Environmental Education in Tobago
It is widely accepted that the system of education in any society is supposed to furnish the population with the knowledge, skills and values needed to provide and sustain a good quality of life for all. However, when we examine the situation in Tobago in terms of environmental education, we find that a very serious deficiency exists.
Tobago is a relatively small island with a growing population. The rate of economic development has grown significantly in the past few years and it is expected to increase further in the next decade. These factors and others will exert significant pressure upon our natural environment. We have already begun to experience the effects of deforestation, over hunting, pollution of the rivers and seas and widespread littering with the accompanying plagues of mosquitoes and other vermin.
This deterioration of the natural environment indicates that many of our citizens lack the knowledge, values and attitudes needed for successful environmental conservation. Too many people are failing to see the relationship between their own activities and degradation of the natural environment. Even worse is the fact that some do not even recognise that the environment is deteriorating.
What is responsible for this sad state of affairs? One answer is that the education system, at both primary and secondary levels, has failed to treat environmental studies and issues with the importance that is required. The curricula and syllabi of most schools is sadly lacking where basic education in ecology and sustainable development is concerned. Very little is being done to foster the right attitudes in our youth so that they develop keen interests and adapt the correct practices toward conservation of the natural environment.
It is not too late to save our environment, but corrective action must start now with a sense of urgency. A concerted effort is needed within the education sector. Environmental conservation must be taught at all schools to all students. Training must be made easily available to those teachers who require it so that they can apply the strategies and techniques that are essential for the success of this programme. Text books and other materials must be quickly developed and made widely available. Creative use of the media, particularly television, should be a key element in this education drive, because even though environmental education in our schools will have the desired effect in the long term, in the short term it is the adult population which must be made aware of the importance of protecting our environment.
We need to act now because tomorrow will be too late.