Know thy climate: Experts urge: education dept to add environmental studies to curriculum

Say it will create much-needed awareness and jobs.


Say it will create much-needed awareness and jobs. DESIGN: SAMRA AAMIR

PESHAWAR:


Educationists have urged the government to include environmental studies in the primary and secondary school curriculum so students know how to better protect their surroundings.


“There is no notion of teaching environment as a subject in government schools,” Environmental Science Chairperson at the University of Peshawar (UoP), Dr Shahida Zakir told The Express Tribune. “The environment should be part of the curriculum; many problems stem from a lack of awareness among the general population about climate.”

The Department of Environmental Science at the UoP was established in 1988. According to Dr Zakir, hundreds of students graduate from the department every year, but most of them remain jobless. The few who find work are in the private sector or in non-governmental organisations.

“Most schools and colleges welcome science specialists [as faculty members] but are prone to disregard environment educationists, which is a matter of great concern.”

Dr Zakir is not alone in her concern about the environment and repercussions of an ignorant population. Pollution has crippled the life of inhabitants in K-P, elaborated Director General (DG) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Dr Muhammad Bashir.

The major sources of air pollution in the province are automobile emissions, industrial emissions, especially from brick kilns, burning refuse and solid wastes and dust from unpaved roads.

According to the EPA director general, 796 brick kilns are situated in the province. Brick kilns need large quantities of rubber to start a fire and use firewood, low quality coal and used engine oil to keep the fire burning. The combustion of old rubber tyres and used engine oil emits noxious hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.

The increased number of brick kilns – particularly in Peshawar – has almost doubled the level of air pollution, fretted Dr Bashir.

He worried the daily increase in the number of vehicles on the road also cripples the quality of life in the city. Simply put – an increase in the number of vehicles increases pollution, traffic congestion and carbon emission all of which contribute towards global warming.

Dr Bashir emphasised on the importance of teaching environmental studies, “We should start teaching the subject from class one, in both government and private schools”.

“It is the responsibility of the textbook board to make the subject mandatory in all government and private educational institutes in the province.”

Wajid Khan, an M.Phil student of Environmental Sciences at UoP said most of his friends who had completed their M. Phil and doctoral degrees in this subject are jobless. Since environmental science is not taught in schools and colleges, there are fewer job options for academicians.

“In other countries, environment is taught as a compulsory subject but in our country, especially in K-P and Fata, it isn’t a part of the curriculum.”

After completing their masters in environment science, most students switch and pursue further education in zoology or botany department. These subjects, explained Wajid, are competitive areas which help in finding employment post graduation.

The Bacha Khan Education Foundation is one organisation which is trying to teach green. Director Dr Khadim Hussain stated they were creating a new practice of teaching environment as a subject in all their schools – declaring the topic was important, given the current state of affairs.

The foundation had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with various organisations to work on climate awareness in all government schools. Dr Hussain added the foundation had to step back from the MoU, “as we were not able to work on it properly”.

A subject specialist in the K-P Textbook Board, Professor Dr Hafeezullah told The Express Tribune environment is taught in classes nine and 10 in government schools. After class 10, it solely depends on the students if they want to continue with the subject.

Dr Hafeezullah admitted the climate and its concerns are core issues. “The board will soon work on making the subject available in all government schools and colleges in K-P.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2013.

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