The way we learn must evolve
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The way we learn must evolve

Students in Phuket province give a presentation on the threat of unchecked industrial development in the Andaman sea.
Students in Phuket province give a presentation on the threat of unchecked industrial development in the Andaman sea.

Environmental education is one of the key factors to meet Sustainable Development Goals under the United Nations' SDG 4, Education for All mission.

Environmental education is a life-long learning process for learners of all ages to gain the knowledge, skills and awareness needed to address interconnected global challenges at individual or local levels. Those challenges include climate change, loss of biodiversity, unsustainable use of natural resources, food security and human-induced disasters, for instance.

Despite world leaders' pledges for sustainable development, our lifestyle moves in a direction that is not conducive to the environmental protection and sustainable development that the world seriously needs.

Current attitudes and behaviours of people around the world have changed to be more materialistic and consumptive.

Consumers are stimulated by information received from social media rather than reality. They are more motivated by the media, influencers and economic competition rather than the true value of nature.

Despite economic growth and the progress of clean technology, natural resources are gradually depleted. A lack of knowledge and ethical awareness is to blame.

Environmental education has to encourage students and learners to become more aware of these threats. The way pedagogues handle environmental education must change.

Most environmental lessons are still conducted in classrooms. This must be changed. Learning outside the classroom allows students to learn from real-life situations. They get to enhance their understanding through interactions with the environment.

Thoughts connected to awareness lead to transformative changes. It is no wonder that environmental education outside classrooms inevitably enhances the conservation of our environment.

For example, Assumption College Thonburi, Bangkok, is applying student ideas to solve environmental problems in the school and its surrounding communities. This action encourages students to learn and take action based on the real situation and increase their awareness of environmental problems.

They started by learning about their surroundings and analysing their family and friends' lifestyles, both at home and at school, to understand their impact on the environment. Recognising waste generation in daily activities, such as eating and driving, helps improve learners' awareness and change their behaviour.

Although there are many challenges for educators in organising environmental education efforts, such as policy changes that make the planning process discrete and the evaluation process that limits teaching and learning activities, there are still opportunities for them to manage a class where everyone can participate.

Educators can do so by utilising the media and new technologies while giving students a chance to express their opinions and gain real-life experience.

With this concept in mind, the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) has introduced the Handbook of Environmental Education, which was developed to help teachers and educators manage environment learning activities.

Parental involvement is one of the main components of environmental education. Schools should encourage parents to get involved by discussing household and community environmental issues together and connecting parents and students to lessons about the environment.

These activities will promote awareness development and behavioural change and help solve environmental problems starting with the smallest unit of society.

At the same time, online learning can feature audio and visual experiences about nature that can be enjoyed. It is inevitable that technology plays a significant role in modern daily life, and teaching and studying are no exception.

Accordingly, environmental education in this era must be a process that encourages self-learning instead of only learning from textbooks and teachers.

Since nature surrounds all, learning via our surroundings with proper guidance is easy.

Raising awareness through hands-on action will foster one's self and family, ensuring sustainability in an ever-changing society.

Jutathip Poonlert, Sutassa Wongraj, and Yanisa Ngamsa-ard are researchers at Thailand Environment Institute (TEI).

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