November 5, 2017

Let’s have Environmental Education in Schools

Let’s have Environmental Education in Schools

Today's children will be the future custodians of Malaysia's environment. Photo Credit: Flickr

The sooner young Malaysians become aware of environmental issues, the better. And we can’t just expect children to develop a passion for the environment on their own. We have to teach them to appreciate the natural bounty of Malaysia and we have to teach them how to be good stewards of the country’s natural resources when they come of age.

That is why a plan by the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to introduce the subject of environmental education into school curricula has been a welcome development. If the ministry has its way, the subject will soon be taught from pre-school level onward “in order to provide early exposure to the importance of conserving the environment,” according to a report by the Bernama news agency.

Children and young people can play a vital role in environmental conservation. Photo Credit: North Carolina Environmental Education

“The implementation of this proposal,” Bernama explains, citing the ministry’s head, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, “might take some time as it required further discussion, besides ensuring enough teachers equipped to teach the subject.” The minister has also floated the idea that students may even have to take exams in the subject. The outcome of such proposals will depend on consultations with the Ministry of Education.

Admittedly, some students may not like that idea one bit. Already grappling with a heavy workload at school as they do, they may well be loath to take on a new subject in which they will then have to take exams. Some teachers’ unions, too, have expressed reservations about the ministry’s plan.

“Environmental education has [already] been introduced to students via co-curricular activities such as during environmental club meetings, with the help of other agencies,” the president of the Sarawak Teachers Union recently argued. “Besides, environmental education should also start at home and with the community itself because it has something to do with the students’ attitude towards the environment and nature,” he added. “In fact, our environment is everyone’s responsibility.”

Malaysia’s famed natural environment (its forests, its seas, its coral reefs, its rivers, its plethora of exotic wildlife) certainly is everyone’s responsibility. Yet simply expecting people, especially children, to realize this and then to act on this realization by adopting more environmentally friendly lifestyles is asking too much. Schools and educators can and should play a vital role in inculcating in Malaysian children an enduring love of the country’s environment.


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