The Historical, Present and Future Ness of Environmental Education in India

By Almeida, Sylvia; Cutter-Mackenzie, Amy | Australian Journal of Environmental Education, June 2011 | Go to article overview

The Historical, Present and Future Ness of Environmental Education in India


Almeida, Sylvia, Cutter-Mackenzie, Amy, Australian Journal of Environmental Education


Initial Thoughts and Reactions to the ness of Environmental Education in India

Environmental Education (1) in India is strongly influenced by rapid economic developments, and the barrage of environmental issues brought along with it. This article discusses environmental education in India by considering its evolution from the Aryan times to the present. Environmentalism in India in the Aryan ages was a way of life, integrated into the everyday lives of citizens through culture and religion. Ancient scriptures such as the Vedas prescribed these more than 5000 years ago. For example Purushasukta in Rigveda, which describes the creation process, considers humans to be an integral part of the universal personality, "the entire creation is one and indivisible and entire universe constitutes a life unto which every aspect including the human is integrated" (Sharma, 2010, p. 47).

Even as recently as 1950 when the Constitution of India was drafted, living in harmony with nature and protecting it was prescribed as a fundamental duty of every citizen of India. However the India of today presents a radically different picture. This is reflected in the extent of pollution, overpopulation, rapid deforestation, and indiscriminate usage of natural resources. This article examines the reasons for this transition, in the context of the diversity that India presents in every realm. Cultures, traditions and religions vary dramatically across India and can play an important role in environmental education and perceptions on environmental issues, thus giving India a unique environmental perspective. This article highlights the ness of environmental education in India, which makes it stand apart from the rest of the world. What gives environmental education its special flavour in India and how does this distinctiveness infuse itself globally? This paper considers such questions drawing upon key practice, policy and research developments not only in India but elsewhere.

Historical ness

When speaking of the historical ness of environmental education, this paper specifically discusses pre-1990s, the era prior to liberalisation of the Indian economy. In 1991 India dismantled its tight system of controls and permits, ushering in a new era of liberalisation and galloping to become the second fastest growing economy in the world (Chakraborty, 2008; Luce, 2006). Prior to liberalisation India's economic development was restricted and consequently the number of environmental issues were also restricted. The 1990's then could be seen as a transition point, the start of a new era.

India's first attempt at incorporating environment in education was initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in a movement called "Nai Taleem" of Basic Education in 1937. It aspired to create freethinking individuals with relevant skills to be able to act locally and aspire transcendentally for liberation. The aim was foster "reflective learners, skilled with useful knowledge, who were integrated into community life through engagement in productive work and who desired to undertake service for humanity" (Haigh, 2008, p. 244).

This movement ended once India achieved independence and Gandhi (1869-1948) was assassinated before his ideas were completely evolved. It has been replaced by the current conventional model based on colonial methodologies of thinking and is limited to the learning by rote techniques, where "free thinking" is not encouraged. Local and regional issues are often neglected and the main aim seems to be the production of "able" individuals who could contribute "economically", and meet the needs of rapid "industrialization" and "globalization" of the country.

Environmental education however is not new to India. Protection and improvement of the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife; and living harmoniously with the environment is embedded in the Constitution of India in articles 48A and 51 G (Government of India, 2008). …

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