The Eco Stewardship Programme introduced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) has woven environmental sustainability education into the school curriculum.
But while I am optimistic about the prospect of an environmentally conscious generation, I feel that further changes need to be made in the way Singaporeans are educated about sustainability.
I have found that while many of my peers in university have a functional knowledge of environmental issues and their consequences, as well as the impact that these consequences will have on their daily lives, most are completely indifferent about these issues.
The common responses are that the ramifications of climate change will be felt decades in the future, so there is no need to worry about them now, and that industry and corporations are responsible for most of the damage, so the onus should be on them to rectify it.
This shows how possessing the requisite environmental knowledge does not necessarily translate into environmentally responsible behaviour.
There is a chasm between what Singaporeans know and what they actually do.
In the hustle and bustle of life, it can be difficult to exercise pro-environment behaviour in daily activities.
It can be burdensome to go out of one’s way to recycle, to spend more on eco-friendly products, and to travel by public transport instead of private cars.
Singaporeans lack the positive attitude needed for pro-environment behaviour, an issue that can be addressed through education.
The MOE’s future environmental education campaigns should highlight how an individual can contribute and have an impact in the context of climate change.
This could change people’s attitudes by helping them better understand the vexing physical state of our planet, their stake in it and what they can do.
Attitude change is a gradual process, and that is why environmental education must be continuous.
It is insufficient to resort to passive, top-down methods which leave little room for autonomy and self-responsibility.
We should have hands-on environmental education that challenges people to think critically about the environment and the impact they have on it. This should begin in primary school and continue all the way to the university level.
This would help people to independently arrive at the viewpoint that the environment must be protected, and inculcate a strong pro-environment attitude in their most formative years which hopefully lasts the rest of their lives.