How green is India’s education system?

Our education system needs to incorporate E-STEM (Environment, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) into the curriculum

December 24, 2023 10:31 am | Updated 10:31 am IST

Today’s learners are increasingly environmentally aware and are eager to lead the charge for change.

Today’s learners are increasingly environmentally aware and are eager to lead the charge for change. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockPhoto

On a recent visit to Paris, a delight with its seamless blend of exquisite monuments and modern-day amenities, I was struck by how sustainable the city is. This is where 196 countries adopted the landmark treaty on climate change — the Paris Agreement — at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in 2015. Today, the city continues to demonstrate its conviction and commitment to combat the threat of rising global temperatures.

On its mission to become one of the greenest cities in Europe by 2030, Paris has taken a huge leap to carve out 900 miles of bicycle lanes and pedestrian pathways from the city’s otherwise automobile-dominated road infrastructure and intricate subway network. It is not the only city; Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Vancouver, and others are doing the same. Isn’t it incredible how, in these technology-driven times, some of the world’s leading cities have decided to switch gears towards nature-positivity for people and the planet?

Reality check

How is India faring? Our country made a huge commitment at the COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, pledging to cut carbon emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030. Looking at the current status, it may be difficult to state categorically that we will achieve these targets. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: to prepare a workforce that can innovate solutions to the challenges we will face, we need the education system today to facilitate necessary mindset shifts. With the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 set to roll out and the curriculum and textbooks being formulated, we need to critically evaluate if our approach will lead to the transformational shift that will make our schools future-ready.

So, what are the pivotal shifts that education in India is making? Some key recommendations in the NEP 2020 that guide us towards a nature-positive world are to i) promote global citizenship; ii) infuse climate literacy into mainstream subjects; iii) include environmental awareness for water and resource conservation; iv) bring back traditional knowledge and sustainable practices, and v) improve human well-being through a healthy and nurturing natural environment.


The curriculum provides for inclusion and infusion of environmental themes from the foundational stage to vocational education. As a member of the Curricular Area Group for the NCERT, I am particularly keen to introduce E-STEM (Environment, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) into education. E-STEM Education integrates environmental education with STEM learning and builds environmental literacy and active citizenry for sustainability while boosting science literacy. It builds the practical knowledge such as engineering design processes and systems thinking that is often needed for solving real-world environmental problems. 

At the higher education level, technical universities and premier institutions have launched new courses on environment and sustainability. The IITs and BITS-Pilani offer an M.Tech. in Environmental Engineering and the Indian Institute of Forest Management offers an array of courses in environment and sustainability. Such efforts will drive the green economy movement where economic growth, social security, and environmental well-being go hand in hand.

While changing mindsets and skilling for the future, we need to help people make the switch to sustainable choices but that’s possible only if sustainable alternatives are affordable and easily accessible. This is why green entrepreneurship is making waves and changing markets. India’s sustainable packaging industry is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 7.24% by 2028. With countless opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship available, schools are educating children about sustainable business ideas.

Today’s learners are increasingly environmentally aware and are eager to lead the charge for much-needed change. Educational institutions must offer young learners a playground to experiment and innovate with the ideas of sustainability. It’s high time our education system gears up to embrace this change and look at education through a green lens.

The writer is the Head of the Department of Environment Education at WWF-India.

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