Guiding Principles of Environmental Education

When we talk about guiding principles of environmental education, it encompasses, in a broader sense, learning about everything to protect the environment. It includes knowledge, ethics, and duties to prevent ecological deterioration and promote actions beneficial to the overall environmental health.


Environmental education, therefore, is not a discipline to study the natural environment. Instead, it’s an action plan to instill in individuals and communities a sense of responsibility towards nature and to develop attitude and behavior essential to foster better environmental ethics. It is a question of raising awareness about the grave danger Earth’s environment is in and taking critical steps to prevent further degradation.

Principles of Environmental Education (EE): Overview

During The Belgrade Charter, UNESCO, 1976, UNESCO formulated the environment education framework.

A year later, the United Nations, in collaboration with the world’s leaders and countries, drew principles of environmental education to facilitate awareness and to encourage actions beneficial to the environment. “The Tbilisi Declaration of 1977, the first intergovernmental conference of Environmental Education” organized by UNESCO, laid out the guiding principle of environmental education.

What Are the Principles of Environmental Education?

Here are the principles of environmental education as defined by UNESCO;

Environmental Education should be compulsory and continuous:

The principle emphasizes imparting education from beginning at the primary education level to graduate or postgraduate level.

Environmental Education Should encompass all aspects of the environment in Totality:

Being aware of the environment in all its aspects is essential towards making a more informed decision about protecting it. The principle of totality emphasizes including both natural as well as artificial, economic, and historical aspects of the environment.

For Example: Teachers could teach what natural, as well as artificial factors, impact the environment and what can be done to prevent them.

Environmental Education should be interdisciplinary:

Environmental education should have a framework that explores the connections of species, the planet, and nature as a whole. It should address the interdependence of all residing on Earth to appreciate the value and importance of the environment truly.

For Example: The educators should correlate the topic with different environmental issues for better understanding.

Environmental Education Should Focus on The Complexity of the Issue:

The complexity principle of environmental education addresses the complexity of environmental problems. The aim is to make people aware of the complex nature of environmental issues and therefore develop critical thinking to address those issues.

For Example: Teachers should draw attention to how hard it is to bring back environmental devastation to a normal state.

Environmental Education must Include a Historical Perspective:

It is essential for us to understand the impact of modern society on the environment. Adding a historical perspective to environmental education allows us to compare the past with the present and accurately infer the devastating impact of current social changes on the environment.

For Example: Teachers should teach how our ancestors used to live in sync with nature and how we have severed that connection.

Environmental Education Should be practical and problem-solving:

The practicality of environmental education is a must if we want to achieve the goal of a cleaner, greener and safe environment. The principle of practicality dictates that environmental education should include practical, problem-solving approaches and must comprise first-hand experience and practical activities.

For Example: Teachers should plan activities like tree planting, beach cleaning, zoo visit, etc., to allow students to have practical experience about environmental protection.

Environmental Education should teach about regional as well as international cooperation:

Environmental education should draw focus towards the importance of regional and international cooperation to combat environmental issues. It should be clear that without cooperation, the true goal of environmental protection and welfare cannot be achieved.

For Example: Teachers should encourage students to watch TV shows on nature to make them aware of all the efforts people are taking to protect the planet.

Environmental Education must include the matter of environmental sensitivity:

Environmental education should make it clear to the students how sensitive and critical the issue is. It should inculcate the sense that everyone is affected by ecological problems; therefore, an inclusive approach is a must to tackle the issue.

For Example: Teachers should conduct workshops, skits, and debates to lay out the subject’s sensitivity and importance.

Guiding Principles of Environmental Education


UNESCO drafted a set of principles to make environmental education as effective and efficient at tackling the environmental issue as possible. Here are the guiding principles of environmental education;

Principle Of Effective Utilization of Resources

  • Environmental education must include effective and long-term strategies and plans to achieve environmental goals and sustainable development.
  • It should teach students the effective use of available resources to prevent rapid depletion and draw maximum benefits.
  • Environmental education should clarify the adverse effect of heavy dependency on non-renewable resources.

Principle Of Protecting Soil and Preventing Its Degradation

  • Environmental education should help learners understand the importance of soil and sustainable farming for the survival of human life.
  • It should encourage students to take measures to prevent soil erosion – a critical factor in soil degradation.
  • It should clarify the criticality of forest cover towards the protection of soil and preserve the balance of nature.

Principles To Protect the Wildlife

  • Environmental education should draw attention to wildlife preservation and the protection of habitats to prevent the extinction of endangered species.
  • It should explicitly explain the interdependence of human life and wildlife. It should make learners understand the critical link between nature, wildlife, and human beings.

Principles Of Effective Environmental Management

  • Environmental education should inculcate in learners a sense of responsibility towards the environment.
  • It should develop the understanding that effective environmental management benefits both man and nature.
  • It should lay out the importance of recycling and better waste management.
  • Environmental education should clarify the impact of human advancements and modern Technological development on the environment. And therefore, also suggest ways to minimize any harmful effect.


Environmental education is a necessary component of the education system to make students understand the necessity of a healthy nature and a cleaner environment. In the present scenario, when our lands are becoming barren, our water toxic, and our air poisonous, the guiding principles of environmental education take a more critical role in making people aware of what we should do in the face of grave environmental concerns and mitigate the adverse effects of environmental deterioration.

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