Saturday, September 25, 2010

Environmental Education

Every time during the examinations, we students grumble incessantly about E.V.E. Everybody has the same complaint, “This is such a BORING subject! What good does this do to anyone?” Even teachers do not like E.V.E. much. They teach it because they don’t have much of a choice in the matter. For sometime now, I have been wondering about this myself. I have been trying to jot down a few points in my mind that would justify the existence of this subject. But then, I cannot think of any reason other than that it is supposed to make us aware about our environment. 

I suppose this reason would have been good enough if a lot of positive results could be seen since the introduction of this subject in schools. However, I do not see how this subject has been helpful in forming a better environment. There haven’t been many noticeable changes around me whose credit would go to E.V.E. I can vouch for my town in this matter. There are still many unattended garbage dumps, and the students still don’t hesitate before throwing their chocolate wrappers on the road. In almost every E.V.E. class, we learn about the harmful consequences of plastics, but hardly anyone refuses a plastic packet when shopping. Students still forget to switch off fans and lights while leaving a room, and a running tap is a very regular sight everywhere. Even people who score above eighty percent in E.V.E. do not stick to the rules and safety measures that they had learnt up during the examinations. When it comes to practice, those rules can be shot to hell.

Even the teaching of this subject is done in a bland stale manner. In every class, the chapters are read aloud, sometimes by a single girl, and sometimes by the entire class in unison. E.V.E. is one of the most popular classes when it comes to dozing or completing homework of other subjects. Every year, we have the same lessons. Apart from a few new terms, what we learn is the same. There is such a lack of new lessons. We do not do much of practical work in this subject. The best that we do is make clay models of ecosystems, or write about the types of pollutions and the ways of reducing them. In our school, we have a ‘Spice Club’. Only girls of classes nine and ten are allowed to be its member. It is supposed to be an environment awareness club, but we never seem to see what they do. Nothing noticeable happens, or at least we never come to know of anything done by them.

If the board removed this subject all of a sudden, there would be quite a lot of celebration among the students and the teachers alike. I suppose there was a very noble idea behind the introduction of this subject, but the idea doesn’t seem to be working out. It has just become a useless load for the students and teachers. In any case, I believe that the most important environmental awareness lessons are learnt at home. If the parents do not bother about keeping the environment clean, and if they are not keen on making sure that their children do the same, no amount of E.V.E. at school could make significant changes in the child’s character. How can anyone expect a child whose parents regularly waste water, paper and electricity to be an environment-friendly person?


Shilpi said...


Good to see you back. I’ve been wondering about this post of yours. What does E.V.E stand for, by the way? Environmental Education?

You’re right about the noble idea behind introducing the subject – the hope is/was probably to make students more aware about their environment. And you’ve hinted at the ways that the subject could be made more interesting. It could have been organized so that you could engage in some hands-on activities – going out for walks around parks and some places near-by, planting trees, seeing plants coming alive in a plot in maybe even the school gardens, understanding how a clean town is better than an unclean one (I can’t really imagine, and for lots of reasons, students being taken out to clean up a small part of the town), realizing that garbage created has to go somewhere…among other things.

And if all of that were impossible – maybe there could have been some documentary clips that could have been shown during class hours. Maybe some discussions on news clips and including some reflective essays on the environment/nature, poverty, water-use…and debates on why the environment matters could have been arranged to make the classes more interesting and relevant and to get one thinking why humans have to take care of our environment. But then even here there is a problem, I guess. Finding the documentaries and other material and showing them in class – for one thing…

Much of the basic training (not leaving the lights switched on, not wasting water, re-using old stuff for other odd-jobs – even brushing one’s teeth) does take place through the nurturing of habits through our formative years – things we do because we are told to until we do them automatically and then at some point, and for some things, we realise that the habits are neither silly nor meaningless. And here you’re absolutely right – it’s an uphill battle if most children see things being wasted and bad habits being practiced by their own parents.

But then again I’m left wondering for the nth time (and I know your dad has written about the same). Maybe education as it is today can only tell us how to do something and what to do. Yet - and you've noticed – it’s the ‘why’ that is also important. Why should people care? Why should people maintain things as basic as clean surroundings, not leave fans whirring and lights switched on, and not leave water taps running – leave alone actively taking care of the environment? And all this when many so-called educated human beings don’t even think that other human beings around them deserve consideration or respect. And sure, the level of awareness about different behaviours differs across societies – but I really can’t help wondering by how much and whether the “much” is enough. How does one begin to think about the why and find a reason and an answer that satisfies one?...maybe though that is what good teachers and good parents and even good friends do – they get one thinking about the ‘why’....

“Spice Club”? Spice Club! Of all the names in the world.

A terribly long comment here Pupu, and I’m still wandering around in my head - my apologies. I’ve been obsessing over the question of how to get students to read some books, write, and think a little more…so your post fits in with my thoughts. More some other day.
Take care.

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Pupu,

E.V.E was considered to be a waste of time when I was in school too. More is the pity because I wonder, would people have cared about the environment and that most basic of rules: No littering. But then again I am not so sure.


On My Way to Meet The Macaw... said...

Dear Urbi,
It is really a pity that E.V.E classes encourage students to either doze off, or complete homework of some other subject. It has been the same for so many years. The projects that are assigned, and are expected to be done with interest, are either blindly copied down from the book or from Wikipedia. I wish school- teachers had taken a bit more pain to make things seem interesting; their banal tutelage doesn't let learning be a pleasure. I however don't blame them completely. Realization is such a dying out phenomenon these days.