Environmental Education: A Waste of Time and Paper

With the ongoing debate of climate change and global warming, their effects on global economies and more importantly on society, one would consider that Environmental Education should be given emphasis as an area of study for high school students. That is perhaps what the Indian Government thought when it introduced EVE in the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations syllabus in 2007. The initiative was excellent. However, the execution left a lot to be desired.

For the most part, India’s education system focuses primarily on rote learning and written tests and the pressure is on for students from classes 10-12 to pull up their marks. The introduction of an entirely new subject, along with the burdens that Physic, Chemistry and Maths are did not go over well with the student community. To add to their frustration was the introduction of text books with chunks of repetitive text, irrelevant pictures and information that they had learnt as kids, with more technical terms thrown in for good measure. These text books were not updated. Carbon credits, the polluter pays principle and other emerging concepts were given just a passing mention, though they might turn out to be important concepts of pollution control in the near future.

A stressed student will not find technical jargon mixed in with lower grade school chapters easy to study. And why is EVE taught for marks anyway? Would India’s list of biodiversity hotspots and non-specific chapters on pollution help a student understand the problems that humanity faces today and how he/she can be a part of the solution?

As a student who feels strongly about the environment, studying these half-heartedly presented concepts was truly frustrating and saddening. Teachers were not really equipped to teach this subject and many other faculty members consider it a joke, unworthy of the attention that could be otherwise turned to more ‘worthwhile’ subjects. This mindset filtered down from teacher to student and EVS was pushed to the backburner and left there.

There are so many ways to teach a subject which actually has a relevance to things that are happening around us everyday. It would be so much better to give students a hands-on experience by teaching them how to make their campuses green, by showing them relevant documentaries and movies and letting them work with NGOs. Testing them on their teamwork would be more worthwhile than judging them on their ability to cram statistics into their heads.

Although, every student will cram his way through the exam, it’s a major blow to find out that many colleges don’t even consider the EVE marks for admissions. You can practically see the speech bubble over the student’s head’ ‘What a waste of time and effort’, especially in India, where marks are the be-all and end-all of success and a good college education.

All that aside, I think that learning environmentally relevant information should be done in such a way to retain that information when board exams are just a distant memory. A probable situation today would be that of a topper leaving on the lights and littering in public places which would only confirm the futility of Environmental Education. It doesn’t get much more hopeless than that. It is time for a change.

Vrinda Manocha