In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had already massively disrupted the ability of systems and students to catch up on lost learning, the recent floods have thrown Pakistan’s fragile education system into new limbo.
Early estimates speak of partial or complete damage to nearly 20,000 schools, disrupting education for more than 3 million students in most parts of Sindh, Balochistan and southern Punjab.
Needless to say, there is a lot to do immediately after the disaster. In areas where the water has receded and where temporary shelters have been set up, access to education, even impromptu at first, must be ensured. There is of course the arduous task of rebuilding the destroyed educational infrastructure which must be urgently embraced as soon as the response moves into the reconstruction phase.
Beyond the calamity at hand, however, one can’t help but wonder if simply rebuilding brick-and-mortar schools is the only answer when it comes to our education system. It is true that infrastructure is of immense value in all things, but Pakistan’s response to floods must be considered beyond convention.
As the eighth most affected country by climate change, natural disasters will in all likelihood become a norm for Pakistan. If the country is to prepare for regular climate disasters, rather than just focusing on “rescuing” education, it is critically important to consider how education itself can be used to protect against climate change. climate change and building resilience.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, decades of neglect inflicted on the education system have left the country without a large workforce that has the knowledge and skills to fight climate change. To say that we are at least three decades behind would be an understatement. However, no matter how glaring the failure, that is no excuse for not taking corrective action.
A truly sustainable response to climate and environmental change is to equip young people with the knowledge and information to encourage positive climate action. This, however, should not be taken to mean jargonized textbooks that are designed to test students’ ability to reproduce memorized definitions. Rather, truly meaningful climate education would involve providing students with cross-disciplinary entry points to understand what contributes to climate change, coupled with practical skills to develop indigenous solutions to combat its causes, mitigate inevitable disasters, and build resilience. resilience against them.
Developing this kind of knowledge base from the school level is integral to Pakistan’s ability to produce qualified specialists to fight climate change and promote a long-term green economy. In the short term, integrating climate education into the school curriculum is key to motivating individuals to take climate action and slowing the rate at which future disasters may attack us.
Modern and integrated approaches to learning such as STEAM (meaning Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) can serve as important catalysts for mainstreaming climate education in Pakistan. Earlier this year, the Federal Ministry of Education and Skills Training launched the five-year STEAM Pakistan project, which aims not only to introduce innovative teaching and management, but also to create synergies and change mindsets in avoidance towards STEAM topics that have already been brought to the fore by the climate crisis around the world. This could very well be a big step in the right direction. Embracing the STEAM education model – which moves away from conventional subject-segregated pedagogy in favor of integrated learning – for climate action has the potential to be a window of opportunity that the government and donor community should actively explore. .
With the time for reflection long gone, rather than treating education as an afterthought, we must finally harness its potential as a comprehensive and appropriate response to Pakistan’s climate conundrum.