The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and WWF have joined hands to help teachers impart value education on conservation to students.

Towards this end, WWF-India launched an audio-visual Master Trainer Kit on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The kit contains resource materials in five languages — English, Hindi, Axomiya, Bengali, Kannada and Malayalam.

The kit will enable teachers to embed the ESD approach in their teaching. It contains a couple of manuals, illustrated books with over 15 exercises and a DVD which transports the viewer to a classroom. The video focuses on how children can be made to ‘think’ on a statement made by the teacher. The DVD is followed by a group discussion, and then articulating what has been imparted before the teacher in groups and individually. ‘Democratic thinking’ by students is encouraged by the teacher by him or her emphasising that no answer is wrong or right but they are ‘different opinions’ and one must respect others’ opinion. The discussion continues till the entire classroom agrees to one opinion — in this case that it is important to protect the environment by keeping it clean and understanding how to do it.

With 2005-2014 being earmarked by the UN as the decade that focuses on ESD, the model adopted by WWF-India could help in capacity building across key educational bodies responsible for curriculum development and teacher training in schools. But how successful would be this project since teachers have to take their own initiative to understand and use the kit? Mita Nangia Goswami, director, Environment Education, WWF-India, says: “We have kept the language and the initiatives extremely simple to begin with. And therefore, it does not become an additional burden on teachers or students to work and respond to, but to do things differently.”

She cites an example of Salbari Higher Secondary School in Assam, which is chosen as the model school for the project. “When we went to Salbari for the first time, its campus was an eye sore. It was litter-infested. Toilets were dirty and classrooms a complete mess. After a workshop with them, when we visited again in three months, it was a changed site. Students had made a traffic club which would monitor traffic congestion on campus; dustbins lay at all possible places, steel cups replaced plastic cups. They had also set up a nature library full of environment related books from which the students would borrow, read and write back the moral of the story he/she read, to be awarded if chosen best — thus enhancing reading and comprehension.

The students had also transformed the nearby market area into a ‘Plastic Free Zone’. Since the school is close to the Manas National Park, the students also set up a bird watching club and formed fences to protect saplings they had planted in the school. They made a worm-compost pit in the school backyard, created a gardening cum fruits hub and conserved local fish.”

The NCERT and WWF-India is focusing on schools in Assam, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

NCERT director Parvin Sinclair shares: “My worry is that teachers tend to take short cuts to reach the end. That’s where our role as a monitoring body becomes important. Not every school visited can give 100 per cent results and NCERT’s approach to environment is holistic. The material prepared by WWF-India is colourful but in my view it needs more piloting. I hope this ESD approach to learning cascades into the larger educational system.”