Sharing & Learning Together

Monday, November 21, 2005

Industrial revolution paved way for the growth and development of science and technical education in the west and slowly spread to the east. Science education in this initial period of gestation focussed mainly on creating artisans and tool makers to follow a set of instructions and implement them rather than discovery studies leading to inventions. Anita Rampal talks about how the science curriculum transformed itself from applied concepts of mechanics and agricultural chemistry to abstract version in the 19 century, emphasising the idea of creating scientists. Even today school science curricula is exceedingly abstract and not related to pupil's reallife situations, leading to an attitude of disinterestedness among them, in most of the schools. As Eggleston states “purpose of math curriculum isnot only to enable pupils to learn mathematics, but also some to realise that they cannot learn mathematics. Today more and more concepts are taught with the notion that they may be of use “someday". Many schools are still basing their curriculum on the academic educational needs, and weighing it with respect to other similar schools. Very few schools like Aditi are following a skill based education. Students need to recognise areas whichinterests them and schools should be a platform to nurture those skills which will mould the pupil rather than being just academically oriented.Today's science curriculum needs to be friendly and understandable and not content rich.What do we want to learn? The written curriculum.The ISCP states that there should be a balance between the search for understanding, the acquisition of essential knowledge and skills, the development of positive attitudes and the opportunity for positive action. These according to ISCP are the 5 essential components of the written curriculum. The ISCP also believes that it is vital to address the positiveattitudes consciously, professionally and explicitly within the written curriculum. We also need to design activities and assessment strategies which promote positive attitudes. Some of them are Appreciation, Commitment, Confidence, Cooperation, Creativity, Curiosity, Empathy, Enthusiasm, Independence, Integrity, Respect, and Tolerance. Every school needs to first work on the programme of enquiry in science by active collaboration with the teachers and the heads of the departments. Some of the expected ISCP student learning objectives in science are, to beInquirers, Thinkers, Communicators, Risk-takers, Knowledgeable, Principled, Caring, Open-minded, Well balanced and Reflective. In other words every student needs a. to have a sense of wonder about the physical and material world b. use the process skills of science to reinforce, change, or reflect their existing ideas c. gather, record organise, interpret and present scientific data in different forms, d. to hypothesise and speculate responses to unfamiliar problems e. acquire an understanding of significantscientific concepts f. Treat their environment with sensitivity and respect g. Appreciate the tentative nature of scientific ideas, g. Make informed decisions based on scientific knowledge h. Reflect upon their methods and conclusions. In addition to this every student needs to view and understand any concept from different perspectives, like math perspective or science perspective. Science teachers need to increase emphasis in areas ofplanning, teaching and assessment. Planning: planning collaboratively using an agreed, flexible system, based on agreed student learning outcomes, andinvolving students. Addressing assessment issues through the planning process, recognising a range of ability levels.
Teaching: Using a range and balance of teaching strategies, using multiple resources, viewing students as thinkers and empowering them to feel responsible in their own learning. Pursuing open ended inquiry and real life investigations. Akshara is an initiative by an individual, Ravi Aluganti based in Madanapalle in Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh. Ravi Aluganti’s work involves dividing his time between 15 government schools in the Madanapalle mandal – working with the teachers and children there to make class sessions more enjoyable, effective and useful. He is working with government schools with the following objectives:
1.To train government school teachers in multi-grade teaching.
2.Research and develop learning material in various areas of primary education, develop a resource center for teacher training.
3.Facilitate teacher interaction from various schools to share knowledge, skills and experience.
4.Organize art and craft activities for teachers and children to develop their creative skills as well as learn more traditional subjects such as Math, Life sciences using arts activities.
5.Initiate parental involvement in the school.
6.Organize simple science experiments for teachers and children to encourage experiential learning.
Assessment: Using a range and balance of recording and reportingstrategies, involving the students in shared reflection at the end of each unit, and involving them in peer and self assessment. Also seeking student responses in order to understand their current conceptions.
Parallel to building the essential science skills, transdisciplinary skills like Social skills, Research skills, Thinking skills, Communication skills and self-management skills ought to be developed. Today teachers and schools should not blindly follow the vast text book info with lots of irrelevant content. Students should not be tested based on whether they can memorise and regurgitate that mighty info. It is a common concern in most schools and colleges. This fact is very well reflected in rural sector students taking up science courses at the univ level or professional courses. It is also perceived to be extremely difficult for foreign students pursuing studies here. Some of them might have been very good in their basic science concepts, but failure to handlethe huge burden of content puts them down. Constraints of “must study" situations also make them lessoriented towards the subject and there is a tendency toloose focus in the long run. facilities at higher levels.
Significant as the achievements in creating facilities for technical education in the country over the last three decades are, there appears a good need now for total review of the system that has been built up, with a view to make it more relevant and effective to the national needs. For historical reasons, the technical education system has been more or less inward looking. The professional engineer or technologist is not a solitary individual unconnected with the happenings in the other spheres of the system. Of immediate concern, perhaps, for the professionals is, no doubt, the chosen field of his profession but the interaction with the allied professionals, as also the neighbouring community has also to be taken into account to determine the professionals, place in the whole system.
'Wastage' in the System - The Institute of Applied Manpower Research made a study of this problem some time ago. From a survey made by the Institute of the reaction of a few of the students that had undergone these courses, the possible reasons for wastage were stated to be:
(i) lack of necessary aptitude for the course among the concerned students;
(ii) inadequacy of instructional facilities;
(iii) ineffective teaching, possibly because of the teachers not being trained; and
(iv) a heavy curriculum. Valid as these reasons are even today, there may be many other contributory factors also such as: (i) non-selective admission of students to the institutions;
(ii) changing mix of urban and non-urban background of students without corresponding modifications/orientation of educational methods contributing to the detriment of the non- urban element;
(iii) inadequate utilisation of even the existing instruction facilities;
(iv) in spite of adequate capital investment and hardware provided in the institutions quite often, the lack of appropriate matching provision for adequate departmental operating and training costs;
(v) insufficient development of the correct attitudes to the professional education by both the teachers and the students; and
(vi) external factors, such as lack of motivation because of inadequate or assured employment opportunities at the end of the course.
Methods to rectify this problem may be as follows.
(1) Intensive study of this problem of wastage is very necessary. This is needed on both academic and planning considerations. Any effort for improvement of existing courses, introduction of new courses, diversification of programmes etc. would be helped a great deal by such feedback information as would be available from such a study. From the planning point of view, any effort to reduce wastage would contribute to the efficiency of the system as such and thus provide for out-turn of additional manpower that may be required without further inputs.
(2) Improvement of the System - Any efforts at improvement of the system have naturally to take into account the various elements which contribute to its weaknesses . Under the " Quality Improvement Programmes " some steps have been taken to tone up that aspect of the system which concerns the teaching-learning process. Apart from these efforts, which, of course, require to be strengthened to a very great extent, there are other steps which might enhance the effectiveness of the system. Some of these are enumerated below :
(a) Special remedial courses for non-urban/non-elite students It would appear that the courses at present offered, based as they are on urban aptitudes, situations and characteristics, tend to cater to the needs of the elitist group. A majority of the students are from the non-urban sectors and from the institutions in the mofussil/interior areas. The background of the students also is not uniform. in that many of the students may be first or second generation learners. Because of the lack of communication facilities on the same basis as his urban counterpart, such a student would require to be given special orientation/remedial course to be brought on par with the other students. Not only that, even the programmes sometimes have to be appropriately changed to suit his non-urban experience and background.
(b) Multiple entry and flexibility - At present the attitude and aptitude of the students who take these professional courses have no obvious relationship with the professional courses offered to them. Quite often both because of the lack of aptitude, or absence of developing the correct attitude, or because of various other factors such as the duration of the course, the sudden change the student has to undergo in the professional courses as compared to his earlier academic experience, etc., have an adverse effect on his performance. The present system is rather a straight jacket one, with more or less a single entry point and perhaps a rigid course structure. To allow for different types of contingencies, It is necessary to think in terms of multiple entry points (depending upon the earlier academic/field experience) as well as of flexibility of the course structure and organisation.
(3) Need for review of course content - It is necessary to have a good look at the courses being offered now not merely for the organisational purposes of "graded" facilities. Mere accumulation of information is not knowledge, and complete knowledge by itself does not give the necessary wisdom. The purpose of education is not to produce " educated " individual at one stretch by putting all information and knowledge into course at one time, but, on the other hand, it is to take the individual to progressive stages where he would be in a position to acquire what further information and knowledge he wants for his future activities. If we accept this philosophy, it is to be conceded that what is important is not to " load " the curriculum but to arrange it in such a way that different requirements and needs of the individual's calling are provided in the process of life-long education.
(4) Improvement of teaching methods-Production of textbooks, other teaching material and teaching aids which have been started now on a small measure have to be considerably stepped up.
(11) Integration of practical training with the institutional courses.


  • kalpana, this is a fantastic essay. my only point of contention is that all the skills you speak of under various categories and the talk of the curriculum, of improving things, and of wastage etc. are all not subject specific or limited to the sciences but applicable to all disciplines.

    By Blogger a.v.koshy, at 6:41 AM  

  • kalpana, one more thing, while your ideas are clear and you have connected them into a whole properly ,i feel you should get rid of the sections taken from other places by rewriting them in your own words.

    By Blogger a.v.koshy, at 11:55 PM  

  • Thanks a lot for your valuable advice Mr.Koshy. My essay has still not attained the form i visualised. I will definetely work towards it . Thanks for patiently going over it.

    By Blogger kalpanau, at 1:30 AM  

  • Your essay is exhaustive in outlining the current situation of education in the country and what it needs to improve it in all aspects. That represents a good study and understanding. However, the emphasis in this essay needs to be on how this situaion affects your practice. What features of your recommendations are being achieved or not in your classroom and why. What are the constraints that this overall situation has on your teaching practice? These are the links you need to draw and therefore you may have to trim the description and analysis of the situation as you have it detailed it now.
    Perhaps you would also like at using paragraphs to enclose one idea each. Maybe the formatting is lost in the posting on this blog? Do look at my recent post on some points to remember while writing formally.
    Good going Kalpana - keep at it!

    By Blogger Tara Kini, at 4:53 PM  

  • Sorry that should read:

    Perhaps you would also like to look at at using paragraphs to enclose one idea each.

    By Blogger Tara Kini, at 4:55 PM  

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