Orientation with the global economic development trend is just a piecemeal if green education is not applied in the education sector hence it’s the major revolutionary thingamajig and the need of hour due to several eschewed issues that are mandatory to take into consideration such as harmful climate change and avalanche in the psychological and mental health glitches in youth.
Unfortunately, deteriorated psychological and mental health leads to the frequent suicides cases heard hither and thither in various esteemed schools, institutions, and universities such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) at Bombay and Madras and in the cities like which are called educational hubs such as Kota and Delhi force us to be solicitous and enact. Pressure by parents, peers and teachers lead young learners towards anxiety, fear, stress and depression and further drastic action of killing themselves where they are suppose to live a happy life. Consequently it is a wake-up call about the solemn crisis that Indian youth faces.
The frightening regularity of suicides by youth portrays an austere veracity. The data stated by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) underlined that a student died by suicide every 42 minutes in 2020. According to the reports, student suicides were at a five-year high with more than 13,000 students dying by suicide in that year, an uptick from 12,500 in the previous year.
Though the statistics provided by NCRB were 37 per cent lower than the rates reported by Global Burden of Disease, denotation that only 63% cases are presented by NCRB data for every 100.
In an article entitled ‘The Mystery Behind Japan’s High Suicide Rates Among Kids’, Stephanie Lu writes that problems related to educational system are the main cause behind suicides and depression. It has also been noted in many countries like South Korea, UK, United States, China etc.
Education and Human Life
“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead. Let life be like music. And death a note unsaid.” –
As we all know human life is extremely precious and we do need to understand human nature. In ‘The Art of Being’, Erich Fromm asks- “Can we not speak of a “nature of man,” and if so, does not an objectively definable nature of man lead to the assumption that its aim is the same as that of all living beings, namely, its most perfect functioning and the fullest realization of its potentialities?”
In the continuation, there are questions to ponder over- “If we had the power to mold our children into anything we want them to be, what top five qualities would we like to see in them by the age of 40? Would happiness be one of the top five qualities that you would like your children to have by the time they are adults? Why do we educate them? Is our educational system designed to teach our children to become happier people?”
Erich Fromm in his book ‘The Sane Society’ (1955) states- “high schools and colleges generally fail to imbue their students with character traits which correspond to the professed ideals of our civilization.”
In India, in ancient times, guru-chela concept (teacher-pupil) in Gurukulas and Ashrams was also targeted at uppermost progress of human potential resulting in Moksha or liberation from earthly sorrows and cycle of birth. The teaching of Buddha was based on ending sorrow and attaining joyful state. In times of Plato and Aristotle, goal of education was virtue and happiness. Educational philosophies and approaches of Montessori, Theosophy, Waldorf, Summerhill, and Krishnamurti were also based on understanding of human nature as well as the purpose and meaning of human life.
Gradually schools and institutions started positioning materialistic success at the top keeping aside true happiness. Regrettably academic organizations do not educate children/youth to become the well-rounded, mature persons. These aim to prepare young people for jobs, careers, and accumulation of wealth and physical facilities with a narrow view of life and education using methods that produce fear, resentment and stress in the young; cause unhappiness and neurosis; give rise to the rat race and the dog-eat-dog mentality (responsible for many social maladies); fail in the essential task of nurturing a wholesome personality and good character.
One of the cardinal sins is reductionism. Modern Education System reduces the integrity of the noble sector at all levels- vision, policy, planning, programming, delivery, assessment, outcome etc. It compromises the integrity of seats of learning, lower the expectations of the givers and the receivers and cheapens learning and does disservice to learner and to life.
Educators mainly focus on 3Rs—reading, riting (writing) and rithmetic (arithmetic) and don’t focus on teaching young generation to be happier and stress free. Educators must think of what the purpose of educating really is. Abraham Maslow (1993) in his book ‘The farther reaches of human nature’ states the purpose of education- “the function of education, the goal of education- the human goal, the humanistic goal, the goal so far as human beings are concerned- is ultimately the “self-actualization” of a person, the becoming fully human, the development of the fullest height that the human species can stand up to or that the particular individual can come to.”
“The state of any society is the reflection of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of how the previous generation has brought up its children ethically. Crime, drugs, wars, injustice, interracial and inter-religious hostilities-these are but the symptoms of such deep-rooted inadequacies in education,” says Vicente Hao Chin Jr. in his book ‘Education Without Fear and Comparison’.
Diana Dunningham Chapotin, Former International Secretary, Theosophical Order of Service said that it would be wonderful for children and youth to be able to go through an education system that makes them into confident, serene, resilient adults- socially responsible and above all happy.
The objective of United States: “Our mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” The Goal of UN: “By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs, and entrepreneurship…”
But there are several high happiness index countries in the world, including Norway, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Canada who have ensured happiness of youth through various measures such as high-quality education, affordable healthcare and mental health services, and support for youth with disabilities, social support for families and individuals in need, engagement of youth in their communities through various programs and initiatives, promotion of social connection, civic engagement, and sense of purpose, improvement in green spaces including water and air and focus on equity and inclusion creating a favorable ecosystem for all youth, regardless of their identity or background.
Norway is known for its high level of happiness and well-being among its citizens. The country has implemented various policies and initiatives that aim to foster a sense of community, equity, and opportunity for all its citizens and works to promote happiness and holistic growth including social welfare programs, work-life balance, good education, nature and outdoor activities.
Bhutan is also such an exemplar country that set its goals as Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck enshrined it in the constitution- “The state shall strive to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness.”
Steps taken in India
India, a country known for diverse and rich cultural heritage is taking noteworthy steps towards holistic growth of youth and increase in the happiness index, including initiatives like Bharat Nirmaan, MGNREGA, and Ayushman Bharat. However, continued investment in these areas and the implementation of new policies that focus on sustainable development, community building, and access to healthcare and education is crucial for high happiness index and holistic growth of youth.
Few months back Education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi had introduced the state’s first green school in Tiruvarur and Thanjavur and motivated to start various green actions including creation of vegetable gardens, acclimatizing rainwater harvesting and reutilizing wastewater at their schools doing it as a team delivering a message for others too to follow.
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India in line with Skill India Mission also initiated a ‘Green Skill Development Programme’. Other major initiatives that have been taken by Indian Government in recent years are Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Namai Gange Programme, Jal Jeevan Mission, National Clean Air Programme and Bhujal Atal Yojana etc.
National Education Policy (NEP-2020) stresses upon “recognizing, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student, by sensitizing teachers as well as parents to promote each student’s holistic development in both academic and non-academic spheres”.
National Education Policy (NEP 2020) also focuses on environmental awareness highlighting that in today’s rapidly changing world, specific subjects, skills, and capacities should be a part and parcel of curricula for the learners to become good, successful, innovative, adaptable, and productive human beings. NEP 2020 emphasizes on ‘the implementation of approaches and solutions that are not only informed by top-notch science and technology but are also rooted in a deep understanding of the social sciences and humanities and the various socio-cultural and environmental dimensions of the nation’. It emphasizes upon applicable integration of eco-friendly responsiveness and thoughtfulness towards its preservation and sustainable development.
Curricula and educational Objectives should be set and designed to meet national goals, be they economic development or nationalism. Therefore, in National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF), throughout the school education curriculum, emergent sensitivity for the green life and environment is a dominant leitmotif for sustainability and happiness. Additionally, NCERT has introduced the process of development of National Curriculum Frameworks where various stakeholders including various Ministries/Departments, States and UTs would be working for the best outputs squiggling from grass root levels.
Programmes such as Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) have been driven, which focus on sensible and meditative consumption of natural resources and promote sustainable lifestyles. As part of the activities undertaken in this Mission, CBSE and NCERT are conducting numerous events for young learners including quizzes, exhibitions, seminars, workshops and expert talks, poster/painting contests, and webinars, celebrating various important events such as World Environment Day, World Water Day, Earth Day, International Day of Forest, etc. In various PM e-Vidya channels, LiFE Sessions are telecasted Live for spreading awareness.
Green School: A New Ethic of Education for Happiness
In today’s context green being a primary colour of nature and as a metaphor assumes a critical significance when sustainability of life has become a global concern; when youth is submerged in depression and stress and don’t know how to de-stress them. Green is also the organizing principle as we develop our cities, build our homes and offices and raise significance.
Thakur S Powdyel, in the book ‘My Green School: An Outline’ (2014) says: “My green school is green in more than colour. It is green because it begins with the love of life. My school affirms the primacy and preciousness of life. I am more than a pupil here- prized for my mental abilities and slotted into a performance category by what I produce at an examination, as important as it might be. This school takes as an entire, integral, complex being that I am and creates the necessary space for me to bloom to my fullness.”
Green Education may assist learners to discover nature’s beauty and take pride, ownership and responsibility for its care. Students naturally observe and explore things and various processes around them, and this will build on that natural ability and interest. This also helps to develops specific values e.g., dignity, appreciating diversity, respect for all living beings, respect for resources and their use, equitable distribution of available resources. While it is important that students acquire a conceptual understanding of environmental issues and challenges, as well as an appreciation of the magnitude of the problem, it is equally important to ensure they do not get discouraged or become sad for their future.
Contemporary education system being more inclined towards mechanical or technical skills for better employment opportunities rather than values, ‘soft’ or ‘green skills’ forgot about the main goal of life and paid less attention towards it. When an academic institution adopts green practices, it creates a ripple effect on Individual behaviour. Students are inspired to be more conscious of their environmental impact, and they become more proactive towards environmental sustainability which assists in de-stressing in their lives from the pressure of excelling in academics and grabbing jobs in MNCs. Consequently, students embrace eco-friendly practices into their daily lives and extend this consciousness beyond the academic environment.
In the Annual Seminar Bhutan 2023, on the theme ‘Transformative Education Post COVID-19 Pandemic: From Self-healing to Social Transformation’, Dr Craig Elevitch, Co-lead Developer for the Agroforestry Design Tool from Hawaii elaborated about ‘Regenerative Education’ saying that- “Human beings have an innate ability to connect with nature world physically, perceptually, emotionally and spiritually. We all know intuitively that wholesome connections with nature formed during childhood help create a foundation for happy, healthy humans.”
Jamyang Dolma, President, Academy of Himalayan Art and Children Development and Co-founder, Mama Food Forest said that healthy children come from healthy mothers including Mother Earth and they are exhausted being multi-tasking. She raised the questions- “How could a depleted land grow high quality food? How can an exhausted and unhappy mother bring up a healthy and happy child? The same situation in our schools, how could exhausted and unhappy teachers nurture and inspire our children who were entrusted to them by their families?” She further adds- “with deeper understanding of the true needs of nourishment to ourselves, our children and nature, we will be able to design our life and education to support the holistic development of our children.“
The world is changing and so is the way we do things. With the frequent and alarming climatic changes, it is essential that we take a step towards a greener future. Green academia is the way forward. It is the education and implementation of sustainable practices in academics. Thus green academia is also essential for the overall well-being and happiness of individuals. We tend to be happier when we engage in activities that reduce our environmental impact. Such activities involve being in a natural environment, reducing waste, and adopting eco-friendly practices.
Preeth Nambiar, President and CEO, Writers Capital Foundation and an excellent educationist, journalist and acclaimed author says – “Academia especially green academia, plays a crucial role in promoting holistic growth and ensuring the happiness of youth. By emphasizing interdisciplinary learning, sustainable practices, and personal well-being, academia creates an environment conducive to overall development. It provides opportunities for intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and skill-building, which empower youth to explore their passions and develop a sense of purpose.”
He further adds- “Green academia specifically integrates environmental awareness and sustainability into the curriculum, fostering a sense of responsibility towards the planet. Additionally, academia can offer support systems such as counseling services and mentorship programs, addressing the mental health needs of students. By nurturing well-rounded individuals and fostering a sustainable mindset, academia contributes significantly to the holistic growth and happiness of youth.”
Green academia should be an essential part of our educational system. It is not just about implementing sustainable practices; it is about fostering a broader perspective on the relationship between humans and the environment. Such a perspective will ensure that future generations inherit a planet that is not only habitable but also healthy and sustainable. Thus, all academic institutions should prioritize green initiatives for holistic growth and happiness.
Need of the Hour: Sherig Mandala
In Hinduism, people who had attained highest level of happiness are called Mahatmas, Jivanmuktas or Rishi-Munis. In Buddhism such refined individuals are called Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or Arhats. Sigmund Freud called it ‘Oceanic Feeling’ and Abraham Maslow referred it as “peak experiences” or “self-transcendence”. When you are in happy and contented state leaving all materialism behind.
Now, to explore our ‘self’, consider what makes us who we are and to be happy is the need of the hour. Sherig Mandala is a good thing for the youth to know life better and to learn to be happy. Elements of learning included in it to ensure holistic growth and happiness of youth are- Natural Greenery, Social Greenery, Cultural Greenery, Intellectual Greenery, Academic Greenery, Aesthetic Greenery, Spiritual Greenery, and Moral Greenery.
Green is the colour of life and secret of our survival and Mother Earth both. We should make our earth plastic-free, drug-free, rubbish-free, junk-free, graffiti-free to ensure our true happiness.
Hence, green is symbolic for life therefore green education has many benefits to count but major benefits are: ensuring happiness and survival of humanity, sustainability, universal consciousness, and various environmental benefits.
Education for green from within and outside should be the slogan of the educational institutions, academicians, administrators, and students must adapt and use the methods and approaches, as well as eco-friendly construction and equipment in the teaching-learning process.
While the whole world went through environmental disasters and yet not recovered from the ordeal and debris of COVID-19, encouraging and educating youth to construct an understanding of the environment, cultivate sensitivity towards ensuring green in the surroundings and minds and discover techniques to express carefulness about nature is an extremely momentous responsibility for academia, parents, society and country to ensure happiness in true sense.
Dr Shalini Yadav
Writer, Editor & Professor