Our Children Need More Exposure To Green Education, Stakeholders Claim

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Climate change, pollutions, environmental degradation, resource depletion and waste − these are some of the issues that our homeland is unfortunately plagued with – and equipping our young ones with relevant environmental knowledge, not only furthers humanity, but instils a sense of care and respect for our planet’s resources too.

Despite a multitude of efforts put forth by the government, various industries and stakeholders to promote green education, it appears that it remains ambiguous for majority of the public. Through our random survey, here is what some Malaysians had to say about green education and its implementation in schools.

Henry Goh, President of MNS. (Pic: Steven Wong of MNS)Henry Goh, President of MNS. (Pic: Steven Wong of MNS)Henry Goh, President of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)

Green education allows individuals to explore environmental issues, participate in problem solving and take action to improve the environment. Individuals develop a greater understanding of environmental issues and acquire the skills to make informed and responsible decisions through it. By educating our children, the next generation will have a better understanding of the importance of protecting our planet. They will know from a young age what carbon footprint is and why it is important to keep it in check. They will appreciate why developing and producing renewable energy and recycling are important.

Soraya, 33, Mother of four

My eight-year-old daughter attends a private school in Ampang and unfortunately the syllabus doesn’t cover green education. She studies science that focuses more on humans, animals and general eco-system and biodiversity. Occasionally the teacher speaks about the effects of waste and how it impacts the environment, but overall, I believe the education and awareness in schools is severely lacking.

Muhammad, 34, Father of four

In kindergarten, my son learns about reusing certain materials such as making stationary compartments out of tins and boxes, or flower pots out of tins. It’s not part of his syllabus, but I believe by doing so helps instil the idea to be eco-conscious as well as encouraging him to be more creative and innovative.

Jane, 30, Mother of five

The school that my 10-year-old daughter attends practices recycling – on a weekly basis the school would ask the students to collect recyclable materials from home and separate it according to the three bins. In terms of her syllabus, it doesn’t cover much as her school has to follow the syllabus set forth by the government. But fortunately, the school initiates green practice through recycling and infused it with their ‘Pendidikan Seni dan Alam Visual’ subject; drawing pictures that reflects the impact of greenhouse effect, global warming and even creating small pouches out of discarded materials.

Ally, 12, Primary School Student

Our school doesn’t practice going green and we don’t even have the recycling bins. We study about the environment in science but it’s really general like toxic waste and so forth, and we don’t really practice going green. Once a year, the school would organise a ‘gotong-royong’ session, and in English class, we have to write an essay about topics like don’t litter, grow trees and avoid chopping trees.

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Promoting Green Campaigns

Based on our interviewees' responses, while not all our children have the privilege to fully grasp the concept of going green, noticing these gaps, Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES) partnered with Procter & Gamble Malaysia (P&G) to introduce the ‘Pahlawan Planet Recycling campaign’ last June.

It serves to educate, cultivate and reinforce a culture of caring for the environment by embracing the 4Rs (Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), targeting 20,000 Malaysian households.

Christa Hashim, Director of TrEES (Pic: NST Online)Christa Hashim, Director of TrEES (Pic: NST Online)Director of TrEES Christa Hashim, voiced that promoting green education amongst Malaysians can be a slow start, but it is better to start somewhere− and campaigns do help.

“Once people participate in our programmes, such as the students and teachers under our Young Voices for Conservation programme, they are transformed,” she relayed.

“They have a much better understanding of the problems facing the planet and they are motivated to maintain the change in habits that they began under our programmes,” she said, explaining TrEES’ programmes are also long-term by design.

She acknowledges that changing habits take time but working with schools and students are proven to be more impactful as children will share what they have learned ad experienced with their families and adopt the same culture at home.

The campaign surpassed its target and reached 22,497 households for a period of two months, thus accumulating a total combined weight of 134,400kg of recyclable materials – equivalent to 3.24 million litres of water, 569,951 kWH of energy and 205,877 litres of oil – across Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Putrajaya and Negeri Sembilan.

SMK Agama Putrajaya emerged as champions and we had the opportunity to speak with principal Tuan Haji Othman Hashim on their school-level initiatives to practice green education.

“The school organised the 4R campaign through all the school activities to raise awareness on the importance of 4R.

“Despite the campaign coming to an end, we will continue to emphasise the 4R elements in our school,” the principal vowed.

Illustration: Malaysian DigestIllustration: Malaysian Digest

Aside the above initiative, the school will also implement the ‘Two Minutes Programme At The Start Of Every Lesson,’ where the principal will post a two-minute message to the teachers who are then required to share it with their students.

“The message will encompass topics like classroom cleanliness, saving electricity and the importance of practicing the 4R’s in daily life,” he added while noting that this will help encourage the students to be more eco-conscious.

As part of TrEES and P&G's effort to further encourage green education, RM37,497.30 was paid to participating schools for their recycling efforts which will be used to improve their greening efforts and activities within each school.

Creativity In Sustainability

Rashvin Pal Singh, Co-Founder of Biji-Biji Initiative. (Pic: MaGIC)Rashvin Pal Singh, Co-Founder of Biji-Biji Initiative. (Pic: MaGIC)Green education however is not limited to campaigns and in schools only. Rashvin Pal Singh, co-founder of Biji-Biji Initiative, championing sustainability, runs educational workshops to share with the public how waste and discarded materials can be transformed into useful goods – from bags to furniture.

In cultivating the mindset in our youngsters by encouraging sustainable lifestyles through education for sustainable development, he revealed that so far, the public has responded very positively to their efforts, but Rashvin enlightened the public’s misconception towards sustainability as a means of only environmental causes alone.

“Sustainability actually covers three aspects – economic, social and environmental – hence, making it an integral part of every individual’s life.

“It covers how we plan development, earn income, look out for other members in society, and ultimately maintaining a balance with nature,” he emphasised, highlighting how many view sustainability as an option rather than a responsibility.

“Green education is extremely important because it covers the holistic approach of maintaining a balance with our surroundings thus teaching us the very important principle in life, which is to consume and re-create, in a manner that will also provide for the future generations,” he added.

“It’s also beneficial because it improves our quality of life, health, wealth and allows a country to achieve a sustained growth and grow equitably,” he said.

He further stressed that the green education here in schools, is delivered through the exposure of science subjects – a general exposure to environmental issues concerning the ocean, forest conservation and recycling.

“There is only theoretical knowledge in place and very limited practical practices in place for students to learn from.

“Knowledge on sustainable consumption, composting, energy conservation, waste segregation, the importance of green technology and using solar power, is still lacking and limited efforts are taken in schools and at home, to demonstrate recycling, and other green practices to young students,” he opined.

Going Green Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Echoing Rashvin’s stance, president and founder of EcoKnights who is currently president of Malaysian Environmental NGOs (MENGO), Yasmin Rasyid, says that green education goes beyond recycling – and we are a long way to go from embracing it.

“It’s an entire transformation where knowledge incorporates a concept of sustainability that can be applied in a trans-disciplinary manner across all subjects,” she stated.

Yasmin also agrees that green education helps shape and craft a sustainable mindset so that the future generation would be equipped with both awareness and commitment towards the environment. However, instilling it is not as easy as it seems.

Comparing our green education to neighbouring countries, she highlighted that we are not advanced at all as we have yet to have a formal curriculum on environment science.

L-R: Yasmin Rasyid, Founder and President of EcoKnights and Fadly Bakhtiar, Programme Director of EcoKnightsL-R: Yasmin Rasyid, Founder and President of EcoKnights and Fadly Bakhtiar, Programme Director of EcoKnights

“Suggesting policy changes to encourage a greener society is easy to say, but when you have a piece of paper in front of you, you still need to find the right people and figure out how – it’s a process that’s critical to address,” she laid down the harsh reality.

EcoKnight’s programme director, Fadly Bakhtiar meanwhile elaborated regardless the level of our green education, “The purpose is to give more exposure about the environment and to develop an early care for the environment,” adding that it is our responsibility to care for the planet because we only have one.

Both Yasmin and Fadly also noted the lack of understanding in regards to the ecosystem is one of the challenges their team are constantly faced with, and it doesn’t help that majority of the public tend to pay attention to what’s important to them – as an individual – rather than what matters to the society or to the world.

“We are living in a borderless world where information is transmitted easily, but the problem is society pick and choose the information and is often distracted by petty things like gossip rather than something that actually matters,” Fadly remarked, highlighting with information at the tip of our fingers, the challenge is getting people to take action with the information that they have.

Preserving The Environment Is Everyone's Responsibility

While we know it is good to recycle, plant trees and reduce pollution, most of us lack the urgency to take action of our bad habits that are impacting the planet. All advocates had stressed the importance for every individual to start going green immediately, as a means of a good start towards adopting a green environment.

“We all depend on planet Earth to survive. So, it’s the responsibility of each and every one of us to take action now and go green,” Christa shared.

Pic: Zanny MediaPic: Zanny Media“It would be extremely judicious and timely to have stronger enforcement of anti-littering laws, anti-pollution laws, and more vigorous protection on our natural habitats.

“Parents and spiritual leaders should also take the lead in inculcating the urgent need to take much better care of our planet, amongst the youth and society in general,” she said while stating that one of the first steps that can be taken is adopting the 4R’s into our daily lives.

Rashvin suggested that higher taxes on polluting companies, carbon emission and non-green practices to be implemented, highlighting that Malaysian companies and the general public are very price sensitive, thus making it one of the best ways to channel resources to much needed areas.

“Strict implementation from waste operators not to pick up trash if it’s not segregated, like in Europe where people are actually scared of the bin-man. If the waste is not separated, they will refuse to collect the trash,” he voiced out.

“Take waste segregation seriously and start by having three different bins at home; start small composting efforts at home,” he emphasised.

He also encouraged the public to tackle the issue on water and energy consumption, “It has been researched that at least 10 to 20 per cent of energy is wasted by lights being left on – by consuming what we only need, it’s the first step towards living a more sustainable life.”

The EcoKnights team also urged the public to get more involved in lending a helping hand as well as preserving and caring for the environment.

“Stop shifting responsibilities and asking why the government isn’t doing this and that. It’s time for us to come together and make a change ourselves and hopefully, we will inspire others to follow in our footsteps,” Fadly urged.

Lastly, ask yourselves: “What are YOU doing to help preserve the environment and champion green education?”

- Malaysian Digest - http://www.malaysiandigest.com/frontpage/282-main-tile/640330-our-children-need-more-exposure-to-green-education-stakeholders-claim.html

 

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