Greening the Undergraduate Curriculum: FYUP and Beyond

DU students planting sapling

DU students planting saplings as part of the student initiative for protecting the environment.

R. M. Rilke, the Bohemian-Austrian poet once noted, “If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.” What could therefore be better than integrating earth and environment in the education system so as to create an evolved society which is simultaneously deeply rooted and strong. The forms for the University of Delhi undergraduate programme this year became available to the students on 5th June, the World Environment Day! I believe this was a good omen since the new Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) includes a mandatory paper on Environment. For me,”Environment” is everything that surrounds us. And our this surrounding  is facing a lot of problem nowadays. The continuously increasing problems of pollution is leading to a degradation of environment. Challenges like sustaining economic productivity, ensuring national security, global warming, solid waste disposal and loss of biodiversity have now thankfully become much more mainstreamed than before.

I believe in the power of youth to change the world. It is not only a belief I share, but I am also confident that it is the best resource to tackle some of the greatest challenges faced by our planet and the human society. To channelize the power of the youth, it is imperative to focus on the Education sector. Environmental Education can go a long way in tapping into the enthusiasm of students and provide them the knowledge and skills to solve the challenges of the 21st century. The developing of an early connection with environment in schools/ colleges also equips the individual to make everyday decisions that improve the quality of her/his life as well as benefit the health of our planet. Through the Government of Delhi’s successful Eco Clubs Programme, many colleges in Delhi conduct activities and events like Nukkad Nataks which are a fun and inspirational way to create awareness about environmental issues. For instance, Haritima, the Environment Awareness Committee of Hans Raj College (DU) has been consistently working for the environment by organising plantation and cleanliness drives.

The University of Delhi (DU) is one one of the leading universities in India and I was delighted to know that DU has introduced a mandatory paper in the 1st year called Environment and Public Health. Interestingly, the core module syllabus for this paper includes classroom teaching and field work. The first seven units, which will cover 45 lectures, are- classroom teaching based to enhance knowledge, skills and attitude of the student towards Environment. The concluding unit is based on field activities. The best part about this is that this paper/ subject is compulsory for all undergraduate students and has been launched as a Foundation Course. The syllabus largely comprises introduction to environment and its relationship with man, climate change and its health impacts, environmental policies, study of biodiversity and its conservation, environmental pollution and social issues related to environment.

Other than DU, the recent modification and up-gradation of the syllabus of the coveted Civil Services examination (UPSC) now also focuses greatly on Environmental issues. Since the most prestigious exam in India now comprises the need for studying environmental issues, this will certainly generate greater environmental awareness both within civil services aspirants and in the next generation of bureaucrats. All these steps that have been taken are definitely steps towards greening the curriculum within our education system. A green curriculum implies a teaching system which is recognizes nature as a teacher, takes the classroom outside the four walls and promotes the principles of sustainable development thereby ensuring a clean, green environment for the present and future generations.

Dr. Monika Koul, Professor of Botany at Hans Raj College, DU highlighted the need for environment education and noted, “By imparting education to the students, we are aiming at making them sensitive towards various environmental issues and create awareness on issues and challenges that the country is facing these days. Without the involvement of youth, we  cannot be successful in tackling the problems.” She further went on to recommend that, “I believe there should be “Student Environment Awards” given to encourage the youth just like an academic award or sports award is presented.” She also advocated the need for a ‘sustainability representative’ in every college which could be of great help in reducing the ecological footprint of the entire academic infrastructure in Delhi.

Protecting the environment is the need of hour and I feel that the University of Delhi is doing a great work, even though much more is still desired. We need to move from a basic Foundation Course to having a full fledged Discipline Course soon within the curriculum structure. Amidst this hopeful transition, I am sure all the students of DU will continue to help contribute in the promotion and protection of ‘Our Common Environment.’

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The present article is part of a three part series on surveying the Environment Education landscape at school, undergraduate and postgraduate level in the NCT of Delhi.

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About 

Ritika Kapoor is researching on the Science and Management of Climate Change and is a Ph.D. candidate at the Euro Mediterranean Centre for Climate Change, Bologna, Italy. Prior to this, she completed her Master's in Environmental Science from Furgusson College, Pune and her graduation from the University of Delhi, India.

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