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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Education: mother of all wise practices / Worldwide.

Posted By: R. Sudarshana
Date: Tuesday, 15 June 1999, at 1:27 a.m.

Key words: integrated coastal management, sectoral education, UNESCO chairs.


When we start writing on a topic like this, just the title is enough and everybody would guess what is about to be told. Perhaps, everyone would readily agree to the proposition and there wouldn't be a chance to argue the case. This is good in some ways since the foundation of discussion evolves with consensus. But it is bad in some ways because what is readily agreed to does not emerge in detail. The fate of many wise practices is like that. Aquaculture, fisheries development and mangrove restoration are some examples. Not many questions are asked and not much discussion is held when the decisions are made in principle on these because they are considered to be wise. Even environmental restoration sometime may not be wise if carried out without an appropriate perspective vision. So too with education. I have not come across anyone who would argue about whether education is necessary at all. Similarly, I have not come across many who would work out the details of education when suggested. It always has a general approval but it is seldom that a comprehensive detail is worked out in the professional manner that it deserves. That is the reason for this contribution to the wise practices forum. If you need a summary at the beginning, here it is: "Education on wise practices for coastal zone management is very important and the efficiency and character of any coastal zone practice depends on the wisdom with which education is developed, practised and imparted."


Although we all agree that coastal zone management is cross-sectoral, education in the world does not cater to that. You and I are all (mostly) educated in uni-sectoral specialisations and the cross- sectoral perspective is only our professional outlook. In other words, there are not many educational courses that provide an integrated analysis of coastal management in the world. At least none in India and in many dozen countries I have known about. But there is enough to teach, learn and practice. Many maritime states in the world offer a profession within 'coastal development authorities' and thus there is enough scope to initiate professional courses in coastal management. There are specifically designed experimental equipment for the coast, an enormous amount of literature, dozens of specific international programmes, satellites made to order of coastal zone workers and innumerable socio-economic drivers sustaining coastal activities. Time is ripe to begin on educational courses exclusively for coastal zone studies. I consider it very wise if we can influence universities to repackage their courses in 'marine biology, physical oceanography, mariculture, marine ecology, geological oceanography' etc. into coastal zone studies and provide a specialisation in the end with a splinter subject.


A time tested model of education is the modular approach wherein we teach principles and application in two initial modules followed with an ultimate module of dissertation. While this approach is easily emulated in long term courses, we need to follow the general approach even in smaller courses. In such cases, the project part would turn into intense tutorial/practicals or discussion seminars.


Explicit grouping of potential target audiences is very important and we need to cater exclusively to each individual target. There is scope for 'conceptually orienting' the top brass, 'thematically motivating' the middle order and 'preparing to work' the beginners. Different levels require different strategies for 'excitement, enlightenment, explanation and experience.' We need to deliberate on these details a little more technically and arrive at 'standard curricula' when we approach the universal prescription for wise practices of coastal zone management. Most of us are aware of the BILKO computer based lesson project of CSI and since these lessons have come in 7 modules now and will be expanded to about 10 shortly, there is enough material for us to regroup and determine which lessons may be targeted to whom. Like the EDG, we may even embark on low cost virtual education courses targeting specific audiences. Wise practices discussion should include this too.


Initially, UNESCO chairs around the world may have to include new directions in education. As far as I know, the chair programmes are research oriented and education is supported passively as chairs are situated mostly in universities. But the programmes do not insist on education (I am ready to stand corrected if I have assumed a little far). Chair activities must include/support/ generate /influence and/or benefit from education.


Many of the coastal practices are judged on their ability to contain conflicts. Conflicts normally arise at the interface of tradition and modernity. Hence, we need to involve community leaders or village elders to speak to students and professionals even during higher educational programmes. (This idea - I copied from one argument of Gillian Cambers (Perception of disasters) in reply to one of my messages (Cross sectoral approaches to integrated coastal management / Alang and Bhavnagar Bhal-India).


Frankly, I don't know and I need to hear. I have been an educator for years and we keep improving every time, but we do not know which part of the process is positively or negatively influencing coastal zone management. But I am very sure that education is the key that can fatefully decide any professional's approach to coastal zone management. Lack of integrated knowledge, sectoral specialisation, outdated equipment, obsolete methodologies, lack of personal approach to teaching, mediocre educational resources, stagnating syllabus, insufficient funds, carelessly stacked priorities, non-consultative approach, imbalance between global and local information and many such factors may lead to mediocre capacity building in societies which will become incapable of getting wiser in coastal practices.


1. Education in itself is not wise. We have to make it wise and keep making it wiser.

2. Initiating exclusive educational programmes for coastal zone management around the world may turn out to be a wise practice.

3. Quality, content and method of education are to be determined with an insight on coastal applications, conflicts, science, technology and contemporary information resources in order to beget an educated class that is capable of conducting wise practices.

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