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Educators Jan-Mar-2020 The Next World

Is Transformative Environmental Education the Need of the Hour?

Manalisa Sarmah
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Environmental activism by school students across the globe has taken many adults by surprise. However, this form of activism has not taken deeper roots in the school campuses. In an age, where environmental destruction has risen on an unprecedented scale, schools and other educational institutions can’t remain inactive. Therefore, creating a curriculum suitable for students so that they are able to not only understand the future of our earth but also produce knowledge about their habitats is the need of the hour.

Revisiting the Existing Curriculum for Sustainable Development

A  fully developed and well-researched curriculum on environmental education has to recognise the contributions of students, parents, teachers, administrators and local communities in developing collaborative knowledge practices. More than exploring new paradigms in education, environment and global citizenship, it is about drawing on a wealth of novel experiences from across the globe and broadening our perspectives on the green curriculum. Most importantly, allowing students to venture beyond the physical space of the classroom requires teachers to let ‘nature’ serve as their guide. Such an inclusive approach to learning reflects the view that nature is not to be treated as an external entity, which can be easily conquered and subjugated to people’s whims. Instead, it can be seen as a beacon of learning and hope to each of the stakeholders involved in the co-production of knowledge. For example, Green School International, an environmentally conscious school system in Bali, Indonesia, has attempted to co-create a school with the help of  various stakeholders. This group is now planning to conduct similar experiments in New Zealand and South Africa by 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Importance of Entrepreneurial Learning – The Green School International Story

Nestled in the quietude of nature, the Green School in Bali resembles an eco-resort to any outside observer. Founded in 2008, this wall-less school is made entirely out of bamboo (a biodegradable material) and powered by solar panels.  The school’s founders, John Hardy and Cynthia Hardy, who are committed environmentalists, firmly stood by three principles while designing the school – ‘be local’, ‘let the environment be everyone’s guide’ and ‘let everyone envision how their actions will affect posterity’. 

It has been designed, keeping in mind the Whole-School Sustainability Framework. This framework is founded on the principle that schools have to integrate sustainability into all aspects of their organisation. The three components of any school – organisational culture, physical location and educational programme – play a vital role in aligning themselves with the vision of sustainability. For this to happen, they must be supported by inter-departmental collaboration and effective communication policies. The green-school curriculum followed here is not only about driving transformation but also embracing sustainable architecture and instilling an entrepreneurial spirit in students and teachers alike. 

A comprehensive hands-on curriculum which supports global sustainability is envisaged and delivered in the Green School with the aim of helping students 

→ explore their natural surroundings, 
→ lobby the Balinese government to ban plastic bags,
→ collaborate with visiting Master’s students from the University of Cologne, Germany to reshape the school’s renewable energy system.

Lessons to Take Forward

What schools need today is a passionate community of learners who have the zeal and intelligence to understand the 21st-century realities of massive and widespread ecological devastation and the ensuing casualties. This can set an important precedent for new ways of thinking and devising eco-friendly solutions to save their natural surroundings. Entrepreneurship allows students to work with like-minded people in an environment of creativity and exploration. They should be driven by a purpose, which is more to do with their involvement in the real-world than passive learning. Therefore, within the learning ecosystem of any school, teachers need to co-produce a course with their students to follow the best practices of environmental awareness and sustainability, as our example of the Green School International shows. At the same time, teachers need not shy away from imparting discipline-based competencies and values needed in an ever-changing world to the students.

Manalisa Sarmah
Manalisa Sarmah

Manalisa Sarmah is a copywriter at Next Education Pvt. Ltd. She has completed her MPhil in Sociology from the University of Hyderabad. She has worked on different educational projects with Hope Foundation and Adhyayan respectively. Her interest areas include reading, creative writing, and travelling.

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