It All Starts in the Classroom
“I’ve learnt that a lot of things that I threw in the garbage before, they were either recyclable items or waste that could be composted,” answered Matyn, a student from a Green Flag Eco-School when asked what he has learnt through the Eco-Schools Programme (ESP).
The pursuit to develop environmental responsibility and leadership in students begins in the classroom. In a strong class setting, students learn how to recognize, address and adopt the kinds of change that can positively affect their lives, communities and the rest of the world.
The ESP stands as a strong embodiment which carries the power of classroom beyond its doors. It challenges students to engage in tackling environmental problems at their school level where they can see tangible results, spurring them on to realise that they really can make a difference.
As a student’s mind grows with new ideas to undertake more challenges; teachers, as the leaders / facilitators of the classroom, can direct the energy of their classes towards accomplishing any number of tasks, from solving complex math to learning the importance of embracing greener practices.
“My interest on the ESP began in 2012 when I attended a camp. I brought the idea back to my school and how time flies; it has been 5 years since we adopted the initiative,” explained teacher Shamsul Mutaza, the Eco-Schools Program Coordinator of Sekolah Sri Bestari (SSB) Kuala Lumpur.
“I encourage students to be involved in decision making because when they experience a sense of achievement at being able to have a say in the environmental management policies of our schools, they feel valued,” he explained further.
Under teacher Shamsul’s leadership, SSB has been awarded the Green Flag award for many of its green practices. The school is Styrofoam-free since 2015, it maintains an e-portal to reduce their paper usage, and uses Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper for printing, and many more initiatives driven by the school’s Eco team.
Teacher Elizabeth Lok Fei Ling, the headmistress of Sek Keb Lok Yuk Inanam, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah has always been a frontier in environmental awareness. Unhappy with the state of the school when she first joined, she launched an environment club called Kelab Program Rakan Bumi.
“We took small steps when we began. I made sure the club held an environmental activity every month from waste management tutorial, compost making, terrarium and hydroponic planting and many more. I heard of ESP in 2012 and saw an opportunity for the school to embark on a meaningful path towards improving its environmental footprint,” she shared. “We signed up in 2013 and I’m happy and proud that our school received the Green Flag award last year.”
Elizabeth’s school has implemented many green initiatives such as rainwater harvesting for washing and watering purposes, flower pots made from used plastic bottles for hydroponic planting, river clean-up activity at a nearby village and the list continues.
WWF-Malaysia is the National Operator of the Eco-Schools programme in Malaysia. For many years, the organisation has been an advocator to educate students and the public on sustainability and environmental conservation.
Dr S Santharasekaran from Sek Keb Behrang 2020 Tanjung Malim, Perak learned about the ESP from WWF-Malaysia. He was attracted to how the programme combines learning with hands-on experience. It encourages an all-inclusive, participatory approach involving students, teachers and the local community at large.
“I believe we should do less talking but focus more on practical training. I love taking my students to field trips where they will experience a more holistic, integrated picture of the information that, in the classroom, can only been presented in a textual and abstract way,” explained teacher Santharasekaran excitedly. “Through the Eco-Schools programme, our school bagged the Silver medal twice and another award, the Sekolah Paling Aktif Alam Sekitar,” he added.
Despite their busy teaching schedules, these eco-champions are dedicated to spend their precious hours to facilitate and lead students to be involved in the environmental activities.
“Today’s children seem a little bit disconnected with nature. They are glued to gadgets, some live in the concrete jungle. They know very little of our relationship with the health of the ecosystem,” teacher Shamsul explained the need of environmental education.
Teacher Elizabeth added “I can see positive change in teachers, students and the local community’s attitude since we adapted the ESP. Even the school canteen has refrained from using Styrofoam and plastic bags now. Kota Kinabalu City Council has named us Litter Free School for four times,” she mentioned joyfully.
Despite the lack of funding, these schools worked their way through forging corporate partnerships to help support their schools’ environmental projects. Recently, Sek Sri Bestari worked with Royal Bank of Canada to launch its Water Saving Project; Sek Lok Yuk Inamam received funding from IKEA for its waste management activities which ended last year; and Sek Keb Behrang partnered with universities and other agencies to advance its environmental activities.
“The Eco-Schools Programme is a fun and educational programme providing structure and flexibility through its Methodology and Eco-Themes. The whole-school approach empowers students and teachers to convert their knowledge in combination with appropriate skills and attitude to actions on the ground as agents of change. The programme instills a sense of responsibility and cultivates a sustainable mindset which they can apply on a daily basis,” shared Ms Jessie Chew, the Education Manager of ESP WWF-Malaysia.
“We need more teachers to be Eco-Champions to lead and encourage their students to be active and take up more advanced environmental projects. It benefits not just the students and teachers, but the surrounding communities too, as shown by our Eco-Schools champions. Teachers play an important role to inspire and connect the students with nature and lead their communities towards a sustainable future,” Jessie voiced her hopes on the programme.
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About Eco-Schools Programme
Eco-Schools Programme is the largest sustainable schools programme in the world, participated by more than 11 million students from over 60 countries. WWF-Malaysia has been the National Operator for this programme since 2011. We have more than 170 schools registered with us and 8 Internationally-recognised Green Flag awards have been given out so far. More than 30 silver and bronze awards have also been given to schools that have demonstrated active efforts in sustainability.
Eco-Schools in Malaysia which have been awarded Green Flag:
International School of Kuala Lumpur
Sekolah Sri Bestari
SM St Michael
SRK Lok Yuk Inanam
Sri KDU International School
For more information, please contact:
Sr Communications Officer of Education for Sustainable Development Programme, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: 03-7450 3773
Chew Pei Jing (Jessie)
Education Manager, Eco-Schools Programme, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: 03-7450 3773