Green education for future generations

Syed Asim Ali Bukhari

THERE is a famous proverb that “If your plan is for one-year, plant rice, if your plan is for ten years plant trees, if your plan is for one hundred years educate children”. The International Day of Education celebrated on the 25th of January 2021, brings forward the question if Pakistan is planning for a year, a decade or one hundred years. A look at the current government’s policy making can credit them with a gradual shift towards decade long planning as opposed to previous annual or sometimes even seasonal planning. In this regard, it should be questioned if Pakistan is planning for the next hundred years through educating the future generation of Pakistan and more importantly if this planning is being formulated and implemented in the right direction.

Globally, the developed nations are shifting towards Green Education, a concept based on the blend of Environmental Education (EE) with the other areas of contemporary education system. It involves “organized efforts to teach how natural environments function, and particularly, how human beings can manage behaviour and ecosystems to live sustainably”. Green nations need to cultivate future generations that are aware of the concept of environmental sustainability and have knowledge about its implications in various aspects. An important aspect of Green Education is that it is operationalized as a holistic and life-long process, thereby signalling its importance in all phases of an individual’s academic journey. Unfortunately, Pakistan is lagging behind in the development of Green Education policy and structures. Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised the realization of the ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ vision but this cannot be possible without inculcating the various aspects of environmental sustainability in the country’s education system.

Pakistan’s Federal Education and Professional Training Minister Shafqat Mahmood, has welcomed suggestions on Pakistan National Education Policy 2021 from all stakeholders. It is suggested that the Government of Pakistan should develop a “Green and Sustainable Education Policy” for the ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’. The basic premise of this educational ideology is the incorporation of the respective environmental sustainability dimension in curriculum of every discipline as well as the teaching methodology. The dynamic dimensions of environmental sustainability should be incorporated in the syllabus of every grade throughout school, college and university education. For example, in the subject of Islamic studies, the curriculum can include the teachings of Islam on various issues of environmental sustainability such as resource conservation, waste management, tree plantation, etc.

School children should be taught about waste management through introduction of different coloured bins in schools and universities and encouraged to participate in environmentally responsible activities like tree plantation. The curriculum can be developed on the basis of various modern educational approaches such as STEAM which uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking. Such approaches can be blended in with Green Educational medium such as use of various educational software and hardware to polish student’s skills. This will integrate the concept of environmental preservation as a good deed in the minds of our children and youth, in turn creating an eco-conscious mindset and personality development.

It is the responsibility of the educational institutes to create synergy within the various disciplines and environmental sustainability in the minds of the young generation. University students are the future policy makers of this country. Green and Sustainable Education will ensure that when it is time for them to become policy makers the policies will be based on the principles of sustainable development, i.e. economic, social and environmental sustainability. The public sector educational institutions should lead by example and inculcate green management principles in all areas of education and administration. Various public sector universities have large areas of land which can be used for development of various green projects such as renewable energy generation including solar or bio-mass and tree plantation. University departments such as the engineering department can oversee such projects and the university students can work on such projects which will provide them with a practical knowledge of green management and practices implementation. Students of respective disciplines should be taught subjects like green banking, green construction, precision agriculture, green Information Technology, green HRM, green manufacturing, green hospitality etc. The ‘Green and Sustainable Education Policy’ should make it mandatory to include environmentally sustainable aspect of every discipline in the curriculum.

The importance of education is not a new concept for us since it is one of the basic teachings of Islam and was also greatly emphasized by the Father of this Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In his words “Without education it is complete darkness and with education it is light. Education is a matter of life and death to our nation. The world is moving so fast that if you do not educate yourselves you will be not only completely left behind, but will be finished up”. These words still hold great importance in our current time since the future of Pakistan depends on developing the right knowledge structures among our future generations at the right time. It is also critical in the attainment of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) 2030. The UN-SDG # 4 specifically requires all learners to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles. Through Pakistan Green and Sustainable Education Policy 2021, it can be ensured that our future generations become aware of their responsibility and accountability towards natural resources and environment.
—The writer is pursuing his PhD in Green Banking from the UniversitiSains Malaysia.