Climate change needs to be taught

Dr Debapriya Mukherjee
Contd from previous issue
The secondary school science standards have minimal references to climate change and teachers on average spend just a few hours a year teaching it. Thereby instead of relegating the topic to a separate textbook, there is a need to integrate it with existing subjects so that it runs through the entire curriculum.
The environmental curriculum focuses more on nature and outdoor education but does not touch upon how human actions contribute to climate change or how students can actually combat it. Moreover, including climate topics in school curriculum is critical for training the next generation of innovative thinkers that can become champions of climate action at local and international stages.  
With increasing urbanisation and advances in technology, students' exposure to the natural world has decreased. Though scientific developments provide a more comfortable life for future generations but global problems will also challenge future generations in many ways.
Once the students are familiar with global problems, they can bring creative solutions to these problems by approaching them critically. That is why school-age children need to face and think about the problems that are happening on a global scale as much as possible. Teaching about climate change is of utmost importance for India as it is expected to experience rapid population growth and urbanisation in the coming decades.
If students are aware of the consequences of unsustainable growth, they are likely to adopt a more climate-friendly lifestyle. Simultaneously they learn to plant trees and make projects out of recycled products as they discuss changing weather patterns and the social and economic aspects of their relationship with the environment.
Automatically they will learn the fundamental of climate science, including the role of human, the consequences of a changing climate as well as solutions. Understanding this critical issue will make them realise that individual actions can help to protect the planet.
For this purpose, a valuable teaching strategy to be used in the education of students is problem solving. In order to solve problems, students need to improve their thinking and creative skills so that children can tackle real-life examples and future problems can help to develop integrated and creative thinking. Because the purpose of education is not only to be able to understand the subjects in the curriculum, but also to develop thinking skills and analyse a problem through meaningful learning.
Our age requires students to be able to ask questions, to think critically, to use technology correctly and effectively, to be good problem solvers and creative individuals. Taking courses to develop critical thinking in children increases their creativity and indirectly leads to an improvement in their academic performance.  For this reason, education without prioritizing the development of thinking skills is like a ‘pillarless palace’.
The writer is former Sr scientist at Central Pollution Control Board