Any need for 'qualified environment educators'?
By Kush Kalra and Vivek Dahiya

Newspaper advertisements call for a sports or, English teacher with specific qualifications. Not so for teachers teaching environment. Generally, environment as a subject is taught by surplus faculty in an institution, a worrying trend.

The Punjab High Court in its order dated February 24, 2011 held that all educational institutions must have environmental education as a compulsory subject. The High Court has also ordered that every movie theatre should show environmental rushes to increase environmental awareness.

It also held that Doordarshan and Akashwani centres should screen and feature environmental related infomercials once a week on national channels. The Court held that the implementation of its orders is the responsibility of the government. On December 22, 1991, the Supreme Court ordered all senior public relation officers to check whether all movie theatres are screening environmental content in between movie screenings.

M.C. Mehta, a prominent environmental lawyer, is of the opinion that students need more exposure to scientific basis of environment and pollution control. He suggested regular classes and a prescribed number of practical sessions, and also suggested that question papers should be set by universities / boards. Environment education must be made compulsory, and graded. If this subject is taught by the teachers of other subjects, it is illegal and violation of the Supreme Court order.

Environment as a subject must be taught at all levels of education to increase awareness. We cannot achieve the motive behind making this a compulsory subject without placing some emphasis on appointing expert teachers in environmental sciences.

“Environment as a subject is not taught properly,” said Naresh Bhardwaj, director of Green Earth, and environmental NGO.

He said that a teacher assigned to teach environment is able to create some curiosity among students that helps them understand the subject better. It is natural for students to give importance to those subjects whose marks are added in the marksheet. All students are concerned about their overall percentage in these competitive times, Bhardwaj points out.

He also suspects the motivation of designated environment teachers in schools. “Some teachers give students marks without even checking their paper,” he said.

Bhardwaj suggests there should be 45 classes and five practical sessions for environment studies in school curriculum. But in most schools and colleges, this is far from real. Only a few environmental classes are held and there is very little importance given to practical sessions.

He also said environment projects are widely available for sale. In particular, practical ‘projects’ on environment, which can be bought from willing students for as little as rupees hundred.

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