Why we should integrate sustainability into the education and skilling systems

On World Environment Day, a look at why we need to focus on empowering our youth to thrive in a green economy

Updated - June 03, 2023 04:24 pm IST

Published - June 03, 2023 03:14 pm IST

Inculcate a sustainability mindset in every student

Inculcate a sustainability mindset in every student | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword. It is a necessity and the primary agenda of the world today. Like many other countries, India too is witnessing a growth of its green economy. It is estimated that India’s renewable energy target will create more than 3.4 million new job opportunities by 2030. This does not even take into account the number of jobs that will emerge, as the sustainability sector grows: in waste management, green building design, clean technology, sustainable agriculture, environmental consulting and so on. In fact, a recent survey stated that a Sustainability Manager is going to be one of the top 10 jobs this decade.

While the system is slowly re-aligning itself to function at the pivot of sustainability, the question is: What do we need to do to empower our youth to inhabit and thrive in this booming green economy? There are three parts to this answer:

In school

At the very foundation of our unsustainable behaviours was a mindset that was not cognisant of or curious about the impact of our actions on the environment. If we want to save our planet, we need to change this. To do this, we need a different teaching approach. We need to inculcate a sustainability mindset in every student in the same way that we focus on developing a problem-solving or a growth mindset. Students should be given opportunities to engage with their communities and neighbourhoods to carry out small-scale sustainable projects. 

Also read: Education for sustainable development

Like 16-year-old Aryan Rajvanshi from Ahmedabad who leveraged drone technology to advise farmers in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh on how to optimally use fertilisers, enabling them to save soil. Another example is Ananya Malde (15) from Bengaluru, who ran an awareness programme on sustainable menstruation for rural women in the tribal areas of Gujarat. Fourteen-year-old Ishaan Gupta from Delhi created solar-powered low-cost water filtration units for people at the grassroots.

Whether it is rain-water harvesting, reviving lakes, educating people on fast fashion or even natural disaster management, these projects can encourage students to look at sustainability through the lens of innovation and will equip them with the necessary perspective and competencies to thrive in the green economy. Like AI, Media Studies and other skills, Sustainability can be introduced as a skill subject with a 25-hour curriculum for Classes 6 to 8. This will go a long way in creating a sustainability mindset at the right age.

At university

For our green economy to gain traction and generate impact, we need our complete ecosystem to be built around sustainability. While many universities in India are beginning to offer courses in sustainability, environmental science, and renewable energy, we need to think more systematically. 

Sustainability needs to be taught as a horizontal, and not just as a specialised vertical at school and university. We need engineers to innovate on EVs and other green technologies, lawyers who specialise in sustainability policies and programmers who care about the environment, work on low power and are willing to use their technical prowess to fight climate change and innovate accordingly. It is imperative that educational institutions, policymakers and civil society organisations come together to transform the way our current education systems work. And to put sustainability at the core of it all. 

Skilling workers

This is, perhaps, the most urgent of all. How can we help the current workforce transition to this green economy? The clean energy jobs of the future will be highly skilled roles. We need to set up systems and devise mechanisms to upskill and reskill workers by investing in workforce training, learning courses and local programmes that enable them to consider a green career and enhance their future employability.   

If India wants to become the global green hub, we need to think about how we can integrate sustainability across the different layers of our education and skilling systems. With businesses and budgetary allocations aligning themselves towards creating a greener economy with clean technology, we need to equally focus on empowering our youth to ace this transition and come up with better jobs, and a greener planet.

The writer is the Founder of One Million for One Billion (1M1B).

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