Population education is a response of educational community to the population situation at a given point of time and place. The need and justification for population education laid down in UNESCO Source Book on Population Education is as follows.
The consequences of population development for the socio economic and natural environment and vice-versa are of such significance that the new generations of young people need to be aware of them.
Clearly, thus, if education is a potent agent of change to be used for improving the quality of life and aiding the processes of development, population and environmental studies should be the major elements of educational process.
Population education is basically an educational process whereby individuals learn the causes and consequences of population phenomenon for themselves, communities and environment. Through population education it is possible to provide basic information and create awareness of possible and effective means by which the society as a whole and individuals in particular can respond to population implications and eventually make rational and informed decisions in order to enhance the quality of life.
Population education emerged from a growing awareness of the importance of population phenomena in the world such as slow and rapid population growth rates, migration, and urbanization. Essentially it is an educational response to demographic problems.
For example, a rapidly growing population may outstrip certain resources or make it difficult to meet basic needs such as jobs, education, and health care, resulting in a threat to the quality of life of people. A declining population or an aging population may be seen in some cases as a threat to a country’s economy or vitality. Migration from rural to urban areas may deplete rural areas of human resources while placing a strain on urban social services.
It is said, that population education is not an attempt to develop a new discipline but that facts, theories and concepts are borrowed from a broad spectrum of academic disciplines and professional fields in order to assist individuals and societies to understand fully population interactions and the effects of population factors on the quality of these individual and their collective lives.
Demography and folk demography do, however, form the core of the knowledge base on population education. The sum of all these knowledge bases is referred to as population studies. Thus, population education embraces the field of population studies which comprises the body of knowledge. concepts, and theories that describe and attempt to explain the dynamics of human populations and their relationships with the social, cultural, economic, political, and biological environments. It involves looking into a wide range of population issues and is, therefore, much broader than family planning or demography.
Because of the nature of population education, a number of other educational activities inevitably share some of the contents associated with population education. The greatest confusion that arises concerns population educations related to family-life education, environmental education, and development education. Family-life Education and Sex education do indeed share certain concerns with population education, such as human reproduction and life-cycle decision making, but they concentrate on interpersonal relations and in general have not concerned themselves so far with the consequences of population decision making on the wider society.
In rather different ways, environmental education and development education also make use of content drawn from population studies, especially which describes and analyses how population processes operate in order to understand better nature of social and economic development or the interaction of humans and the biosphere. However, differences in goals and objectives give population education a separate identification at the present stage of its development.
There is not sufficient material developed on population education. The problem stems from the fact that population phenomena affect so many aspects of life at so many different levels i.e. political relations, resources, the environment, health, social services, education, employment, human rights -that nation’s regions, and individuals have differing viewpoints about population questions. These range along a continuum from those who see population growth as a crisis, as the primary cause of all other social problems, to those who seek to encourage population growth to help solve social problems.
There is no lack in the diversity of positions. Some contend that population is a false issue, fostered by some conservative and orthodox groups to divert attention from problems faced by developing nations. The real problem, they say, is not population growth, but the maldistribution of wealth and resources, the lack of integrated economic development, overconsumption, and the affluent life-style of many industrialized nations which pose a more direct threat to the preservation of environment and resources than the higher population growth rates of the developing nations.