As a precursor to developing EcoUniv’s environmental education framework, we would like to visit the overall concept of educational frameworks.
We believe educational frameworks are created from one of these two driving factors:
- A societal need or problem, or the society’s structure needs a particular type of education imparted to a person, and the educational system is either set up or gets created to fulfill that. Let’s call this need-based educational frameworks. In such a system, it is more likely that the individual become more compliant to the society’s norms and is less likely to challenge them. Fresh thinking and innovation may happen, but within larger set boundaries.
- An educational thinker or philosopher thinks about one or more of the deeper questions of what it means to be a human being, what is a fulfilling life, what is personal growth, how should children go through an educational experience towards being a complete human being, and so on, and develops an original theory and framework of education. Often such a thinker sets up experimental schools as a demonstration of his/her ideas. Let’s call this human-centric educational frameworks.
Examples of need-based educational frameworks are
- The rote educational system which has become commonplace after industrialization in most countries, feeding specialist professionals to the world economy, e.g. engineers, doctors, accountants, scientists, business managers, etc.
- The modern vocational, particularly technical, skills education systems in place in most countries, which is meant to feed skilled but low to mid-salaried workers to the industrial and consumer economy. E.g. carpenters, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, shop floor workers, etc
- When a society like USA realizes that to keep up its technological leadership, it must come up with systems and processes to encourage STEM education (Science, Tech, Engg, Mathematics), which in principle is no different than similar such educational processes set up in cold-war era Soviet, or post-1990s China.
- The vocational schools in pre-colonial Indian villages. To an extent they preserved the social structure articulated in the Chaturvarnya concept. Thus access to comprehensive worldly knowledge was not freely available to all groups except the privileged ones, but nevertheless the system served the resilient agrarian village economies by preserving specialist vocational skills over generations.
Examples of human-centric educational frameworks are
- Montessori system
- Waldorf system
- Krishnamurti schools
- Schools driven by the overall philosophy of constructivism
- Unschooling movements
Once in a while there is a framework, which aims to fulfill BOTH the society’s needs (especially economic needs) and attempts to be human-centric in its own way while offering new ideas. Examples include
- Gandhi’s Buniyadi Shiksha.
When we delve on these educational frameworks of past and present, we at EcoUniv wonder, what is it that we can possibly contribute, in our own little way?
Our proposed environmental education framework at EcoUniv is borne out of these pressing observations:
- The economic system we have today exploits natural resources at a much faster rate than they can be replenished. The system also creates intense inequality, and worse, accepts it as a necessary evil for growth. Human actions have polluted local and global commons, often to a point beyond repair, threatening all biodiversity, natural ecosystems, and human survival itself.
- The pressing need of the hour is that of human capital which recognizes the above and tries to reverse the damage. This will be possible only if education includes the holistic perspective towards the environment.
- Environmental education as taught today in schools is in bits and pieces across science and geography classes. It does not serve the objective of transformational change. For this, we need to review the entire spectrum of man-nature relationship in space and time and impart learning of natural sciences in a holistic way, including ecology and economics.
- Education itself is getting rapidly globalized, be it content, language of instruction, or teaching tools. The portion spent on local ecologies and climate, local resources and land use, local biodiversity, local aspects of man-nature relationships is on decline.
- Indeed, most education, including that coming from humanistic education frameworks mentioned above, still supplies human capital to the industrial economy, rather than attempting to create or strengthen the paradigm of sustainability.
- Excellent efforts have been done by NGOs and other government-funded projects to introduce environmental content in school education. But considering the scale of the challenge, they are still weak. Most of the work has been around teacher training and creating activities, which are essential but not sufficient in view of the challenge. In particular, no attempt has been made to coach teachers about the holistic perspective, the rapid erosion of natural resources, sustainability concepts, and the transformational change required. Secondly, parents’ involvement is still not considered a serious component of environmental education. Thirdly, these activities do not always link environmental concepts to livelihood and economic changes needed to realize sustainability.
At EcoUniv, our aim will be to address the above shortcomings by creating a more comprehensive framework.