As per the orders of the Honorable Supreme court, the subject of Environmental Studies was introduced as a compulsory subject in 2003 at the undergraduate level in all the streams. Supreme Court directed the Universities to include Environmental Studies in their curricula. As initially not many universities complied, the UGC set the academic year 2004-2005 as the deadline for introducing the environmental studies course. Although some Universities have included and efforts are on to persuade the others. However, as far as the inclusion of the subject in schools is concerned, the states and their examination boards can only take the decision. The idea was that the multidisciplinary course will be useful in imparting knowledge to undergraduates from all educational backgrounds and will not only provide better understanding of environmental issues at the local, regional and global levels but will also sensitize them towards the environment. Recently,dia, University Grants Commission with the help of an expert committee has framed 8 units module syllabus for Ability Enhancement Compulsory Courses (AECC-Environmental Studies) under CBCS.
The objective behind the order was to raise the environmental conscience and consciousness among the young citizens so that they may realize the importance of environment for human well being. Sustainability issues related to environmental management are more frequently discussed and corporations are engaging more with sustainability matters now. Due to this, global environmental problems such as decline in biodiversity, environmental pollution, waste generation and climate change have become very important. It is next to impossible for Indian companies to ignore the environmental consequences of their actions. In view of this, the syllabus was well framed and included all the pertinent issues, which are quite relevant in the present context.
Despite, the optimistic intentions, the results are not far reaching today. In the higher education as a subject with less emphasis on actual learning outcomes. The situation is really grim as far as ground realities are concerned. Most of the teachers who are hired do not have the required expertise. Teachers with background in chemistry, geography, biology and even mathematics are teaching the subject. Government colleges do not have the necessary infrastructure and. Even in the pollution control boards like CPCB and SPCB, the expert environmental science professionals are not appointed.
In view of these loopholes, several teachers and environmental professionals are demanding good quality structure of environmental studies syllabus and the necessary means of providing the education. Many researchers and educators have explored the autonomy and qualifications of those teaching the course, the teaching methods and materials used, and the attitudes and levels of interest among students. Studies have indicated that at most of institutes, the teachers follow the prescribed syllabus and the recommended textbook only. They do not use their own methodology and give no inputs of their own. Lecture method is primarily used with hardly any field visits undertaken despite the fact that project work is an essential component of the syllabus.
To meet the objectives of the subject, it is required to build capacity among the teachers and the links between environment and development must be taught with appropriate pedagology. The students must be able to understand the relevant context and must be taught to think across disciplines. The scope for utilizing the modern approaches in teaching the topics under environmental studies must be explored. The UGC is now giving more emphasis on teachers training for the course through Academic Staff Colleges throughout the country, which offer short programmes in environmental studies on pertinent topics such as climate change, sustainable development, energy security and so on.
The mandatory undergraduate environmental studies course provides a major opportunity to introduce students to sustainable development and to sensitize them to issues of equity, social justice and sustainable lifestyles. However, it requires subject clarity amongst the teachers so that these issues can be taught giving more of suitable examples and events occurring in our surroundings. For example, if topic such as climate change is to be taught, the teachers must analyze the issue from multiple domains and must provide local specific example sand consequences of climate change. Introducing scientific terms with no local examples will not help a student understand the issue of climate change in a proper way and will not be equipped to devise solutions accordingly.
"Government colleges do not have the necessary infrastructure and even in the pollution control boards like CPCB and SPCB, the expert environmental science professionals are not appointed".
More and more environment studies centers and courses in environmental studies are being introduced in India but the academic recognition, region specific relevance and role of common people within the broader goal of environmental protection is still much marginalized. One major challenge is the attitude of the governing bodies and authorities in higher educational institutions. Often these bodies control the functioning of the divisions and centers in the form of budget allocation, teachers appointment and so on.