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Disseminating Environmental Values and Ethics through Higher Education in India.

S.S.PENDSE

. Tolani College of Commerce, Andheri East, Mumbai

Abstract: In the present times, we often come across reports that make us think seriously about
what is happening to our planet and its natural systems. We read about the earth summit, Kyoto
Protocol, Montreal Protocol and many other such summits and agreements, aimed at protecting
our environment. Are we really aware about what all this is about. Efforts are being made all
over the world to protect our environment, possible measures and opportunities are being
explored. These efforts have to focus on restoring and preserving the biologically diverse
environment and manage human activities in a way that will increase biological diversity and
complexity.

Imagine the common man understanding his connections to the natural world and
knowing where products and services come from, knowing where wastes go, and knowing what
they do to humans and other living species and how to minimize this ecological footprint. Our
ecological footprint (our impact on the earth) is invisible to most of us. We must make the
invisible, visible. The common man fails to understand the intricacies of environment and the
problems that he himself has created for him.

To paraphrase Einstein, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same
level of thinking we used when we created them." We must reinvent the world socially,
economically and environmentally. In effect, we must decouple social and economic progress
from environmental deterioration. The question is how do we create such a society? Who will be
the pall bearers of our future? What do we need to do? How do we do it? The answer lies in our
education. It is necessary that we need to change the mindset.

The change in mindset necessary to achieve this vision is a sustained, long-term effort to
transform education at all levels. The crisis we face is one of mind, perception and heart… It is
not a problem in education; it is a problem of education." Higher education plays a profound and
pivotal, but often overlooked, role in making this vision a reality. Higher education plays a
critical role in creating and disseminating the knowledge, skills and values for society. It
prepares most of the professionals who develop, lead, manage, teach, work in and influence
society's institutions.

The present syllabus on environment, prepared as per the University Grants Commission
(UGC), guidelines. Though it caters to the basic aim of environmental education, the question is
does it do so in realty. Certain questions do arise after we look at our students. Does the syllabus
really create environment consciousness? Does it provide the students about the basics of what
needs to be done and how it is to be done? Are we really able to achieve this? It is not necessary
that the syllabus must have a more human orientation and primary focus on understanding man-
environment relationship. It is also not necessary that the guidelines specify the aim and purpose
of teaching, which is rather vague and more generalized. We need to realize the basic intention
of introducing the subject and at the end what are we intend to achieve.
Disseminating Environmental Values and Ethics through Higher Education in India.

S.S.PENDSE.

Tolani College of Commerce, Andheri East, Mumbai

Today, we often come across reports about global warming, climate change, erratic and
severe natural disasters like floods, droughts, hurricanes etc. These incidences make us think
about what is happening to our planet and its natural systems. We come across summits and
agreements like the Earth Summit Kyoto Protocol, Montreal Protocol etc aimed at protecting our
environment. The basic question that arises is, are we really aware about what is all this about.
Do we know the reasons, the causes, their effects and more importantly what needs to be done
about it? Who are people who can be entrusted with the responsibility of protecting our
environment and in turn mankind itself?

Imagine the common man playing a dominant role in the efforts towards conserving and
protecting our environment. Imagine that there is a greater understanding amongst people about
their connections to the natural world and, knowing where products and services come from,
knowing where wastes go and knowing what these wastes can do to humans and other living
species and how to minimize this ecological footprint. Our ecological footprints invisible to most
of us but it must be made visible. In reality the common man fails to understand the intricacies of
environment and the problems that he himself has created for him. It is necessary that the
common man understands his role and responsibility towards his environment. Imagine future
scientists, engineers and business people designing technology and economic activities that
sustain rather than degrade the natural environment. To paraphrase Einstein, "The significant
problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking we used when we created
them." We must reinvent the world socially, economically and environmentally. In effect, we
must decouple social and economic progress from environmental deterioration.
For this it is necessary that all of us understand the man-environment relationship and the
importance of natural environment for man so as help to minimize his ecological footprint. This
will require a huge shift in thinking, values and action. One of the many ways is to create
awareness about this problem and more importantly provide ways and steps that one can take
towards achieving a society that is dedicated towards environmental protection. A society that
shows a rather rationale behaviour towards resource consumption, pollution and waste. How do
we create this society? The answer lies in higher education.

Role of Higher Education in creating Environmental Awareness:

To achieve an environmentally conscious society, it is necessary to change the mindset of


the people. The change in mindset necessary to achieve this vision which can be done through a
sustained, long-term effort to transform education at all levels. Despite the efforts of many
individuals and organizations, education for a just and sustainable world is not a priority in
formal education.

Efforts to define environmental education as a specific endeavour began in the 1960s.


They were given international support at the United Nations conference on the Human
Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. In India, the National Policy on Education was framed
in 1986. The policy states that the “protection of the environment” is a value which along with
certain other values, must from an integral part of the curriculum at all stages of education”. If
we look around we find that we have really not been able to do justice to these efforts. Our
studies in relation to environment have remained compartmentalized and there is an absence of
explicit ethics and values in teaching and learning environment and related issues, reinforcing
current inequitable and unsustainable worldview. As David Orr has said, "The crisis we face is
one of mind, perception and heart… It is not a problem in education; it is a problem of
education."

Higher education plays a profound and pivotal, but often overlooked, role in making this
vision a reality. It prepares most of the professionals who develop, lead, manage, teach, work and
influence society's institutions. Higher education plays a crucial role in creating and
disseminating the knowledge, skills and values for society. It has the necessary critical mass and
diversity to develop the very basics of environmental learning. Higher education needs to take
the lead in preparing students and providing the information and knowledge to achieve a just and
sustainable society.

It is required to bring about a change in the mindset from the higher most levels of policy
makers and planners to institutions, teachers and lastly the students. It is these students who will
be a vital link between the present and the future.

To begin with, the policy makers, although have defined the very purpose of introducing
environmental education, have probably failed to an extent as there is no clarity about is the
ultimate aim and how to achieve this aim of educating and creating environmental awareness.
India is culturally, socially and economically a diverse country. This results in differences in
understanding and perception of and about environment. If our education systems incorporates
certain local customs and traditions that reflect environmental consciousness, it can go a long
way to spread a more authenticate environmental awareness. The education system needs to be
tailored as per the local needs and perception, keeping the broad purpose in mind. For example
Indian customs and traditions like paying respects to forces of nature like the sun or the river are
today being looked at as being superstitious, but the very fact that our ancestors had understood
their role in sustaining life is being forgotten. If this is integrated with conventional curriculum it
can become more effective. The curriculum adaptability to different geographic, cultural, social
and economic contexts has to be built into the basic design of environment education. To quote
Kartikeya V. Sarabhai, “The saree is a designed piece of clothing worn all over India. Over the
years very beautiful designs, patterns and textures have been printed and woven into the Indian
Saree and yet, several thousand years of Indian history has not tried to stitch the saree. It is
worn in many ways and fits all sizes. It is equally good for working, dressing up or sleeping in.
This is a very different concept from that of designing, say, a well-stitched dress. The garment
either fits or doesn't fit and, where it fits, leaves little room for the wearer to be innovative in its
use”.

The curricula also should have a combination of past and present knowledge. One of the
best examples towards water conservation with help of traditional systems of that found in
Rajasthan where the traditional knowledge water harvesting systems was re-implemented the
famous ‘Johads” (ponds) under the leadership of Dr. Rajendra Singh. Once the higher education
is able to combine traditional knowledge with advances in science and technology, it can
undertake bold experiments in sustainable living.

The content of learning should embrace interdisciplinary systems to address


environmentally sustainable action on local, regional and global scales over short-, medium- and
inter-generational time periods. Compartmentalized knowledge without understanding its
connection to larger system will result in looking at the interdependent challenges—such as
population, consumption, economic, health and the environment—as separate and often
competing. This will result in narrow, ineffective solutions that are more harmful to people and
the environment.

Although our syllabus does address many of these aspects but rarely it is seen that the
relation between the quality and quantity of human population and its relation to economic
development, consumption of resources, and the environmental problems created in the entire
process of extraction, production, and consumption of resources is rarely emphasized upon.

The second role is that of the institutions that impart education. It is a huge setup and can
contribute by making themselves environmentally friendly. Make sustainability an integral part
of operations, purchasing and investments, and tie these efforts to the formal curriculum. The
institution like the University is at the apex of a larger setup and caters to large community and it
in itself is a large economic engine. If the university takes steps that are environmentally
friendly, it will demonstrate ways to make environmentally responsible behavior help to
reinforce desired values in the whole community. If the university uses the academic research
and resources of its faculty and students it will help the university to make better decisions
regarding its role in taking environmentally friendly steps in its system.

The institutions through its programs like the National Cadet Corps (NCC), National
Service Scheme (NSS), Cultural activities etc, can form partnership with the local and regional
communities, corporate and Non Government Organizations (NGOs) to make them socially
vibrant, to secure economic progress in a sustainable manner and thus contributing towards the
cause of environmental awareness and understanding their responsibility.
The third major role in the higher education system is that of the teachers. In the present
situation, the where the teachers and learners come from a variety of socio-economic
background, bringing in a common method of imparting knowledge becomes difficult. There is
need to focus on the context of learning, this would change the perception and will lead to a
better understanding of the man-environment interdependent relationship. The values and ethics
of environment must become a central part of teaching in all the disciplines, rather than isolated,
as a special course or module in programs for specialists. It is necessary that the students should
understand that we are an integral part of nature. They would understand the ecological services
that are critical for human existence and how to assess and minimize the ecological footprint of
human activity. The course content and the purpose of teaching will have to vary according to
the subject taught for example Chemistry to focus on chemical reactions in environment and
their effects on man and environment, biology to focus on relation between bio-diversity and
natural factors, effects on pollution on natural forces and its effect on plant and animal life etc,
even for students of law, the need for laws, limitations of existing laws and need to bring
changes in them has to be focused, engineering syllabus can contribute towards development of
eco friendly technologies etc. The Graduating students of the university will be equipped with
knowledge and values to demand environment-friendly products and services and know how to
help business create them.

The last role is that of the students. Today, we come across the young generation which is
often found to have a rather materialistic approach and want to get rich and succeed rapidly. It is
this young generation which has to be targeted which will bring about changes in environmental
conservation.

Although we have a syllabus in place to provide for environmental education, the


question is weather is it enough to achieve what we want to. Further the question that arises is we
really aware why are we teaching this subject? Are we really treating in a way where it will
inculcate environmental ethics and values, which in turn will make students, think about their
role in protecting the environment and how can they do it. There is need to do a more critical
thinking of what we aim to achieve by imparting environmental education to students, school or
undergraduate.
The three important aspects of students' environmental learning are:
• interdisciplinarity: the capacity to integrate knowledge derived from disciplines which
may have very different views as to what 'counts' as valid knowledge;
• values awareness: appreciation of the insights afforded by environmental philosophy and
ethics; along with the ability to recognize values that enter environmental debate via
supposedly 'value free' natural and social sciences -and, more generally, via aggregate
'learning context' of environmental higher education;
• critical thinking(or 'reasoning', or 'analysis'): in aggregate, the means to question and
reveal the contestable character of 'knowledge claims' advanced in relation to many
environmental questions; and to incorporate this critical awareness into their own
academic writing.

References:

• Anthony D Cortese: Education for Sustainability:Accelerating the Transition to


Sustainability Through Higher Education 1999
• Breiting, Søren: Sustainable development, Environmental Education and action
competence, Critical Environmental and Health Education. Research Issues and
Challenges, The Danish University of Education 2000.
• Davis Craig, Ed Current Issues in Environmental Education - IV: Selected Papers
from the Seventh Annual Conference of the National Association for
Environmental Education. 1978.
• Dernback, J.C. (2002) Stumbling toward sustainability. Environmental Law
Institute. p. 608.
• Huckle, J. and Sterling, S.R. (2006) Education for sustainability. Earthscan.
• Kartikeya V Sarabhai : Strategies in Environmental Education - Experiences from
India. 1985.
• Ministry of Environment and Forests, Traditions, Concerns and Efforts in India,
June 1992
• McKeown, R. (2002) “ Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit, retrieved
12/7/10.
• Pandya Mamata: Teacher Education for Environmental Education in India,
Occasional Paper, 3rd UNESCO/Japan Seminar on EE in Asia Pacific Region,
2000.
• Vrinda Manocha: Environmental Education: A Waste of Time and Paper,
http://theviewspaper.net/ retrieved 10/01/201 1
Bibliography:

• John Huckle, Stephen Sterling: Education for sustainability, Earthscan, 1996


• William Scott, Stephen Goug: Key issues in sustainable development and learning,
Routledge, 2003
• Joy Palmer, Environmental education in the 21st century, Rouledge 1998.
• Jones, P., Selby, D., Sterling, S. (2010) Sustainability Education: Perspectives and
Practice Across Higher Education. Renouf Publishing.
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• Li, Z., and Williams, M. (2006) Environmental and geographical education for
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Web Sites:

• http:// www.crle.org
• http:// www.hense.org
• www.ulsf.org
• www.greenteacher.org
• envfor.nic.in
.