The good news and the bad

Environment is going to be taught as a compulsory subject at the undergraduate level. But does anyone know how to go about it?

Published: Friday 31 March 2000

This is news that can be termed both good and bad. Environment educators aren't exactly overjoyed. They all face a peculiar problem. Whenever they go to a school to talk about environmental education the principal immediately summons the biology teacher.

It is simple. Schools, the ministry of education, academics all think of environment in terms of biology and zoology. The moment this word is mentioned, children put up their hands and yell, " tigers!"

For them the environment is only pretty landscapes, trees and tigers. Not the air they breathe, not the water they drink, not the changing climate.

There is obviously something going wrong here. Making environment education compulsory will not solve the problem. It seems relevant environment education material for students and teacher is still to be produced. There is the larger question - the study of environment has to be linked with development issues. Are teachers well acquainted with such issues? Or does the government need to start a programme to train teachers before they are allowed to get down to the business of teaching? Environment education in universities is dealt with only from a biology/zoology point of view. There is no attempt to study environment from a socio-economic point of view. To be understood for what it is, the study of environment must also be linked to development issues. The connection between the two has to be explored and understood.

Then there are certain environmental management issues at stake which are not understood very well and cannot be studied under the sciences approach. How local communities manage their water in water scarce areas is one of these. How forest dwellers are not poachers and timber smugglers but contribute to the upkeep of the forest is another.

Environment is an interdisciplinary field. Taught in isolation, in the manner that is being conceived today, it is a dead duck.

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