The environmental challenge for the country and for the entire world is climate change, but this will not be achieved without correct information among children and young people, who are the ones who are going to face a planet different from that of their predecessor generations.
Despite being highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, climate change education at the school level in India is still in its infancy. While environmental education has been part of the curriculum since the 1980s, there is a significant gap in understanding of the climate emergency among Indians.
However, studies show that most Indian students recognize the importance of studying climate change and environmental conservation. Given the United Nations' recognition of education as a fundamental tool to address climate change, the integration of climate change education into school curricula becomes imperative to enhance learning and foster a deep understanding of the subject among students.
According to an Epsons group survey, 73.4% of Indians are optimistic about avoiding a climate crisis in their lifetime, but a Brainly study found that 79% of Indian students feel it is important to study climate change and The conservation of the environment.
The United Nations has also emphasized the importance of education in addressing climate change, while a San Jose State University study found that even if only 16% of high school students in high- and middle-income countries received education on climate change, there could be a reduction of almost 19 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050.
Importance of comprehensive curriculum
Although some boards of education in India briefly mention climate change in their syllabus, it is not enough to raise awareness of the seriousness of the situation.
There is a lack of progressive and structured courses that teach specific content relevant to climate change in school education. Therefore, there is a need for an innovative curriculum that meets the age of the students, gradually building knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that allow them to make informed decisions and undertake individual and collective actions in the face of the climate emergency.
There are many reasons why climate change education should be part of the school curriculum.
First, it is important that students understand the science of climate change. They need to know what is causing climate change, what the effects of climate change are, and what we can do to address it.
Second, climate change education can help students develop critical thinking skills. They must be able to evaluate the information presented to them and make informed decisions about climate change.
Third, climate change education can help students become more engaged citizens. They must be aware of the climate crisis and must be willing to take action to address it.
It is essential that the Indian government prioritize climate change education and allocate adequate time and resources to develop and implement climate change-related policies and strategies.
Climate change education should be integrated into educational plans and budgets and introduced as a graded subject at all levels of school education. Initially, it could be included as an extracurricular subject and then gradually introduced as a stand-alone subject with appropriate impact evaluation and feedback.
Curriculum Concerns and the Way Forward
In July last year, Teachers Against the Climate Crisis (TACC) expressed concern that the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) had removed crucial chapters on the environment and climate change from the school curriculum.
TACC noted the removal of a chapter on the greenhouse effect from the Class XI Geography syllabus, as well as the removal of a chapter on weather, climate and water from the Class VII syllabus, and information on the monsoon of the Class IX curriculum.
Urgent Call for Climate Education
The Indian government is urged to make climate change education a priority in schools. This comes as scientists warn that climate change is a major threat to the planet and urgent action is needed to address it.
Proponents of climate change education argue that it is essential that students learn about the causes and effects of climate change. They say this knowledge will enable students to make informed decisions about their own lives and take action to address the climate crisis.
There are several ways to incorporate climate change education in schools. One option is to add a new subject to the curriculum. Another option is to integrate climate change education into existing subjects, such as science and social studies.
Climate change education can also be delivered through extracurricular activities, such as clubs and student government. These activities can help students learn about climate change and take action on it.
The Indian government has a responsibility to educate its citizens about climate change. By making climate change education a priority in schools, government can help ensure the next generation is prepared to tackle this critical issue.
Can India learn from other countries?
Several countries, including Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Argentina, have recognized the importance of integrating climate change education into their school curricula. The World Economic Forum report highlights the proactive approach of these countries towards climate education.
In Cambodia, climate change has been incorporated into the earth sciences curriculum for upper secondary schools in 2020. The curriculum provides students with knowledge about climate change, including key approaches and technologies.
15 pilot schools were selected to participate in practical projects such as tree planting and climate-smart agriculture, fostering a practical understanding of environmental issues.
Similarly, Argentina took a significant step towards environmental education by passing the National Comprehensive Environmental Education Law in 2021. This law mandates the inclusion of environmental education at all age levels in schools. By integrating environmental issues into the curriculum, Argentina seeks to equip students with the necessary knowledge and awareness to effectively address environmental challenges.
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