The 5 Cs Framework | Embedding environmental concerns in higher educational institutions

Respect for environment shall increase many fold if environmental education and concerns is imbedded into curriculum. Higher educational institutions can do much better by adopting 5 Cs framework which allows environmental consciousness to grow equally among faculty and students. It is through the ‘nudging of behavior and attitude’ that a true care for environment can be built and nurtured.

By: Prabhat Pankaj and Prerna Jain*

Environmental education as a stand-alone course is doing good, but to convert this agenda into perceived action it needs to be embedded into all possible courses. The same course can be delivered with an overarching theme of environment. This approach is helpful in generating environmental consciousness which has the potentiality to be converted into action. Students must be told about likely consequences of an action for environment. They should also be told about best practices available which has minimized the degradation of environment.

It has been proved time and again that consumers are ready to learn from best practices. A lot of it depends on the ‘power of being informed’. Research has shown that the demand for environmental quality tends to increase as the income increases. By this estimation, the demand for clean surroundings, clean water, and clean air would come about only above certain income level. This also means poor countries do not stand a chance unless per capita income rises to match with developed countries. However, this has been proved incorrect as market adoption of good practices seems to be largely influenced by people’s understanding of issues and awareness. Informed individuals create informed society. An informed society will tend to adopt clean practices much better, irrespective to income level. The sense of care for environment largely depends on the culture and practices.

Care for environment starts at individual level. Family practices play an important role. Good practices must be inculcated at an early stage, without any discrimination in its application. Good practices are contagious in nature and it tends to cling-on. One demonstration can set the tone for others to follow. Each course can be delivered with a green-shade. A practical exposure to green practice should start with the institution. It makes a lot of sense that institutions establish practices in terms of maintaining clean and green campus, work on energy efficiency, reduce paper usage, and recycle waste water and so on. A practice of periodic on-campus social-work jointly undertaken by faculty, staff, and students would go a long way in inculcating sense of service towards Mother Nature; after all it’s a shared and joint responsibility.

India’s New Education Policy 2020 and SDGs

New Education Policy 2020 (NEP) provides a glimmer of hope on talking about sustainability and long term perspective for education. The future of humanity depends upon adoption of sustainable practices and achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the nations. Seemingly the role of education is of critical importance in this regard, nevertheless it has been largely missing from the agenda. This is for the first time that the national education policy has brought about the discussion on sustainability into its fold. The purpose of this discussion paper is to highlight and clarify on sustainability dimensions enshrined in the new education policy and also suggest a framework and initiative which can be adopted by the educational institutions to make the most out of it and also contribute towards sustainability goals.

The NEP 2020 takes into cognizance the global concern of inclusive and equitable quality education which promotes lifelong learning for all as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs4) of 2030 agenda. This is of critical significance for business education in particular and higher education in general as by 2030 we will be needing our educational institutions and number of faculty to grow by almost 4-times more than what we have in 2020. As the demand for higher education is likely to go up tremendously as we will be moving towards achieving the target of 50% GER by 2035 (estimated to reach 14 million students in 2030 from 3.5 million in 2020), for B-schools the key to excellence would tend to rest on four pillars—accountability, innovation, aligning with market needs and focus on lifelong learning.

The purpose of education policy is to present a broad and all-inclusive framework to guide the education system in the country. The education system in India has been guided by two education policies till 2020: The Education policy of 1968, and 1986 (revised in 1992). The New Education Policy 2020 as approved by the Union Cabinet on 29th July 2020 which has unshackled many conventional barriers and called for transforming both the intent as well as content of the Indian education system. Education is not just about delivering content, conducting examinations and distributing degrees. It must transcend beyond it and allow the seekers of education to transform their own life and in turn act as vehicle for transforming the lives of others. As the window of opportunity called ‘demographic dividend’ gradually expanding, India is well poised to take advantage of NEP 2020 and build the best of human capital, capable of rising to the global standards, skillful and resilient enough to cope with the challenges of the new and emerging D-VUCAD world (Disruptive-Volatile-Uncertain-Complex-Ambiguous-Diverse). It is to be noted that education being a concurrent subject, the reforms can be collaboratively implemented by the Centre and the States. The target year 2040 has been set to implement all the recommendations of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

Alignment of SDG 4 in New Education Policy

NEP 2020: aims to strengthen the Indian education system, aligning itself to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - SDG 4 (Quality Education) while strengthening India’s tradition, culture and value system.

The foundation of sustainable approach should encompass the characteristics of Access, Accountability, Affordability, Equity, Empowerment and Quality. These characteristics are the foundational pillars of the NEP 2020 and it is also aligned to the United Nations Agenda of attaining Sustainable Development by the year 2030. The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education to promote lifelong opportunities for all” through its 7 targets and 3 means of implementation.

The NEP 2020 envisions to build a New India through a vibrant and robust education system that is holistic, flexible, ethical, dynamic, rooted to the grounds and sustainable. The policy reforms in NEP 2020 which align with the United Nations SDG 4 are as follows:

Alignment with SDG 4.2:  Equal access to quality pre-primary education
The NEP 2020 gives special consideration to education of pre-primary (children of 3-6 years of age) level boosting the Aanganwadi education. A Gender Inclusion Fund has been created to support the education at pre-primary level as well as schooling of children with disabilities.

Alignment with SDG 4.3: Equal access to affordable, technical, vocational and higher education
NEP 2020 proposes to impart vocational education from secondary school level whereas technical education is proposed to start from 6th standard. A National Education Technology Forum shall be set up to cater to the issues emerging in knowledge sharing and capacity building.

Alignment with SDG 4.4:  Increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success The model of school education has been transformed from “10+2 to “5+3+3+4” structure stating clear outcomes. Multiple exit options in higher education is proposed for which a digital academic bank shall be created to store the credits earned and count them for the final award of degree. The NEP also lays focus on digital and distance learning to increase gross enrolment ratio from 26% to over 50% by 2035, which shall enhance the skill sets of large part of the population.

Alignment with SDG 4.5: Eliminate all discrimination in education
To bridge the digital divide, there is a proposal in NEP 2020 to set up a new unit to address e-learning issues, infrastructure and capacity building.

Alignment with SDG 4.6: Universal literacy and numeracy
NEP 2020 proposes to set up a National Foundation of Literacy and Numeracy to provide basic literacy and skill by 3rd standard.This is a good move asIndia will again take part in PISA survey which tests basic English and Mathematics comprehension in 2021 after a very poor performance in 2009. Even though, the enrollment ratio at the age of 6 in India is 96% nonetheless the drop-out rate is also too high but the commitment to the philosophy of ‘no one to be left behind’ and bringing back the 2 crores drop-out and out-of-school children is quite noteworthy.

Alignment with SDG 4.7: Education for sustainable development and global citizenship
Education for sustainable development and global citizenship’ for this national indicators are being developed. This target questions and challenges the very foundation of education. Education needs to be imparted for what? This question forces us to ponder the very foundation of education. Education should not be merely for employability but should be the edifice for building a life of values giving meaning and essence to human life.

Means of Implementation

The United Nations seeks to accomplish its SDG 4 (Quality Education) through three means of implementation: Build and upgrade inclusive and safe schools; Expand higher education scholarships and Increase the supply of qualified teachers.

  • The flagship government scheme of education – Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan lays foundation for implementation of the targets laid out in NEP 2020. NEP 2020 focuses on developing quality infrastructure for Anganwadi centers/schools. The policy focuses on ensuring that school architecture is well designed and ventilated and also emphasizes on upgradation of schools to ensure engagement and safety of the students with proper conveyance and hostel facilities.
  • The students who require financial support to attend a public higher education institute shall be assisted through the National Scholarship Portal. The scholarship shall cover boarding, lodging apart from waiving off the tuition fee. Even private institutes shall offer scholarships ranging from 100% to 25% for half of their students.
  • To increase the supply of qualified teachers, the policy talks about instituting merit-based scholarships for undertaking the 4-year B.Ed. program. Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) shall now be conducted across all stages viz., foundational, preparatory, middle and secondary. Even the TET will be improved with better content and pedagogy. Further, class demonstration and interview shall be the part of teacher hiring process. The policy emphasizes on Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for teachers and it is mandatory for every teacher to devote 50 hours for their professional development through online workshops as well as completing teacher development modules.

5 Cs for a Sustainable Education and Campus Management

It is time for the academic fraternity to realize the significance of their role in building a sustainable society and in attaining the SDG’s. This requires a rethinking in the approach of how educational institutes operate, teach and conduct research. The framework for sustainable education and campus management should be all encompassing starting from campus design and architecture to a truly sustainable learning environment and experience.

The policy advocacy for Sustainable Education and Campus Management should encompass 5 Cs as the core principles which are depicted in the diagram below:

C 1: Campus architecture and operations

The architecture and operations of a sustainable campus should align with the principle of low carbon economy. The infrastructure design should include processes that sync with green building concept and environmental friendly measures such as energy and water conservation, waste management, encouraging environmental friendly modes of transport etc.

C 2: Curriculum focusing sustainability

The curriculum should integrate sustainability by incorporating certain content focusing on the principles of sustainability in different courses or by offering a specific course on it. This curriculum redesign shall help in developing a sustainable mindset of the students.

C 3: Cutting-edge research for sustainable solutions

Higher educational institutions, specifically universities and research institutes should take on and promote research through grants and funding’s to faculty and staff to address various sustainable issues pertaining to water, energy, environment and society as a whole.

C 4: Collaborating with the society

Addressing sustainability shall require collaborating with the stakeholders and adopting a participative model where people from academia, industry, government and society join hands to address issues regarding sustainability. The probability of success is high for initiatives with collaborations, as they are developed with bottom-up approach requiring limited financial resources. Thus, collaboration is the key word for achieving sustainability.

C 5: Character building

Education should not merely be for sustainability but education should help an individual to sustain in an uncertain environment with human values intact. Education is a building block in character formation of an individual. Education as sustainability should develop strong individuals who are able to follow ethical practices even in the midst of adverse environments.

It is through the ‘nudging of behavior and attitude’ that a true care for environment can be built and nurtured in higher educational institutions.


*Prabhat Pankaj is Director of Jaipuria Institute of Management and Prerna Jain is Associate Professor of Economics, Jaipuria Institute of Management. This piece of write up is based on the Discussion Paper brought out by the Center for Sustainability and Public Policy, Jaipuria Institute of Management, Jaipur as prepared by the authors.

Author: Dr Prabhat Pankaj

Dr. Prabhat Pankaj is a postgraduate in Economics and a Ph.D. in applied economics. He is a teacher by choice and started his career 30 years ago in 1991 from Arunachal University. He has been teaching Economics at postgraduate and undergraduate levels for about 30 years, in Universities and B-Schools in India and abroad, including 7 years in Bhutan. Dr. Pankaj has also obtained his Executive Education in "Management and Leadership in Higher Education" at Harvard University, Boston, USA. Furthermore, He has written for the Times of India and other popular publications. Currently, he is serving as the Director of Jaipuria Institute of Management, Jaipur.

20 thoughts

  1. Wonderfully articulated sir. These 5 Cs are so critical in this fast changing and ever evolving world of academics. Loads to learn from this post of yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an amazing read, sir! As we move ahead, it’s becoming more and more relevant to adopt sustainable and environmental focused approach in our education curriculum and I’m so glad that you already have that vision for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Indeed this article is the need of the hour where the author has highlighted the positive concerns of the environment and how it can be embedded with the goals of SDG and the newly designed objective of National Education Policy. Really wonderful and aspiring efforts Sir.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yet another insightful look at the most crucial issue facing humanity today – environment and the role of education as a vital instrumen in addressing the stubborn tendencies and finding effective and purposeful pathways to make a difference.
    The first element of the Sherig Mandala in “My Green School” seeks to serve just such a crying need. Thank you, Dr. Pankaj for addressing this important issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Respected Sir
    I should thank you for posting this article in your blog. Enjoyed reading about the SDG and 5C’s. Sir I believe the 5 C requires also we teachers to practice ethics and be the best of role models for our students. The students learn a lot observing their teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An excellent write up on Sustainable Education and Environment. The five Cs suggested by Prof. Prabhat Pankaj will be immensely useful for Educational Instituations
    in building conducive green environmet and raising the standards.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A well-articulated framework Sir. Sustainabilty in Student Learning is becoming crucial in current scenario, where hybrid teaching methods are being used. The 5 C framework provides a solution to the much needed self sustaining learning culture in Educational Institution.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Introduction of pre-primary in school has been done in a very vague, impractical and unplaned manner. It says 2 year pre-primary on the lines of Aanganwadi and 1year foundation class before class 1.
    2 years pre-primary aims at what? And, 1 year foundation for what. It sounds that 2 years pre-primary aims to train child for school readiness without any formal learning even about shapes, colours, alphabets, number etc.! And, in 1 year foundation class a child will be given formal learning of these.
    A very small number of government schools are having any pre-primary and whereas most of the private schools have pre-primary classes. A lot of chains of pre- primary schools are functioning in the country where a child is prepared to read-write-speak four letters words and numbers upto 40.
    Another important aspect of school education is drop outs after elementary education ( class VIII) and more particularly girls. If one looks at data, it will surface that number of secondary and senior secondary schools are much less than elementary school. This cause drop out. Specially, parents of rural area are not so comfortable in sending their daughters to a secondary school being that at distance. The law and order situation also make parents scared!
    Still the government is opening elementary schools as the same suits politically. It may be run under a tree or without boundry wall, safe drinking water, electricity and above all like EAKAL school ( a school with one teacher).
    We as educators and specially education managers should adopt a practical approach while evaluating policies. We are celebrating 75th year of independence and still talking about literacy!!! When we will think about ‘quality education’. Education should not be a mere slogan but should be sincere effort.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sir, overall artical is very good. Govt. Initiatives, green environment and quality education and research are the important pillars for the overall development of youth

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A very pragmatic guidance for mainstreaming sustainability through campus and curriculum design and delivery! Having visited Jaipuria Institute of Management many times in Jaipur, I can vouch for the authenticity and ‘practice before you preach’ orientation of this important analysis! Maybe more and regular brainstorming of the framework provided will help others accept and emulate!

    Liked by 1 person

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