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Urgent! Integrate alt energy in K-12 education

EducationWorld May 2024 | Magazine Teacher-2-teacher
Tanya Singhal

Tanya Singhal

By integrating alternative energy education into school curricula we must raise a generation with an informed and proactive mindset towards environmental stewardship

In the wake of escalating greenhouse emissions and climate change impacts, as Planet Earth inches closer to the critical temperature rise threshold of 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels, the urgency to pivot towards sustainable practices has never been more pronounced. An urgent requirement is introduction of alternative energy as a core subject in schools, emphasizing not just the importance of sustainability but ingraining it as a way of life for future generations.

Urgency of climate action. Breach of the 1.5oC threshold is not a distant threat but a looming reality, signalling a red alert for humanity’s impact on Earth. This milestone, once considered a limit to avoid catastrophic climate change, is now a benchmark we are dangerously close to surpassing. The urgency for immediate and sustained action has become imperative especially for the younger generation, who will inherit the consequences of today’s decisions.

Understanding alternative energy. Alternative energy means generating electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass etc. These sources not only offer an endless supply of energy but also present a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat global warming, and safeguard the planet. Educating students about alternative energy sources, their benefits, and critical role in combating climate change is a necessary first step towards a sustainable future.

Need for early education in sustainability. Youth is the springboard of change. Training students early ensures that sustainability is embedded in all forms of their lifestyle and comes naturally to them. By integrating alternative energy education into school curricula, we can raise a generation with an informed and proactive mindset towards environmental stewardship. Such education goes beyond textbooks, encouraging students to think critically about energy consumption, conservation, and the impact of their actions on the health of Planet Earth.

Curriculum integration: a multidisciplinary approach. Inclusion of alternative energy education in the curriculum requires adoption of a multidisciplinary approach, integrating STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) with social studies, economics, and ethics. Such a comprehensive framework allows students to explore the technical mechanics of solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric power plants, conterminously with study of environmental ethics of energy consumption and economic principles underpinning a green economy. Hands-on projects and experiments can bring these concepts to life, allowing students to experience the tangible impact of alternative energy solutions. Through project-based learning and community initiatives, students can experience the tangible benefits of sustainable practices, inspiring them to adopt and advocate green solutions to communities and society.

Career pathways and skill development. Introducing alternative energy as a subject in K-12 education will not only raise awareness, it will also create new career pathways for students. The renewable energy industry is rapidly growing and is poised to become a major employer in future decades. By acquiring early exposure to this subject, students can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue careers in renewable energy, environmental sciences and sustainability. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 advocates equipping students with practical skills and knowledge, to make them more employable. It also aligns with the United Nations’ SDG 8 goal of promoting inclusive, sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and respectable work for all.

Preparing future leaders. Students of today are the leaders, politicians, and change drivers of tomorrow. It is essential that the concept of sustainability is ingrained in their K-12 years to shape their decisions and actions as they step into roles of influence. By instilling early understanding of clean energy and its importance, we can ensure that the leaders of the future accord top priority to the health of Planet Earth.

Challenges & opportunities. Integrating alternative energy into school curricula is not without its challenges. It requires resources, trained educators, and commitment from educational institutions to prioritise sustainability. However, benefits far outweigh the costs. Governments, non-profit organisations, and private sector corporates should collaborate to provide funding, training, and resources to support the implementation of alternative energy education in schools.

Conclusion. Introduction of alternative energy as a subject in schools is more than an educational reform; it’s a necessary step towards securing a sustainable future for humankind. By empowering the next generation with the knowledge and skills to harness alternative energy, we can inspire a generation of innovators and leaders committed to protecting our planet. Now is the time to act. Let’s seize this opportunity to ignite a passion for alternative energy in the hearts and minds of young learners, to chart a course towards a brighter, greener world.

(Tanya Singhal is founder of the Gurgaon-based Mynzo Carbon and SolarArise)

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