NCERT mandated that in order to be compliant, a separate subject for EE was not a necessity. Instead, EE could be taught through infusion—the integration of EE into science, social studies, mathematics, language, and other subjects. Infusion was a suitable approach, as environmental topics and issues are multidisciplinary. Additionally, EE teaches students to solve problems by pulling together knowledge and experiences from a wide variety of situations and subjects.
The decision to follow the infusion approach was an outcome of a nationwide process, set up by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) in 2004, to develop a National Curriculum Framework (NCF), a national steering committee, and 21 national focus groups. One of these focus groups—Habitat and Learning—submitted recommendations incorporated into the 2005 NCF.
The Habitat and Learning focus group recommended that:
As humanity endeavors to move onto a path of sustainable development, even as it enters the Information Age, it is evident that we need a new paradigm for education. The group delineated the objective of EE as, ‘The main focus of EE should be to expose students to the real-life world, natural and social, in which they live; to enable them to analyze, evaluate, and draw inferences about problems and concerns related to the environment; to add, where possible, to our understanding of environmental issues; and to promote positive environmental actions in order to facilitate the move towards sustainable development. To achieve these goals, the curriculum may be based on:
Learning about the environment | Learning for the environment | Learning through the environment
A major focus of the NCF is on EE as a tool to promote critical thinking and problem-solving approaches, as opposed to memorizing textbook content. This approach recognizes that holistic thinking is at the heart of EE, which aligns with the new NCF infusion paradigm intended to replace sectoral thinking with multidisciplinary thinking to promote environmental understanding and actions.
To achieve this, the NCF Habitat and Learning group identified six major areas for action: curricular revision, materials development, conventional media and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), teacher preparation, evaluation systems, and school habitats. This case study focuses primarily on the impact of curricular revisions and materials development on the prevalence of EE in all levels of Indian schools.
Per the recommendations of the 2005 National Curriculum Framework, NCERT recommended the following system for incorporating EE into classroom curricula:
- Classes I and II (ages 6-7): EE is taught through activities integrated into the core subjects of reading, writing, and mathematics. For example, students may study shapes in mathematics by identifying shapes in the natural environment.
- Classes III to V (ages 8-11): EE is taught as a standalone subject, called Environmental Studies (EVS), with a textbook called My Environment that aims for students to learn about the environment in the context of their own lives and communities.
- Classes VI to X (ages 12-16): EE is taught by the infusion approach primarily in science and social sciences. For example, students studying decomposition in science might complete an EE-related project as part of the learning unit. In all subjects, EE-based questions comprise ten percent of the total marks for both formative and summative assessments.
- Classes XI and XII (ages 17-18): EE is part of students’ Interdisciplinary Projects in electives and General Studies as students choose their own disciplines. These classes focus on projectbased learning. For example, a student studying commerce might complete a project that focuses on the concept of green economy. NCERT also published project books for students of Classes VI to X (Age 12 to 16 years) for use as part of the project-based learning infusion approach. The goal of the project books is to build capacity for critical and multidisciplinary thinking, as well as to develop a positive and problem-solving attitude among students. The projects were also encouraged through Jawaharlal Nehru National Science, Mathematics, and Environment Exhibition (JNNSMEE) for Children, an organization that aims to develop critical thinking about global issues to maintain healthy and sustainable societies in today’s environment.
Many other programs have supported the implementation of the NCF, like the Centre for Environment Education’s Paryavaran Mitra (Friend of Environment) program, which launched in 2010. This program developed materials for teachers and trained them on the pedagogy of project-based learning.
While the infusion approach is approved for all class levels, exam boards, and state education systems, states can make independent adaptations to their curriculum as needed. For example, at the Higher Secondary stage in Maharashtra, India’s second-largest state, several academic focus areas are available to students, such as arts, sciences, and commerce. However, these focus areas do not allow for easy EE integration. Because infusion is not possible at this stage, the EE curriculum is taught as a separate subject that students of all academic areas must take.