets and domestic animals or other birds and animals in surroundings
- Articulates opinion on misuse/wastage of food and water in family and school
- Taking care of a plant(s), feed birds/animals, things around them.
Moving to EVS of class V, the proposed pedagogical processes become more focused with
- Ability to connect terrain, climate, resources (food, water, shelter, livelihood) and cultural life to under it completely. (E.g., life in distant/difficult areas like hot/cold deserts)
- Sharing views on issues observed/ experienced and relates practices / happenings to larger issues of society. (E.g., discrimination for access/ownership of resources, migration/ displacement / exclusion, child rights)
- Proactive in providing solution/plans to protect/save resources (land, fuels, forests, etc.) and shows sensitivity for the disadvantaged/deprived.
The feeling is widely shared that moving towards sustainability lies in its strategy of unprecedented mobilization of people’s mind, ideas, institutions and resources to come up with a socially just and environmentally sustainable blueprint for survival (MOEF Report, 2002).
Actions FOR the Push
The Policy effective implementation can be given thrust through 3Bs.
There is a paramount need to create a consciousness of the environment. It must permeate all ages and all sections of the society beginning with the child. Environmental consciousness should inform teaching in schools and colleges. This aspect will be integrated in the entire educational process.
BINDING on SCHOOL Principal
- The mandatory training as being implemented by COE cell, CBSE for Art Integration, Artificial Intelligence, the same should be extended to EVS.The whole school Principal as a pedagogical leader and an important community member should be expected to take lead in ensuring promotion of sustainable mindset. The school should be a role model of the environmental values. The school needs to exemplify sustainable environmental practices and should communicate these proactively to not only students, but also to the community.
- Principals as pedagogical leaders look deeply into the planning of the curriculum with the extension of one theme of water to include Forests and Communities of forest. Use Hubs of learning/School Complexes as nodal agency for action and utilize the resources and neighborhood community of each school for talks and activity-based experiences. Digitization of the knowledge and sharing rare interviews or expeditions/ visits or citing of rare species with all school community through VidyaDaan. The craft and other skills and the practitioners of skills interviews too would help generate awareness about the diversity within the country. Use Health and Physical education, SEWA strand to reinforce the active experiential learning and care of the environment. This could include data gathering as well as advocacy.
- As a community leader, they could use PTMS for community awareness and media to create awareness about Habitat and learning to live in Harmony with Nature.
BINDING on SCHOOLS to employ EVS Trained Teacher
Teacher Education has been recognized to play a central role in this odyssey. Realizing the significance of introducing EE/EVS in teacher education, the National Council of Teacher Education has made an attempt to develop a curriculum framework in Environmental Education for the many levels of teacher preparation- Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Elementary teacher training, Secondary and Vocational
Teacher plays a central role in successful implementation of Environment Education in the classroom, as he/she would ultimately be analyzing, interpreting and implementing it. Teacher preparation in EVS has to be all encompassing and competency based in order to help teachers in effectively infusing environmental perspective in their teaching. It should include
- Environmental studies competencies to be imparted and its significance in elementary teacher education;
- ‘Teaching-Learning of EVS’ should be mandatory paper in elementary teacher education with connecting methodologies in upper primary for science and social science to trained graduate trainees learning the approach.
- Identifying and incorporate right content, teaching-learning methodologies, competencies, curricular expectations and techniques supporting it.
Curriculum Framework for Quality Teacher Education (NCTE, 2005b): Endorsing the need for Environmental Orientation for Elementary Teachers, objectives of EVS in teacher education at the elementary level (unto upper primary) has been re-iterated.
The teacher is either retrained through refresher courses during summer break and employability criterion mandate from NCERT and CBSE affiliation Byelaws.
BINDING For SCHOOL REGISTRATION
For a policy to take shape, on ground execution is essential. To accept and realize its full promise, the pre requisite for schools to upload and share activities based on promoting awareness about living with Harmony in Nature would help in its fulfillment of the vision.
Across the world, the sustained campaign is there to remain focused on the need. The changed stand is of not only promoting but also looking at the evolution, in our case, going back to our culture, of taking care of Mother Earth.
2019 December, the UN General Assembly, at its 74th session, adopted the eleventh resolution on Harmony with Nature (A/RES/74/224)The resolution, among others:
The whole school Principal as a pedagogical leader and an important community member should be expected to take lead in ensuring promotion of sustainable mindset. The school should be a role model of the environmental values.
1. Expect Harmony with Nature Knowledge Network to carry out a study of the evolution over the past decade of regional, local and national initiatives on the protection of Mother Earth
2. Acknowledge that not only protecting and conserving ecosystems but also avoiding harmful practices against animals, plants, microorganisms and non-living environments will only contribute to the stable coexistence of humankind with Nature.
The draft of NEP 2019 has further given it an impetus with P184.108.40.206 states “Inclusion of local and tribal knowledge systems in the curriculum and textbooks “ and further P220.127.116.11 promotes “A course on Indian knowledge systems (one such has already previously been designed by NCERT) will be available as an elective to students in secondary school who may wish to delve deeper into the subject. A course on Indian knowledge systems (one such has already previously been designed by NCERT) will be available as an elective to students in secondary school who may wish to delve deeper into the subject.”
I do believe that we will be able to achieve it. Our education system is sound enough to contribute to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society.
Tagore wrote, in an Eastern University: “The time has come for us to break open the treasure trove of our ancestors, and use it for our commerce of life. Let us, with its help, make our future our own, and not continue our existence as the eternal rag-pickers in other people’s dustbins.”
National Curriculum Framework (NCF, 2005) supported that schools have a major role to play in ensuring that socialization into a culture of self-reliance, peace-oriented values, resourcefulness and health. NCF incorporates many curricular thrusts including Habitat and Learning which emphasizes the need for moving towards sustainable development.
Sonal Rawat is a passionate educator and likes to take a deep dive in all areas central to learning and teaching process. With experience of over 23 years in national and international curricula, her key assignments have been in Indus International School, Hyderabad; Oakridge International School, Bachupally; Pathways School, Noida and Ecole Globale International Girls School, Dehradun. Her present work assignment is of a Whole School Principal of K-12 CBSE school with a student strength of 2500 plus in Delhi NCR.