Inclusion of Climate Change Education in the Indian Academic Curriculum

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals are a collection of 17interlinked global goals designed to be a "Blueprint to achieve a better andmore sustainable future for all"which is given by the United Nations.Goal 4 of Sustainable Development Goals aims to "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all." The quality of life of our future generations is highly dependent upon the quality of education that is imparted to the students today. As UNESCO also mentioned that education is a pivotal instrument to achieve not just the 4th goal of Quality education but also all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, education plays a vital role in addressing human problems.

Climate change refers to variations in global temperatures and weather that occur over time. This generally happens naturally but can also happen because of global warming caused by human activities. The United Nations SecretaryGeneral proclaimed that climate change to be the defining challenge of our time in 2008. It signalled the need for urgency and transformation in actions on local as well asthe global level to address the threat of potentialclimate change. The understanding of the threat of climate change has become much clearer since then. Addressing the issue of climate change is a crucial step towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

Current scenario

Climate change isone of the biggest challenges faced by the whole world right now. India is the seventh most affected nation by the devastating impacts of climate change has resulted according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 report in 2019. Environmental impacts influence individuals in developing excessively, undermining lives and jobs. The effect of environmental change is indistinguishable from our day to day routines in the present and the future. Therefore, being environmentally aware is the need of the hour.

India is one of the very few countries in the world where environmental education is compulsory in school education which was first introduced in the National Policy of Education in 1986. UGC also introduced a compulsory course on environmental studies for all undergraduate courses in 2016 throughout India. Despite this, 65% of the Indian population remains unaware of climate change as a problem. This is because the syllabus and curriculum introduced in schools and colleges do not address the immediate concerns of climate changeand mainly cover topics including wildlife protection, types of soils, environmental laws, and types of forests.

Recently conducted research shows that if 16% of school students receive climate change education, that will reduce almost 19 gigatonsof carbon dioxide by 2050. Imagine if 100% of students in the world received such an education, they could result in a decrease of 85 gigatonsof carbon dioxide by that period.

The academic curriculum of environmental education should improve the understanding of climate change and develop the necessary skills to mitigate its impact. It should talk about immediate problems, including greenhouse effects, health concerns from climate change, impacts of a changing climate, and other relevant topics. Beyond books, they should also be taught the ground reality by engaging students in directly solving real environmental problems around them. This is because educational methods are more successful when students are tested to identify the cause and effect relationship of a problem that they can relate to their life.

An equally important result of education on climate change is its potential to increase the capacity of young people to adapt to the harsh impacts of climate change by building necessary knowledge and a breadth of "green skills." For example, the youth of a countryneeds both a solid knowledge base around the causes of global warmingand also a robust set of skills that will help them apply their existing knowledge in the real world scenario, including problem-solving, empathy, critical thinking, teamwork, coping with uncertainty, and negotiation. Indeed, these very "transferable skills" are needed equally to thrive in the world of work and to be constructive and responsible citizens.

Research also shows that children have a powerful influence on their parents' views when it comes to such controversial topics as climate change and politics, and they can change their parents' resistance tospecific ideologies, which is very important because sustainability is the goal of the world as a whole and not just a particular age group.

1. Developing a union for action

Developing a coalition of different organizations that would bring in the resources and expertise could be an essential step to achieve the desired goal. The union can include technology companies that are willing to give their platforms and tools to support the cause, a government that would provide a partnership with other organizations of different countries working towards the same goal, funders who are willing to fund for the various off-campus activities, and research organizations that could capture and study the impact of the different activities that have been carried out to achieve the goal.

2. Training programs for teachers

Teachers need to be trained in training programs to ensure that they are able to understand the severity of climate change and help studentscomprehendclimate change and the importance of sustainability, its consequences, and the severity. For now, our education system is unmoved towards climate education. The subject is not taken thoughtfully, and the teachers ask the students to rot learn everything written in the textbook. It is high time that India adopts an environmental and climate education policy that works.

3. Personal connection

Practical knowledge is exceptionally crucial when it comes to climate education. Students will be able to relate and understand the severity of climate change only when the syllabus includes problems that students face in their daily lives. When students build a personal connection to climatic conditions and their solutions and understand how closely the problems of climate change are linked to their everyday lives and especially their future, it can impact their behavior and decision-making and work towards reducing their lifetime carbon footprint

4. Support students' creativity

In order to reach the ultimate goal that has been set forth, schools need to impart climate change education in every possible way and unleash the creativity of students to come up with new and impactful activities that would highly influence their peers. Once they participate in various activities organized in the curriculum, they will have a detailed understanding of the issue and bring newer and more effective ways to the table.

5. Participating in the Earth hour

Earth Hour is a worldwide movement organized every year on the last Saturday of March by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Millions of people worldwide join this movement by switching off their lights for one hour from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to support the environment and save the Earth. All the students around the world have become well acquainted with using virtual meeting apps like Zoom meetings, Google meets, and Microsoft teams to attend online lectures during the pandemic. Since the Earth hour happens in the evening at the time when students are not in their classes, the school can organize a virtual meeting for every class where the teachers and students can switch off all the lights of their homes and sit with their families in one room. In this way, the schools will be able to engage not only the students but also their families to be a part of the movement.

6. Formulate the academic theory of change

The primary aim of the academic theory for climate action should be quality climate change education that could lead to pro-environmental change amongst the students. The main topics that an environmental education curriculum has to include in order to bring about a changeare the basics about climate change and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, how it all began, the rising temperatures, its repercussions like melting of arctic ice, forest fires, extinction of species and loss of habitat for animals and humans.

7. Excursions

Schools should have a compulsory excursion to forests and riversides nearby and at the same time also visit the rivers that turned into sewers and areas that turned into dump yards. Practically witnessing the hazards of disposal of single-use plastics and the repercussions of irresponsible human activities of handling wastes from a young age will empower them to become agents for climate change in the present and make responsible decisions in the future.

8. Relevant documentaries and movies

Research shows that an average human brain has an attention span of merely 7-8 seconds, and many students respond better to movies and stories than to reading books or listening to lectures with facts and statistics. Videos and stories are magical tools that leave an everlasting impact on the human brain. Making students watch movies and documentaries like I am Greta,Years of Living Dangerously, Earth: The Operator's Manual, Meltdown, Chasing Ice, and Before the Flood would leave an impression on the unconscious mind of the students and would bring a change in their decision making.

9. Internships and workshops

The school can arrange internships or workshops with the municipal corporation, For the students who have additional interest in this field. During the workshop or internship, the student can work closely with the municipal corporation workers and see how the city manages the waste. Moreover, this will also help the students to understand the importance of door-step segregation of waste, which has become a very vital step in the waste management process of a city.

10. Banning single-use plastic

Single-use plastic is so omnipresent that we often do not even register its existence. Single-use plastic in school canteens is a cheap and convenient way to eat and also requires minor preparation and clean up. Banning the use of single-use plastic in the canteen,including straws, water bottles, disposable plastics bowls, forks, and spoons,and in the whole school would provide an opportunity for students to challenge the need for single-use plastics and promote the use of sustainable alternatives.

11. Tree plantation drive

Various studies have revealed that trees not only help in mitigating the effects of climate change but also play a critical role in the mental and physical well-being of humans, improve the attention span and also help in improving test scores of students. Therefore, tree plantation activity will provide opportunities for environmental education for students and would inculcate in them a sense of belongingness towards the trees that they have planted themselves

12. Awareness drive

An environmental awareness drive can be conducted by the school, which would not only change the way students act but also change the way they think. The students can be given one mark (out of 20 marks allocated to this activity) for every way in which they save the environment or replace the use of plastic. Examples could include a beach cleanliness drive, walk-to-school campaign, recycling campaign, using substitutes of plastic including bamboo toothbrushes, metal straws, and paper/ cloth bags for groceries, conducted by the students. Initially, this assignment can seem cumbersome for the students, but once they start working towards it, they will bewitnessing multiple ways in which they can save the environment and how their small initiatives could bring a considerable change in mitigating the impact of climate change

13. Weightage of marks

Students are often driven by scoring high marks in school and do not prefer participating in activities that do not carry marks. Out of the 100 marks weightage that is given to the environmental studies subject, 40 should be allotted to theory, and 60 should be allotted to practical, which would show the importance of practice over theory in the subject. This would ensure high participation and would also make students take the practical activities seriously.High participation and enthusiasm amongst the students can motivate schools to implement and carry out more practical activities on campus that are not present in the curriculum.

14. Debates and group discussions

Institutes can organize activities like group discussions, extempore, and debates about topics around sustainability and climate change. This will ensure students get a platform to discuss and voice out their personal opinions about the issue and propose creative solutions to the problem. This would also impart knowledge and influence the mindset of the listeners

15. Celebration of Earth Day

Earth day is celebrated on the 22nd of April every year. It revolves around the theme ‘Restore our Earth’ and is celebrated to raise awareness for the environment. By celebrating Earth Day, the students can be a part of over 1 billion people who participate in this every year. Schools can celebrate the Earth Day by organizing a sign-making activity for students in the classrooms. Students can make creative signs that could include, “Do not forget to turn off the lights”, which will be stuck under every switchboard of the school, “Use both sides of the paper”, to be put in all the classrooms, and “Turn off the tap, save water” sign for all the sinks and washrooms. The schools can also organize a Do It Yourself (DIY) competition for the best out of waste or sustainable plastic substitutes.

The one and the only way to achieve an ideal society is to make one ourselves by working positively towards societal development. Being environmentally aware and alert is the need of the hour because although climate change is pervasive and monumental, but it is stealthy and invisible and is generally put aside under the daily pressures of life. There is a growing force to harness the power of education to achieve sustainable development andadapt and mitigate climate change challenges worldwide. This would ensure that the youth of a country developcritical thinking, problemsolving, and collaborative skills to take the actions needed. Students have to be empowered to become change agents for sustainability in their school, community, and beyond. Climate change can be mitigated and adapted through careful study and an attitude of care and responsibility.

Janhavi Agarwal

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