Environment, no longer a sideshow

12 Sep

National Council of Educational Research and Training ( NCERT), the apex curriculum setter in India, in its latest guideline, has allocated scores toenvironment education in the school-leaving examinations. As per its guidelines, assessments now will no longer be based on the conventional ‘study-text-books : write-examination’ mode but on how active the examinee has been ‘on the ground.’

Sumita Dasgupta, programme director, environment education unit, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and editor, Climate Change & Natural Resources: A Book of Activities for Environmental Education, recently published by CSE, explains, “The book is in response to this new and exciting development.

In a scenario where every single mark is viewed as a stepping stone to a future career, there could not have been a more significant move. The age group that the book targets is from 12-16 years. The issues and related sets of activities in the book go beyond such boundaries. They are relevant to anyone who wants to ‘do’ something about the current state of affairs.” Environment education, which was never a part of the formal grading system in schools – was either wedged between the pages of chemistry or history textbooks, or used to be a common theme of all extra-curricular activities – has been appearing in different avatars in India’s education arena. However, post the new guideline, it has undergone a fundamental change.

“Environment has ceased to be a sideshow now. But it can only be truly relevant if each and every member of the student community feels connected to it and begins to realise that the environment is not only about distant glaciers, mountains and forests, but that they too have a key role to play in it. Our curriculum has to focus on this particular aspect,” Dasgupta points out.

DESIGNING CONTENT

Treating environment as a living, breathing and ‘doing’ subject is not a task that teachers have been trained to perform, and there are no ready resources available in the form of text or reference books that fit easily in this mould. “But as always, teachers have risen stoutly to the occasion and come up with remarkable ideas to turn environment into a tangible, ‘grade-able’ entity. This book is an attempt to lend these teachers a helping hand,” says Dasgupta.

The book features the eco-guru , Pandit Gobar Ganesh, as the storyteller and has two main sections, ‘Climate Change: how to make sense of it all’ and ‘Natural Resources: how to share and care.’ The key issues selected in the content adhere strictly to curriculum guidelines. They are, however, introduced to students not as a paragraph to memorise, but as an activity to be done.

ENGAGING STUDENTS

The book has skits that are spicy, funny conversations between Panditji and two teenagers, Shamik and Godhuli, who are like the girl or boy next door, so that every reader can relate to them. They express their exasperation over being forced to read about climate change, but gradually get hooked as they get to know more.

“Environmental issues have to be introduced to students in a fun-to-read mode. They have to know from the outset that these are linked directly with their everyday lives. Otherwise they would label the subject as ‘boring text-book stuff’ and set the book aside,” concludes Dasgupta.

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