The NCERT Approach

Dr Jaishree Sharma, Nodal Officer for Environment Education at NCERT provides an overview of the steps taken by NCERT to enhance the implementation of environment education in the school system.

EfC: What are some of the developments that have shaped the nature of Environment Education (EE) in the formal school curriculum?

Dr Jaishree Sharma (JS): Environment Education has been a part of the school curriculum for several years. The National Policy on Education 1986 itself emphasized Environment as one of the ten core areas of education. As regards methods too, teachers know the importance of experiential learning which is emphasized in the literature on EE. However, the public interest litigation by Shri M C Mehta and the subsequent directives of the Supreme Court have helped in two ways. Firstly, attention of the public at large, teachers, parents and students has been drawn to EE. And secondly, it has helped us structure the implementation of EE in formal education. There is now an agreed upon approach, syllabus and materials for EE that have been published by the NCERT. (See box 3 ‘Supreme Court Order on EE’ for details)

EfC: What is the new approach to Environment Education in the School Curriculum?

JS: The key document encapsulating the approach for implementation of EE in the school curriculum is the Affidavit which was submitted to the Supreme Court in 2007 and which was finally accepted by the Supreme Court in Dec 2010. The main elements are infusion of EE concepts in all subjects, compulsory evaluation of EE content with at least 10% of the total marks devoted to EE content, no written exam in XII standard, and major emphasis on project-based learning. Following the acceptance of the Affidavit, the NCERT has published in 2011 the ‘Handbook on Environmental Education’ which provides source material for the core course at the XI and XII standard levels. Project books have been developed for Standards VI to X. Each student is expected to carry out at least two projects every year, and the whole class can carry out at least 20 different projects.

EfC: What are some of the steps taken by NCERT to promote the new approach to EE?

JS: Following the NCF 2005, at NCERT when the textbooks were being developed, a workshop was held to orient textbook writers to the approach to EE and the syllabus. Detailed discussions were done on how infusion may take place. Subsequently, a report was prepared on how the infusion has been done. 

NCERT has written to all state boards to update about the new approach accepted by the Supreme Court. A number of meetings and workshops have been organized where the new approach has been presented, as well as the way NCERT itself has adopted this approach. It is recommended to state boards that they should provide orientation to textbooks writers about EE and then, after the textbooks are developed, prepare the report on infusion.

Each state has been requested to identify nodal officers at the state and district level such as in DIETs. In addition, it has been suggested to the nodal officers that they should try and identify experts and others experienced in the project-based learning method for EE who can function as volunteers and provide guidance to teachers in the new approach to EE. These experts may be from universities, NGOs etc. 

Proposals have also been invited from all states for translation of the project books into the local language as well as production and dissemination to all schools.

EfC: While a structured approach has been developed, what are some of the issues of concern in imparting EE in schools?

JS: The structured approach initially was aiming at development of awareness about environmental issues as desired by the Hon’ble Supreme Courts’ directive. But looking at the true spirit of the PIL 860/1991 and the directives of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India – the main objective of EE as per NCF-2005 is to bring about attitudinal changes amongst children. Through the present project based infusion approach the transaction of EE related curriculum it is envisaged that like the attainment of environmental awareness the pro-environmental attitudinal changes may also be achieved over the time. A large number of studies are there in support of this.

EfC: In what way can NGOs, especially those running eco-club prgrammes, support the implementation of this approach to EE in the formal curriculum?

JS: The eco-club programmes that are the MoEF sponsored NGC programme is one such step where the students are engaged in projects which have direct bearing to the environmental concerns. Of course NGC programmes are spearheaded by Centres of Excellence of MoEF, the Pollution Control Board etc. Further, MHRD through the formal educational system also aims to boost this effort of MoEF. A synergy is being attempted to be achieved between the tasks of MoEF and MHRD by awarding NGC programmes ( which provides a grant of Rs. 2500/- to the schools annually) to those schools which encourage their students to take up relevant environmental projects.

Box 1
New Approach to Implementation of EE as per NCF-2005

The NCERT has recommended the following implementation approach in the context of EE (which are described in the Affidavit to the Supreme Court, and accepted)

  1. Classes I and II – EE concerns are transacted through activities.
  2. Classes III to V – EE is being imparted through a subject namely EVS (Environmental Studies)
  3. Classes VI to X – Follows infusion approach for EE. 10 percent of assessment of grand total is based on EE besides project and field work in separate time carved out from existing timetable.
  4. Classes XI and XII – Besides infusion in electives. A separate compulsory course 50 marks based on core syllabus and projects work is for all. Marks to be refl ected/ added to the total marks. Time to be carved out of existing time table (such as time allocated to general studies) table.

Box 2
Issues to Consider for Strengthening EE

The whole exercise of the PIL, the NCERT Affidavit and the Supreme Court Ruling has probably served to enhance the scale of discussions on environment education in the country. A syllabus, project books, textbooks, training courses etc have been prepared by NCERT and Education Depts. and others in various states over the last few years. However, with the final Ruling, some issues such as the following must be considered, and discussions should continue on how to integrate sustainability thinking into education:

a.     In Std VI to X, Project Assessment of EE projects would be 10% of the marks allocated for practical / projects in Science and Geography. This means that if 20 marks are allotted, then each student would have to undertake two EE projects that would be assessed for just 2 marks.
b.    In several states, unlike in CBSE schools, there is no subject like General Studies at XI and XII level which is common to all streams. A separate compulsory subject may be needed at this level to transact the core component.
c.     In XI and XII, the method of seminars may not be practical in large class sizes.
d.    The capacity of teachers to organize projects based learning needs strengthening.
e.     Around the world (and in India), there are advances in thinking about Education for Sustainable Development, and ideas such as the whole school approach which can build upon the impetus provided by the Supreme Court Ruling.

Box 3
The Supreme Court and Environment Education Sequence of Events

Writ Petition, 1991
In 1991, Shri M C Mehta fi led an application in the public interest (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 860 of 1991), asking the Supreme Court to:

• Issue direction to cinema halls that they show slides with information on the environment;
• Issue direction for the spread of information relating to the environment on All India Radio; and
• Issue direction that the study of the environment becomes a compulsory subject in schools and colleges.

The consequent order of the Supreme Court dated 22 Nov 1991 is available at

Directive to NCERT to Prepare EE Syllabus, 2003
On 18th December 2003, the Hon’ble Supreme Court further ordered, “We also direct the NCERT….to prepare a module (model) syllabus”, and directed that

“We accept on principle that through the medium of education awareness of the environment and its problems related to pollution should be taught as a compulsory subject. The University Grants Commission will take appropriate steps immediately to give effect to what we have said, i.e. requiring the Universities to prescribe a course on environment. So far as education upto the college level is concerned, we would require every State Government and every Education Board connected with education upto the matriculation stage or even intermediate college to immediately take steps to enforce compulsory education on environment in a graded way.”

NCERT developed a graded syllabus for Environment Education for 1 to 12 standards, which was accepted by the Supreme Court (the syllabus has subsequently been revised for Standards XI and XII) to incorporate contemporary environmental issues.

Appointment of NCERT as Nodal Agency for EE, 2004

On 13th July 2004 the Supreme Court directed that “the syllabus prepared by the NCERT for Class I to XII shall be adopted by every state in their respective schools”. It further directed that “NCERT be appointed as a nodal agency to supervise the implementation of this Court’s order”. Compliance to Supreme Court order is mandatory and desirable, and applies to all states and Union Territories (in fact, it is one of the few things that apply to education uniformly all over India).

EE and the National Curriculum Framework, 2005

In 2004 MHRD set up a nationwide process towards the development of the National Curriculum Framework 2005. This included the setting-up of a national steering committee and 21 national focus groups. One of these was a Focus Group on Habitat and Learning. In substance and spirit, this group was to look into the area of EE. The group delineated the objective 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.’

The Group recommended a systematic infusion of components of EE into the curricula of all disciplines while ensuring that adequate time is earmarked for pertinent activities.

The NCERT prepared its new syllabi and textbooks in accordance with the NCF 2005.

NCERT Affi davit, 2007
The NCERT submitted an Affidavit in October 2007 to the Supreme Court describing the spirit of the NCF 2005 and clarifying that to have compliance with the earlier order of the Supreme Court, a separate subject for EE is not a necessity. It can be done through infusion, in science, social studies, mathematics, language and other subjects, and/or through a separate subject. It does however have to be part of the compulsory curriculum.

This Affidavit is a key document outlining the sequence of relevant events subsequent to the PIL up to the proposal for how EE may be transacted from Standards I and XII. It was drafted after detailed discussions between the petitioner (Shri MC Mehta), the respondent (NCERT), and the experts appointed by the petitioner and NCERT.

Acceptance of Affidavit, Dec 2010
The Affidavit was accepted by the Supreme Court on 03 December 2010 and the writ petition WPC 860/1991 has been disposed off. Now, all school education boards are expected to follow the approach to EE described in the Affi davit. NCERT is coordinating the effort to enhance implementation EE in the spirit of the NCF 2005 as it is the basis of the affidavit.

For more information contact:
Dr. Jaishree Sharma
C-II/2039, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi – 110 070
Ph: 011-26850982

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