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ENVIRONMENT IN PATHSHALA
By Vivek Anand A and Anubhuti Sharma
patshala

While our classroom sessions this past month have been engaging, disturbing, awe-inspiring, repetitive, cumulative, or even boring we at ‘Agenda For Survival 2010’ unanimously agree that Green Education in India is highly irrelevant and compromised. While the discourse has been developing in the past few years – its health has weakened and the cause defeated.

A landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India – M.C.Mehta vs. Union of India, (W.P Civil No.860 of .1991) ordered that environment awareness be raised through media and academics. As these orders were not brought forth by the government, a review petition was filed in 2003 (2003(10) SCALE 100b) against several State Governments for not complying with the Supreme Court orders of 1991. This ruling was much more comprehensive containing detailed directives on Environmental Education that was to be taught in schools and colleges all over India. Environment Education is now a compulsory subject for most courses with the University Grants Commission (UGC) and National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) having framed a ‘detailed’ syllabus on ‘Environment Studies’

The course comprises of eight units which are of a multidisciplinary nature - On Environmental significance, Natural Resources, Ecosystems, Biodiversity and its Conservation, Environmental Pollution, Social issues and the Environment, Human populations and the Environment and a field trip. All set in theory, reality as we realized is something else. And, this is how we see it.

The UGC’s vision nostalgically reads that “It is now even more critical than ever before for mankind as a whole to have a clear understanding of environmental concerns and to follow sustainable development practices”. Keeping that in mind, it can be argued that Environment Education in our country is diseased with two basic flaws- at the conceptual level and at the implementation level.

At the conceptual level, the approach adopted regarding Environment Education is for its name sake. While its careful terminologies are appreciable, it has marked loopholes. A casual interaction with several college students tells us that many of them do not know that they are supposed to study environment as part of their curriculum. Unlike Engineering, students of other professional courses like Medicine and Law do not read the environment. Amongst the students who read it, how it is taught and how we study it is laughable. For instance, hardly a few colleges in Delhi University teach courses on environment, the pattern of which does not include all the topics that are supposed to be incorporated. Similar is the case with many other universities in our country. A student of Pune University jokes that for the field trip they were taken to the hill behind their college and “Everyone went there just for the sake of compulsory attendance!”

A critical aspect that is missing is that, the classroom teaching lacks the other side of the story of the several policies which the government boasts of. The underhanded conspiracies of the pollution regulating institutions in India, the several ‘anti-people’ draconian Environment ’protection’ Acts that have been passed and the failures in the current situation of many government projects is cautiously eclipsed in the syllabus . In such a scenario a civil engineer can only be expected to come up with a gigantic dam, he may never know how to treat its disastrous consequences.

Lastly, the flaw which can be called the ‘nail-in-the-coffin’ is that teachers and policy makers have failed to understand or simply ignored the sociological perspective to our environment. Many colleges reduce environment to technical terminology disengaging nature with the socio-economic aspects of the environment. With such vital defects students cannot be expected to develop a rich knowledge of environment and its issues in this country. As aptly remarked by Dr. Rohan D’Souza, Assistant Professor, Centre for Studies in Science Policy JNU, “We are victims of an Education system that constantly puts us in isolation.” ‘Agenda For Survival has taught us to realize that the Environment can never be looked at in Isolation again. It could just be the beginning to an end!

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By - Aldrina, Anubhuti, Anjor, Lakshmi
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