Empowering the Next Generation: Exploring the Importance of the Blue Curriculum
It is worth noting that climate change, environmental hazards and sustainability are words that are often talked about and discussed in numerous climate related seminars and conferences organized in various countries. We often come across people who are concerned of the depletion of the ozone layer, the melting of the ice on the mountains, the toxic fumes that vehicles operating on fossil fuels emit, and the felling of trees that causes soil erosion, among other issues. However, it is rare to hear people talk about the health of the oceans, except may be when they refer to the rising water levels in the seas.
And this is a particularly worrying precedent due to the fact that the oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and hold approximately 97 percent of the Earth’s water. They are also home to the majority of the species that can be found on our planet.
Though oceans play a substantial role in sustaining life on Earth, they are not often talked about during our discussions because we still have not been able to fathom their gravity in touching nearly all aspects of our lives. They not only are a source for our food but also help regulate the climate and generate most of the oxygen that we humans breathe. Moreover, oceans are also an integral part of the economies of nearly all the countries due to its contribution to fisheries, tourism and also transportation. However, the oceans at present are facing multiple threats like pollution and climate change; not to forget the destruction of habitats of the marine life.
As a result, the Blue Curriculum, a relatively new concept was introduced in 2018 under the initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It refers to an educational approach that focuses on ocean literacy and sustainable development related to oceans, coastlines and marine resources. The Blue Curriculum emphasizes integrating marine and ocean-related topics into the curriculum of educational institutions.
What is also heartening is that some organizations have taken it upon themselves to start the discourse on Blue Curriculum. For instance, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), South Asia recently took the initiative to host a conference titled ‘Blue Curriculum for Modern Education: India & BIMSTEC’ in partnership with Centre for Civil Society, on December 6-8, 2023 in Delhi. The event witnessed active participation from all who were present.
The Blue Curriculum, if fully adopted by the educational institutions, will be a valuable asset for the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) members which comprises of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Besides Bhutan and Nepal, all the remaining members have a coastline, which strongly necessitates a Blue Curriculum in the region.
This initiative taken by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), South Asia needs to be lauded as it is the start of the first among many steps to nudge the concerned authorities and stakeholders of the importance and relevancy of the Blue Curriculum in the present context. One of the fundamental benefits of this curriculum is that it raises environmental awareness among school going children and awareness is always the main key to solving any problem. With the inclusion of this curriculum students, from an early age, will get to learn about the marine ecosystem and the need to conserve it. The curriculum will help them understand the challenges and threats faced by the oceans.
Moreover, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight the need for sustainable development, including the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and marine resources (SDG 14). Students would have the opportunity to learn about the importance of achieving these goals if a Blue Curriculum is introduced. As a matter of fact, children could also be encouraged to play an active role in implementing the goals.
When talking about the Blue Curriculum it is inevitable for the term ‘blue economy’ to be mentioned in the same breath. During the conference held by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), South Asia, it was also suggested by a participant that the Blue Curriculum should essentially get away from the term economy as it brings a monetization aspect to the educational face of it. This is why raising awareness is such a critical element. People need to be made aware of the wide range of career opportunities that the blue economy creates, from marine science and technology to sustainable tourism and renewable energy. It is exactly for this particular purpose that a Blue Curriculum is the need of the hour as it will equip children with the knowledge and necessary skills to pursue careers in these sectors. And this in turn will help in economic growth.
With the sea levels rising at a perennial rate, the vulnerability of the coastal communities to natural disasters in the BIMSTEC countries has increased significantly. It is for this fundamental reason why a Blue Curriculum is vital as it can educate children about disaster preparedness. They will be able to learn about various adaptation strategies and also why sustainable development is so important.
The days when young children would go out to the fields to play or walk through a forest path for recreation have become but just a distant memory confined to the history books. Due to modernization and the rapid development of technology children have lost connection with nature. Hence, a Blue Curriculum could in some way or the other help connect children with nature and this could lead them to protecting the environment as it will instill within them the importance of nature from a tender age itself.
Most importantly, the Blue Curriculum is not limited to just the traditional academic subjects that are being taught since generations. It provides students a holistic experience of studying. The Blue Curriculum includes various aspects like science, technology, social studies and arts, among others, which subsequently enhances the critical thinking nature of a child. And this aspect is so very important in today’s world that has been facing threats from all sides.
When we look at it in general, introducing a Blue Curriculum in the BIMSTEC region could create a generation that is knowledgeable, environmentally conscious, and well-equipped to address the complex issues associated with ocean management and sustainable development.