Thursday, February 26, 2009

“Environmental Science Education” as Curriculum

Julito C. Aligaen
Education for Sustainable Development Specialist
Interdisciplinary Researcher

Background and Rationale

The modern Western education system which has successfully replaced indigenous forms of education throughout the world prepares students almost exclusively for an urban existence and dependence on fossil fuel and global trade. Children are taught from an early age how best to compete. But they are not taught how best to live in a truly sustainable society (David Orr, The Ecologist, May 1999). A very significant finding of a great conservationist that the south (third world and developing countries) always looking up to the north (western) and pattern their education development which do not consider sustainable development goals.

This is also stated by Roy, (1984) and Jain,(1995) that education is oriented to meet the needs of the urban middle-class. The curriculum has an urban bias and prepares students for government and professional employment-sectors that have gross unemployment. This conspires to undermine the learning experience of rural children and disassociate them from the traditional learning patterns of their environment. They further said that children become ‘drop-outs, pull-outs, or stay-outs. If we add to this, we see that there are enormous huddles for those who are aiming for Educational for All.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Federico Mayor, addressed the participants of the 1993 Education For All (EFA) Summit with the following statement:

Education is the only effective and humane means for checking rapid population growth. The population of our countries today is greater than was the world's population in 1950. Every hour 10,000 people are added to the global population, 250,000 per day, 100 million per year. The finite space and resources of planet earth cannot continue to sustain such exponential growth. If we do not invest all our resources of energy and will in education, the race with catastrophe will be lost and the balance between man and nature will be re-established by disasters that are not only unthinkable but also avoidable. The choice is ours, and the time for action is now. This is what the mathematics of population and the ethics of time tell us. That was 1993, but nothing happen on the ground, the deterioration and shrinking of natural resources continues environmental education and program still on the sideline.

There is also an international consensus that we are facing multiple crises in the areas of environment and development deforestation, loss of biodiversity, escalating poverty, desertification and depletion of the ozone layer, and so on (United Nations, 1992; Singh and Amaratimga, 1994).

Southeast Asian countries are occupying only 3% of total world surface and yet we nurture the 20% of the world biodiversity in the planet. Southeast Asian population is now 0.67 billion which is 10% from the total of 6.7 billion populations in the planet. Of the 0.67 billion Asian population 60% of those are residents in the rural areas, and 80% of their income are generated from the “natural capital” or the ecological services provided by our natural resources with rich biodiversity. However our region is facing a distinct pressure on rapidly growing population, urbanization and high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change because of its agrarian landscape. The coming dilemma is how to meet the demand of ever burgeoning population growth against the ever shrinking natural resources (ARCBC, 2008).

As early as 2020, residents of Asia's megacities will be at great risk of river and coastal flooding, Asians can expect extensive species loss. The document further says recent research has heightened concern that the poor and the elderly will suffer most from climate change; that hunger and disease will be more common; that droughts, floods and heat waves will afflict the world's poorest regions; and that more animal and plant species will vanish. The potential impact of global warming is "so severe and so sweeping that only urgent, global action will do," warned by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, 2007. This will be a second and might be the last warning and at this times a tone of irreversibility of destruction and collapse of natural resources which our economy depends on are so optimistic. The collapse of the natural resources means collapse of the society.

Environmental education to teach the children on the proper natural resources is just made as sideline while Southeast Asian natural resources are supporting the 80% of the rural people, shape the cultural values and preserve the future of the Southeast Asian community. As Bruntland commission defines development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987:43). Formal and non-formal education is expected to play a critical role in facilitating our transition towards sustainable societies (UNCED, 1992).

I think it’s not yet late the community of Southeast Asian should take a drastic move to institutionalize “Environmental Science Education” as curriculum in every education system. A curriculum which does not sideline the focus of environmental education but putting it as the center for ecological literacy and capacity building of school children, out-of-school youths, adults and the community of Asian, as these children will enjoy or suffer the castigation of the environment in the very near future if not managed properly and cater the needs of the next generation.

The main Objective is Institutionalizing “Environmental Science Education” as curriculum for basic education for elementary and secondary students’ age (6-18) with a clear purpose;

1. Reconnecting the Asian school children and out-of-school youths and adults and the community to their immediate environment;
2. Connecting the school and community towards a concerted effort to benefit the mutual learning process of understanding the vital role of natural resources for socio-economic survival of the society.
3. Cultivating the local resources for self-sufficiency and sustainability.

Teachers, educators, education planners, curriculum planners, human resources development planners and capacity building experts are requested to give their views and comments, suggestions and feedbacks.

No comments: