Chapter 4 Concept and Scope of EVS
The term environment is the sum total of all the physical, biological and social factors that form a part of the surroundings of an organism. As we live in a world impacted by the rapid pace of change, the scope and importance of this term has also widened.
EVS or Environmental Studies is multi-disciplinary in nature, as it comprises all major branches of science and social science. The main aim of EVS is to develop a world population that is aware of and concerned about the environment and its associated problems and which has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivation and commitment to work individually and collectively for the solutions of the current problems and the prevention of new ones. It is for this reason that EVS is an integral part of the educational process.
Teaching of EVS at the primary level enables children to be aware of and sensitive to their environment and related problems. It also helps in acquisition of basic knowledge about the environment through their interaction with it and understand the roles of individuals and social groups in contributing towards preserving and conserving a sustainable environment. Thus, it helps them acquire values that are crucial for their growth into responsible citizens who are concerned about their environment and skills that are required to identify and contribute in solving the associated problems through active participation.
EVS is thus a valuable resource that helps us in knowing more about the reasons for the changes in our surroundings, and their consequences on not just humanity but the biosphere as a whole. It aims at paving the way towards a more sustainable environment, where problems are not just discussed but measures are also provided to resolve the problems appropriately.
NEED AND SIGNIFICANCE OF EVS
Due to an increasing human population and the consequent exploitation of the environment to address the resulting demand, natural resources have started depleting at an alarming rate. As a result, all related issues such as soil erosion, pollution and associated health problems have increased in intensity. It has threatened the natural ecosystem and its delicate balance. This situation has brought to the fore the urgent need to conserve the environment for the present generation and ensure sustenance for future generations as well.
One of the ways in which global environmental issues can be addressed effectively is to make individuals and social groups aware of their environment, to help them realise its importance in sustaining humanity and to sensitise them enough so that they can contribute in addressing the same through their active participation.
The study of EVS makes us aware about the significance of protecting and conserving the environment and the natural resources, and the need to approach problems from a global perspective. It provides us with the basic knowledge of environmental processes and also helps in developing skills that help in analysing how human activity impacts environmental systems and find answers to avoid or minimise negative impacts. Thus, National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has included environmental studies as one of the essential components of school education.
The growth of a nation through industrialisation and technological advancements has created many environmental issues like ozone depletion, global warming, pollution, acid rain, soil erosion and damage, depletion of natural resources, disposal of nuclear waste, extinction of species (due to destruction of their natural habitat), disruption of natural processes like the nutrient cycle and purification of air, etc. This has widened the gap between humans and the natural environment. Thus, large-scale solutions need to be designed through more holistic sustainability movements to deal with these problems.
The study of EVS not only helps in developing mental skills of reasoning, imagination, memory, observation, concentration, analysis, originality and systematic thinking, but has a disciplinary value too. It helps in developing a holistic personality and strives to bring out the necessary transformation required to ensure a more organised thought process along with cultivating the right point of view for sustainability. EVS is therefore essential for the progress of society and the nation as a whole. It promotes individuals’ participation in activities like national afforestation, minimising pollution by sharing of common resources, assisting in conservation and recycling of resources, and assisting with other eco-developmental programmes, etc.
According to NCF (National Curriculum Framework) 2000, it was recommended that environmental studies be taught as an integrated course (as single EVS), not into distinct parts as science and social studies, for the entire primary stage (classes I to V). Before this, classes I-II were already following concept of integrated course for EVS, according to NCC’s policy document 1975.
Integrated EVS aims at developing an individual’s social, physical, emotional, intellectual, artistic and spiritual potential by focussing on the cognitive, behavioural and spiritual domains of learning in a graded manner. It helps pupils in developing a multidisciplinary understanding of environmental problems, by enabling their direct engagement with the environment through organised learning activities within and outside the classroom.
ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
EVS deals with the immediate physical and social environment surrounding us and assumes that everything is inter-related in an environment. It is a valuable resource that helps in understanding our interaction with the environment and cope with the issues related to it.
Environmental education implies the education from the primary level to the postsecondary level. It is a multi-disciplinary field that includes environmental studies along with others like environmental engineering, which deals with environment protection and conservation, and environmental management, which deals with planned investment towards managing the environmental impact and economics of pollution. Environmental education builds environmental literacy and aims at developing a world that is aware and concerned about addressing environment- related problems and takes action to conserve and sustain it.
Importance of Environmental Education
Environmental education is an interdisciplinary approach that emphasises first-hand experiences, practical activities, significance of sustainable development and awareness of the need for international cooperation in environmental planning. It follows a scientific and objective process to facilitate the teaching and learning processes. It aims to develop critical thinking skills necessary for decision making and problem solving. It also helps an individual in creating sensitivity and awareness about environmental challenges, acquiring the necessary skills to recognise and solve environmental challenges and taking action for enhancing the environment.
Environmental education provides learning experiences that help in bringing out the desirable attitudinal change in an individual about his/her relationship with his/her surroundings.
A thorough understanding of environmental issues is essential to promote environmental awareness within a community. The role played by mass media is very important in creating awareness about the environment. Different institutions like Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and Wild Life Institute of India (WII) play a very important role in creating environmental awareness.
SCOPE AND RELATION TO SCIENCE AND SOCIAL SCIENCE
Environmental studies encompasses the study of not only ecology and environmental science but also other associated subjects like sociology, economics, law, social aspects, natural resources, pollution control, etc. Therefore, it is important for teachers to impart knowledge about the usefulness of environmental studies in both the physical and social environment.
Social science aims at imparting knowledge about the existence and development of our society and the human race on Earth. While elaborating on the evolution of civilisations, it includes the study of the various advanced electronic systems used for communication and control. Similarly, there are topics in science that can be directly linked with social studies, like formation of various rocks and soils, study of the solar system, occurrence of natural phenomena like high and low tides in the seas, eclipses, storms, rain, weather changes, etc. The study of weather in geography cannot be exclusive of the related knowledge of science regarding rains, temperature, humidity, rain gauge, barometer, thermometer, etc. This ensures that students get a thorough knowledge and understanding of the various components of science and think the way scientists and researchers do.
As both science and social science are related to each other and form an important aspect of EVS, teachers can successfully impart the knowledge of relevant key environmental science concepts by using examples from historical, political and social contexts.
Some of the objectives of teaching environmental studies to children at the primary level are as follows:
• To make them understand simple graphs, maps, flowcharts and statistical tables.
• To enable them to have a basic knowledge of various numerals and alphabets for the comprehension and understanding of scientific vocabulary and language.
• To make them understand the importance of cultivating healthy habits to maintain both personal and social hygiene.
• To develop the habit of performing tasks in a systematic manner and learn to carry out any activity with precision.
• To build their creative, observational and inventive faculties.
• To ensure children are interested in the study of nature and become aware of their natural surroundings.
• To motivate them to study and listen to the life story of famous inventors and scientists, their key inventions and contribution to mankind and society.
Environmental studies together with science and social science can provide students with a valuable practical learning experience through hands-on laboratory experiences and field investigations. They get an opportunity to gather, analyse and interpret data to arrive at conclusions from their research work in social science and sciences, by using the relevant scientific tools and equipment.
The various components of both science and social science enable students to critically evaluate the scientific evidence and socio political aspects of issues related to the environment and natural resources, their causes and the recommended solutions. The students get a good understanding of human interaction with the environment and its implications for human welfare and sustainability, and develop a broad understanding of natural and scientific processes and the impact of human intervention on the environment.