Climate Change Education, Environmental
Education in India, Climate Change, and its
ambiguity in the National Education Policy


Will Climate Change Education be one of the core strategies of mitigating climate change in India? Will this enable pro environmental behaviours that can initiate change in consumption patterns among the youth? What is the state of the current environmental education system in India? This research paper has three objectives i) investigate the history of environmental education in India, ii) address the current needs of climate change education in India, and iii) provide future adaptation of climate change education policy based on existing research and policy developments of environmental education movements. The Introduction sets the context of the need for climate change education in India. Climate change education is explained, elaborating on the key principles that contribute to it: 1) Green Behaviours, 2) Political Thinking, 3) Biophilia and Contemplative Pedagogy, and the 4) Role of Ecologically mindful educators. The existing environmental education programs and policies at the national level are discussed, focusing on the National Education Policy Draft 2019. 

 The lack of implementation, research and resources, and the need for systemic change of environmental education in India is discussed concluding with the need for environmental education in India to shift from an awareness based curriculum to a multidisciplinary curriculum that enables ecologically mindful educators to encourage green behaviours through the existing environmental education curricula combined with contemplative pedagogy and biophilia, integrating the political ontologies into daily environmental education at all levels, which will enable self-building capacities to change behaviours and make choices to mitigate climate change. 


Long before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the first International Conference of Environmental Education at Tbilisi (1978) declared the need for an interdisciplinary approach to Environmental Education to counter worldwide planetary destruction (UNESCO- UNEP, 1978). Environmental Education is aimed at equipping one to become a responsible citizen that is mindful and aware of the external biophysical environment and internal environment (Strapp, 1969). Through Environmental Education, the skills of identifying relationships within ecosystems, problem solving sustainably, and cultivating resiliency are inculcated. Environmental Education enables the identification and acceptance of the impacts of humans in the natural world (Strapp, 1969). Environmental Education must focus on the importance of understanding that, the existence of any civilization is dependent upon human use of natural resources, and that this requires knowledge of social, political, economic, technological processes, institutional arrangements and aesthetic considerations that identify the origin and sustenance of the natural resources (Strapp, 1969).

Environmental Education in India is strongly influenced by rapid economic developments which lead to a pile of environmental issues due to natural resource depletion. The extent of pollution, overpopulation, rapid deforestation, and overexploitation of natural resources in the race to become a global economy has also transformed the Indian education system to produce consumers that can contribute to the global economy.

 In 2015, India ratified the Paris Agreement and agreed to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This meant a reduction in the intensity of the emissions of the Gross Domestic Product by 33 to 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030(Climate Action Tracker, 2019). This will be achieved using low cost international finance, and transfer of technology for 40 percent cumulative electric power from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030(Climate Action Tracker, 2019). Additionally, a cumulative carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be created through additional forest and tree cover (Figure 1) by 2030(Climate Action Tracker, 2019). India aims to adapt to climate change by investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change like, agriculture, water resources, the Himalayan region, coastal regions and disaster management (Climate Action Tracker, 2019). Yet India continues its quest for development through industrialization, which has led to major environmental degradation and not meeting the NDCs. 

Figure 1: India’s progress towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C (Climate Action Tracker, 2019). 

The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has warned that due to the human exploitation of natural resources, climate change will emerge with rising temperatures, droughts, desertification, heavy precipitation, flooding, rising sea levels and extreme weather events such as cyclones, floods and droughts (IPCC, 2018). The report concluded that immediate and sustained action is the best possible solution to prevent climate change from causing irreversible damage to the environment (IPCC, 2018). According to the United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) Climate Change and Environmental Education Handbook (Iltus, 2013), education provides the required knowledge, skills and behaviour change for successful climate change adaptation and mitigation and enables informed decision making and effective action for climate resilient sustainable development. Environmental Education is often side-lined, and policymakers have not utilized its potential efficiently. The IPCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Environment Program have all highlighted the need to support education for climate change (Iltus,2013). The symbiotic relationship between education and development is being recognized worldwide with education’s contribution to economic growth, poverty reduction, distribution, reduction in inequalities, and socio-political transformation of societies (Tilak, 2018). 

India will have the youngest population in the world starting 2020 with the mean age of 29. According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), India will continue to have the largest youth demographic till 2030 (UNFPA, 2018). Access to education, employment and a healthy life are serious development challenges that the youth who make up 50 percent of the 1.3 billion population face (UNFPA, 2018) Young people transform the social and economic fortunes of the country with the right investments in participation and leadership. Along with poor school quality and continuing challenges due to poverty, gender inequality,  political stability, and diseases, young people worldwide are facing the ill effects of climate change. Climate Change Education will play a major role in the facilitation of climate change mitigation and adaptation. There is a need for systemic change of environmental education in India, to shift from an awareness based curriculum to a multidisciplinary curriculum, that enables ecologically mindful educators to encourage green behaviours, through the existing environmental education curricula, combined with contemplative pedagogy and biophilia, integrating the political ontologies into daily environmental education at all levels, to enable self-building capacities to change behaviours and make choices to mitigate climate change. 

Climate Change Education 

Children constitute the future generations who will have to deal with the effects of climate change for the rest of their lives. When nurtured effectively with strong roots, children and the youth are powerful agents of change. Hart’s (1996) diagram (Figure 2) recognizes the various stages of a child’s developing capacity to manage the environment. According to Iltus (2013), author of the Climate Change and Environmental Education UNICEF handbook, education can contribute to leadership building, projects and actions that will contribute to the climate change policymaking, mitigation and adaptation. Human rights, ,  poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, gender equality, environmental sensitivity, protection of indigenous people and the sustainable development goals are important topics that should be included during Climate Change Environmental Education that are highlighted in frameworks for Environmental Education such as the Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education, the Rio Declaration of Environment and Development (1992), Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change and Article 10 of the Kyoto Protocol (Iltus, 2013).

Figure 2: Children’s developing capacities to manage the environment (Hart,1996)

As Anderson (2010) highlights, Climate Change Education is multidisciplinary and should simultaneously include the environment where the content is learned to be climate proofed, safe and sustainable along with the relevant localized content on climate change, social issues, sustainable consumption, conscious lifestyles and disaster risk reduction. The headliner of Environmental Education is often global warming and greenhouse gas emissions and the social, economic, cultural and historical factors are often side-lined. Governments rarely tap into the potential of education and fail to address the specific knowledge, skills and needs that educated children can contribute to climate changed mitigation (Iltus, 2015). Iltus writes on the need to invest in quality education to facilitate access to information on climate change for public support on climate related policies. This, complemented by interventions that are local, tangible and actionable as mentioned by Anderson (2010), will be the key to addressing climate change through Environmental Education that addresses individual behaviour. Green behaviour is an important aspect of climate change mitigation. 

Green Behaviour and Climate Change Education 

Green behaviours or Pro Environmental Behaviour arises from the interpersonal values influenced by attitudes, values and beliefs, which are the result of controlled conditions of social norms (Varela-Candamio, Novo-Corti & Garcia-Alvarez, 2018). The importance of Environmental Education for green behaviour is highlighted through their meta-analysis research. Their research provides us with the result that human behaviour plays a critical role in protecting the environment which is influenced by Environmental Education and intrapersonal factors (Varela-Candamio, Novo-Corti & Garcia-Alvarez, 2018). Climate change has become a topic that one hears about, and is exposed to on a daily basis. The global concern amongst the youth for environmental protection and climate change mitigation is transforming behaviours, attitudes and beliefs. Awareness and acting on these factors determine green behaviour. Climate Change Education can persuade individuals to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and act as instrument of social transformation and redefine one’s relationship with nature which will enable green behaviour and pro-environmental choices. On reviewing literature, Varela-Candamio et al. (2018) found out that awareness, attitudes, intentions, motivations, Environmental Education and social norms were the main predictors of pro environmental behaviour which is illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Structural Equation Model for the extent of socio demographic and psychological factors that determine green behaviour (Varela-Candamio, Novo-Corti & Garcia-Alvarez, 2018).

Varela-Candamio et al. used structural equation modelling (SEM) to calculate the extent of socio demographic factors (awareness, social norms, Environmental Education) and psychological factors (attitudes, intention, motivation) that determine changes in green behaviour. Their analysis revealed that Environmental Education and intrapersonal factors were the main drivers of green behaviour. This reinforces Iltus (2013) and Anderson (2010) ideas of using multidisciplinary CCE to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Using market-based instruments and social instruments like Environmental Education, policy makers and governments could influence practice in green behaviour and long-term economic transformations through their political power. 

The Influence of Climate Change Education on Political Thinking 

Henderson and Zarger (2017) write in the Journal of Environmental Education that “Our environmental interactions are socially organized and the result of political processes” (p. 285). The cognitive dissonance between awareness and actions is vast in spite of the improving global access of Environmental Education. They explain that the political nature of education and learning, should be accounted for through Environmental Education, to understand the ecological dynamics of resource use, which is influenced by political ideologies and governance (Henderson & Zarger, 2017). Political interactions shape ecological impact because of the dominance of human culture on landscapes (Henderson & Zarger, 2017). There is a need for simultaneous understanding of individual behaviours as well as larger social, cultural, political and economic patterns that shape the individual’s behaviour that can be explained through psychology, anthropology and sociology (Henderson & Zarger, 2017). Using Gramsci’s ideas, Nicolas Stahlein (2017) argues how Environmental Education can be used at a strategic institutional level for gradual social transformation, where the state and civil society using the strategic processes of counter hegemonic moral and intellectual reform by engaging with power struggles. Stahlein (2017) writes, “Environmental Education can subvert the reproductive exploitative capitalist social relations” (p. 260). Environmental Education can provide a foundation where, through critical territorial consciousness, public participation can increase in environmental governance. Feminism and Indigenous rights are vital in shaping ecological dynamics in Environmental Education and highlights the multidisciplinary factor of Climate Change Education. Henderson & Zarger (2017), and Stahlein’s (2017) point about the need for political ecology in Environmental Education, harmonizes the opportunity of effective climate change policy making, and implementation, through climate change education, that Anderson (2010) and Iltus (2013) encourage. 

Biophilia and Contemplative Pedagogy in Climate Change Education

Biophilia is an affiliation or friendship and love for living things as explained by David Orr (1994). Pulkki, Dahlin and Varri (2017) explain Contemplative Pedagogy as forms of education which are about cultivating attention and aim to develop calmer, relaxed, attentive and harmonious people.  In Climate Change Education, it is essential to include the cultivation of resiliency and nurturing regenerative environments for climate change mitigation. This can be instilled using contemplative pedagogy that focuses on biophilia. Pulkki, Dahlin and Varri (2017) argue in the Journal of Philosophy of Education for the need of a biophilia revolution which enhances sensing capabilities, and complements the knowledge-based Environmental Education, by enabling the intrinsic valuation of the environment. Contemplative pedagogy uses mindfulness, meditation, yoga and other tactics to engage personal feelings and lived body awareness apart from cognition of facts which is important to help reconnect human and nature, and re-establish the link between action and knowledge (Pulkki et al.,2017). Alienation from the physical environment is an important factor that enables environmental devastation and is perpetuated by capitalism, modernization, industrialization and globalization (Pulkki et al., 2017). They highlight the importance of the abilities of calming down, being focused, clearing the consciousness, to observe compassionately and the need to cultivate the ability to intrinsically value and respect nature (Pulkki et al., 2017). Biophilia and contemplative pedagogy will help with the unlearning process that humans are the only resource exploiters and dominators of the earth and enable one to be mindful and accept that humans are part of a larger ecosystem and are a species just like other. Contemplative pedagogy and biophilia should be integrated into the existing Climate Change and Environmental Education systems as it will complement cognitive and analytic learning. This will enable students to pay attention, refine the usage, and accuracy of their senses because of increased capacity to empathize and pay attention (Pulkki et al., 2017).

Contemplative pedagogy and biophilia can play a major role in influencing “green behaviour” as explained by Varela-Candamio et al. (2018). “The Environment is both out there and within me” is an important learning aspect of contemplative pedagogy and biophilia, along with the aspects of mindfulness and meditation integrated into Climate Change Education, as future generations are heavily exposed to environments and information which causes immense eco-anxiety (Pihkala,2018). For the integration of contemplative pedagogy, biophilia, political ontologies, and green behaviours into Climate change education, it is vital for educators to be “ecologically mindful” as Morrison (2017) explains using Moroye’s (2009) concepts.  

The role of ecologically mindful educators in CCE

During the first international environmental conference at Tbsili (UNESCO-UNEP, 1978) it was declared that there is a need for an interdisciplinary approach to Environmental Education to counter worldwide planetary destruction. Globally, Environmental Education is often neglected because of its knowledge-based curriculum (Wright, Cain & Monsour,2015). Iltus (2013) and Anderson (2010) both highlight the need for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary Climate Change Education which can be facilitated by educators. According to Morrison (2017), teachers do not need to have an environmental science background to practice and teach “everyday environmental education.” Ecological mindedness is explained through a framework for “everyday environmental education” by Moroye and Ingman (2017) as the integration of understanding the complexities of modern life, current events and their importance, importance of cultural diversity, civic participation and social advocacy for democracy which can be facilitated through analysing texts from different disciplines, map and graph reading, using evidence and date to support information, effective writing and critical thinking. This resonates with the goals that Climate Change Education wants to achieve and also has the potential to meet the government standards of education by increasing academic proficiencies (Morrison,2017). Moroye and Ingman (2013) highlight that ecological mindedness consists of ecological care: promotion of ethic and care and a system of caring relationships in a classroom; interconnectedness: acknowledging how everything is connected and related; and ecological integrity: aligning and acting on beliefs to encourage green behaviour that stems from understanding interconnectedness and ecological care (p.599-604). 

Based on Moroye’s (2013) ideas, Morrison (2017) conducts a qualitative study on ecologically minded educators and finds that exposing externalities, emphasizing active learning, providing multiple perspectives, asking critical questions and collaboration. Using externalities to make students understand unintended consequences of production, consumption and investment on natural resources because of the choices of individuals and corporations by using active learning where the is a focus on skill development, analysis, synthesis and evaluation on information (Bonwell and Eison, 1991). These educators provide multiple perspectives and encourage the understanding of different viewpoints that enables democratic thinking and critical thinking by collaborating with others to pass on these ideas, information and opinions to the children (Morrison, 2017). Ecologically mindful educators understand that Climate Change Education is interdisciplinary field to be integrated into everyday learning experiences by making students aware about interrelated environmental, political and social issues in a creative and engaging way which is the essence of Climate Change Education as put by Iltus (2013), Anderson (2010), Varela-Candamio et al. (2018), and Henderson & Zarger (2017).

Indian context of Climate Change Education 

With reference to Climate Change Education, green behaviour, political ideologies of environmental education, contemplative pedagogy, and ecologically mindful educators, I will now analyse Environmental Education from an Indian context. There is a lack of implementation and research in the theory and practice of Environmental Education (EE) in India even though there are numerous policies in place.  This reiterates the need for systemic change of environmental education in India, to shift from an awareness based curriculum to a multidisciplinary curriculum, that enables ecologically mindful educators to encourage green behaviours, through the existing environmental education curricula, combined with contemplative pedagogy and biophilia, integrating the political ontologies into daily environmental education at all levels, to enable self-building capacities to change behaviours and make choices to mitigate climate change. 

At the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India at the time, highlighted the connection between poverty and environment and how one could not be dealt with without the other (Sarabhai, Pandya & Namgiri, 2007). The Department of Environment emerged in 1980 which set up centres to drive different components of the environmental strategy. The Centre for Environmental Education was established in 1984 and the CPR Environmental Education Centre in 1988 as centres of excellence (Sarabhai & Chhokar, 2009). The Ministry of Human Resource Development was given the responsibility to bring about change in the education system which led to the launch of the National Education Policy (NEP) in 1986 (Sarabhai & Chhokar, 2009). EE was integrated into the Indian schooling system through the Kothari Commission’s recommendation (1964-1966) and through the Centre for Environmental Education which pushed for the integration of EE in all standards of the schooling system and was enable through Supreme Court mandates in 1991 and 2003 (Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie, 2011). In India the implementation of EE in the formal school curriculum was enabled by the National Curriculum Framework 2005 and the ruling of the Supreme Court (Sonowal, 2009). This led to the National Council of Education, Research and Training to develop a syllabus for EE for class 1 to 12 using the infusion approach (Sonowal, 2009). The infusion approach incorporates EE into the existing curricula of subjects and project-based activities (Sonowal, 2009). 

After 1991, when globalization and liberalization happened, the main intent of education became the production of able individuals who could contribute “economically” and meet the needs of rapid industrialization and globalization happening in the country which led to India becoming the second fastest growing economy in the world (Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie,2011). Sarabhai & Chhokar (2009) elaborated on environmentalism in India dating back to ancient roots where natural resources were respected and prayed for before being used and species were seen as beings who had rights beyond being capital and resources. Even in the Indian Constitution, protecting the environment is a fundamental duty as seen in Article 51-A which states that “It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures” (Government of India, 2019). Rapid development has led to the increase in disposable income of the middle class which has led to increase in materialism and consumerism.  Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie (2017) explain how the ancient qualities of “Karma” (purposeful duty) and “Vedanta,” the belief on oneness of all life in the universe, have been abandoned and there has been a switch to glorification of affluence in the Indian culture. 

The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, and the Ministry of Human Resource Development desired to “green” the curricula through environmental awareness campaigns and programmes by partnering with NGOs and institutions (Sarabhai & Chhokar, 2009).  There has been significant progress from the efforts of the formal education sector the development of localized teaching material, teacher training and masters training in knowledge and pedagogical skills (Ravindranath, 2007). The National Green Corps (NGC) programme, which was started by the central government to work through Eco-clubs in schools, has been successful in reaching over 3.5 million students every year (Roberts, 2009). Each club has 30-50 youth student members led by a teacher in charge on the basis of environmental issues who uses a resource material tool kit to engage, educate and explore with the students (Roberts, 2009). NGCs supplement the efforts of greening the curriculum with experiential learning through field trips, making their school campuses sustainable, maintaining public parks and heritage sites, waste management and water pollution activities and gain insight due to direct exposure of the environmental issues around them (Roberts, 2009). These activities gave the students confidence and satisfaction of doing something meaningful, productive and useful (Sarabhai & Chhokar, 2009). The NGC is a successful program that potentially enables Climate Change Education. The program includes the core principles of climate change education as highlighted by Iltus (2013), Anderson (2010), and Varela-Candamio et al. (2018). Inadequate teacher training, lack of accessible funds, and inadequate support from management are some weaknesses of the National Green corps programme that is yet to be rectified (Srinivasan, 2005). India has a vast and diverse range of Environmental Education programmes linked to sustainable development, yet there is a requirement of revision and modification of existing programmes to mitigate climate change. 

The Centre for Environmental Education has been a pioneer in promoting Environmental Education in India. The organization publishes India’s first journal in the field, The Journal of Education for Sustainable Development (Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie, 2017). They play a major role in integrating Environmental Education, awareness and solutions in India, along with other Non-Governmental Organizations.  Due to pollution and rapid environmental degradation, India is receiving global attention for its lack of environmental management which has led to numerous policy changes and increasing development of environmental consciousness amongst youth through education and technology (Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie,2017). Using the table (figure 4) produced by Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie (2017), the consistent transition of Environmental Education can be observed. Even though Environmental Education has been made compulsory through the Supreme Court ruling, there is a lack of fixed rules, regulations, and frameworks for the state boards to implement the NCERT syllabus to their education systems. The curriculum in the NCERT (2005) focuses on habitats, inequalities due to environmental degradation, and importance of education to understand the environment, and acknowledges the need for an interdisciplinary approach rather than rote memorization. This is a great step for environmental education in India, but the lack of teacher training, guidelines, frameworks and specific curriculum makes it difficult to gauge the implementation and positive impacts of this curriculum. There is a need for systemic changes in EE in India and inclusion of CCE curriculum. 

Figure 4: NCERT recommendations for implementing EE in schools in India (Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie,2017). 

Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie (2017) correctly note that the research on Environmental Education in India is still nascent. There is lack of qualitative research and data available on environmental awareness, teaching methods, learning styles, pedagogy and curriculum aspects of Environmental Education. There is a lack of teacher, educator inputs and ecologically minded educators make the essence of successful EE and CCE (Morrison, 2017). There is a gap between policy and practice which could be due to lack of data, the effectiveness of existing policies is vague, and there is a lack of data and research on the implementation and reach of EE in India. There is a belief that modern technology can solve environmental problems and economic development is top priority, even if it means sacrificing the environment amongst educators surveyed by Almeida & Cutter-Mackenzie (2017), which reveals the lack of ecologically mindedness, contemplative pedagogy and biophilia, political ontologies of EE, green behaviour and CCE (Morrison, 2017; Pulkki et al., 2015; Henderson & Zager, 2017; Varela-Candamio et al, 2018; Iltus, 2013; Anderson, 2010).

Goel & Goel’s (2012) study on the problems of teacher education in India reveals a major quality crisis, poor integration of skills, domain pedagogy mismatches and stake holders non alignment. There is also inadequate technology infusion, poor research scenarios, and non-scientific manpower planning (Goel & Goel,2012). There are problems of illusive laboratories, overgrowing establishments, institutional inertia and invalid recognition and accreditation (Goel & Goel,2012). The above mentioned along with the no teacher policy reveal the need for an immediate change and improvement in the Teacher Training institutions in India (Goel & Goel,2012). Tilak (2018) one of the pioneers in the economy of education in India writes that the educational system is starved of financial resources with costs of under-investment and the misallocation of resources being extremely high. He also highlights the political nature of education and educational policies which causes discrepancy in implementation between state policies, plans and actions (Tilak, 2018). This can be compared and connected to the need to encourage and integrate the political ontologies of Environmental Education into formal  curriculums as discussed by Henderson & Zarger ( 2017) . 

EE in the National Education Policy Draft 2019 

Tilak (2018) expresses the need for goals and skills that enable these goals in curriculum and pedagogy, leadership of teachers and educators, institutions focusing on the creation of meaningful learning opportunities and pedagogical innovations alone will not succeed. In 2018, he wrote about the need for an effective system to support learning with sound policies through the reconfiguration of the whole system to support learning and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (Tilak, 2018). The committee for Draft National Education Policy, chaired by Dr. K. Kasturigan submitted a report on May 31, 2019 that proposed an education policy addressing access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability faced by the current education system and recommends a systemic change in the education system (National Education Policy Draft, 2019). The Policy Draft heavily stresses on meeting Sustainable Development Goal 4 “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” and can act as a suitable instrument to mitigate climate change” (National Education Policy Draft, 2019).  

  With reference to the National Education Policy draft (2019), “climate change” is mentioned 3 times in the following instances:  

  • Standard 7 and 8 students would learn about “current issues that they will likely need to face and hopefully address in their futures as adults, including those surrounding climate change, sanitation, water, Swacch Bharat, gender equality, social justice, science and its interaction with society, universal education, and, e.g. problems with this national education policy” (p.100)
  • under the National Research Foundation “A robust ecosystem of research is perhaps more important than ever with the rapid changes occurring in the world today, e.g. in the realm of climate change, population dynamics and management, biotechnology, an expanding digital marketplace, and the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence” (p.265) 
  •  “Establishing international research efforts to address global challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, and climate change using artificial intelligence.” (p.355)

Even though climate change is acknowledged, there is no structured path to action that educators and academics can use to enable these goals. There is no mention of “forests,” “green behaviour,” “environmental sensitivity,” “consumerism,” “pollution,” and “global warming” in the National Education Policy Draft. There is a strong inclination towards the need for the Indian education to be more multidisciplinary, with the word being used 123 times (National Education Policy Draft, 2019). The theme of multidisciplinary within the education system was highlighted by other scholars (Iltus ,2013; Anderson, 2010). 

Another common theme identified across the National Education Policy draft was physical education. “Yoga” is mentioned 12 times with a focus on “incorporating physical education, mind and body wellness and sports into the curriculum” (p.96) which encourages Pulkki et al.’s (2015) ideas of contemplative pedagogy and biophilia to an extent (National Education Policy, 2019).  Another example is the frequency in which “Outdoor” and “experiential learning” are referenced. In spite of “experiential learning” being referred to 10 times, there is a lack of explanation to integrate these concepts into the education system (National Education Policy, 2019). 

  Similarly, “Politics” is mentioned 23 times, primarily from the perspective of political interference that inhibits education and institutions from functioning ((National Education Policy, 2019). Under section 4.6.10 Current Affairs (p.99) the need to know about current political situations is highlighted and how “youth in the country are equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values as well as employable skills that would enable them to contribute to India’s social, economic, and political transformation” (p.31). This resonates with Henderson & Zarger’s (2017) ideas of the inclusion of political ontologies in Environmental Education. 

The National Education Policy Draft is an incredible step for the future of Indian education but there is a lack of a plan of action. In the introduction, Dr. Kasturigan aims for “An education system built on the premises of quality and equity is considered central to sustainable development, achieving success in the emerging knowledge economy and society, for socio-economic mobility, and for building an equitable, just and humane society.”

The future of sustainable development revolves around climate change mitigation and adaptation and Climate Change education will play a vital role in the future. 

As Tilak (2018) explains, EE must infuse a culture of sustainability and peace, not only relating to sciences and economics but being interdisciplinary and enabling one to connect with themselves and nature.  Through EE, one should understand the reality of nature being intimately linked to humans (Tilak, 2018). India has the capacity to bring about change. 


There is an immediate need for EE in India to shift from an awareness-based curriculum to a multidisciplinary curriculum that encourages educators to become ecologically mindful to facilitate the understanding of green behaviours through existing curricula.  In addition, integrating contemplative pedagogy using biophilia and introducing political ontologies into daily educational environments will enable self-building capacities to change behaviours. These actions will develop environmental awareness that makes the students climate change conscious. Instilling these values will enable these students to contribute and participate in sustainable development and climate change mitigation. 

Students are the future leaders of tomorrow and will have to deal with the greater effects of climate change in their lifetime. It is the responsibility of governments and policy makers to invest in quality education that enables the facilitation and sharing of these values. The education must include leadership building for future interventions at the local, state and national level that are tangible and actionable. An EE that facilitates leadership, learning and encourages green behaviour will be the key to addressing climate change. Human behaviour critically influences one’s role in protecting the environment which is enabled through environmental education and intrapersonal factors, as seen in the research in the field of Green Behaviours (Varela-Candamio, Novo-Corti & Garcia-Alvarez, 2018). Governments and policy makers can use market-based instruments and social instruments like environmental education to instil green behaviours and enable long term sustainable economic transformations.

EE can play a vital role in improving environmental governance by enabling a critical territorial consciousness, public participation and encouraging responsible citizenry. EE’s intersectional nature will also enable awareness on feminism and indigenous rights which are vital for shaping ecological dynamics for climate change mitigation. Cultivating resiliency and nurturing regenerative environments are core goals of Environmental Education that will encourage innovative solutions for the future of climate change mitigation. Educators must actively use contemplative pedagogy that focuses on biophilia using mindfulness, meditation, yoga and other tactics to engage personal feelings and lived body awareness apart from cognition of facts which is important to help reconnect human and nature, and re-establish the link between action and knowledge. 

Even though EE is mandatory by government ruling, there is a lack of fixed rules, regulations, and frameworks to implement the concepts and curriculum into existing syllabi. There is also a lack of teacher training, and information on the implementation, which it makes it difficult to estimate the existing structure’s positive impact. There is a need for systemic changes in EE in India and inclusion of a climate change education curriculum. 

There is a lack of qualitative and quantitative research on existing environmental awareness, teaching methods, learning styles, pedagogy and curriculum aspects of Environmental Education. There is a gap between policy and practice which could be due to lack of data, the effectiveness of existing policies is vague, and there is a lack of data and research on the implementation and reach of EE in India.

Future reviews of the National Education Policy Draft 2019  should make use of this opportunity to transform EE in India  from an awareness based curriculum to a multidisciplinary curriculum that enables ecologically mindful educators to encourage green behaviours through the existing EE curricula combined with Contemplative Pedagogy and biophilia, integrating the political ontologies of EE and CCE into daily EE at all levels which will enable self-building capacities to change behaviours and make choices to mitigate climate change.  

Further studies on Environmental Education in India could look into role of  environmental NGO’s and grass roots movements in enabling informal environmental education and their impacts, the existing environmental affinity of students in rural areas compared to students in urban areas, comparison of environmental affinity and climate science awareness amongst Indian youth, the online environment knowledge sharing which has led to an increase in grassroots climate activism during the pandemic , the role of elders in instilling traditional ecological knowledge and enabling an informal environmental education, future of technology’s role in environmental education due to the pandemic, and studies on Nature Deficit Disorder amongst Indian youth, levels of ecological mindfulness amongst Indian educators, and impacts of qualitative environmental education on generating green jobs, enabling a green economy and promoting sustainable development. 

In conclusion, this paper is important as it draws attention to the key principles that have been identified globally for an effective Environmental Education. This paper demonstrates the presence and the absence of these principles in the existing Indian Environmental Education system. This paper highlights the need for implementation of attainable policies, and the need for research on the effectiveness of these policies. A goal without a plan of action is just a dream. The National Education Policy Draft 2019 has so much potential to guide the youngest population in the world and enable them to become leaders of sustainable change.


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