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Science and Mathematics Education

Science and Mathematics Education. Issues and Concerns. Equity in Science and Mathematics Teaching. Equity implies that each child has access to the same quality of education. How can this be ensured?. Certainly not by bringing down the quality of good institutions!

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Science and Mathematics Education

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  1. Science and Mathematics Education Issues and Concerns

  2. Equity in Science and Mathematics Teaching Equity implies that each child has access to the same quality of education. How can this be ensured?

  3. Certainly not by bringing down the quality of good institutions! Instead we should strive to improve the quality of subnormal institutions. This is a difficult task. If it had not been so, the number of subnormal institutions would not have been so large.

  4. So we have to uplift poor quality institutions. Most of these institutions are neglected by the state, because education is not its top priority despite its protestations to the contrary.

  5. The schools must be given a massive dose of infrastructure funding. It should be considered an investment and not expenditure.

  6. I have been looking at School Report Cards (schoolreportcards.in) and other recent reports (ASER 2012). Most government schools still lack adequate arrangement for drinking water, toilets, libraries and laboratories. Computers and internet remains out of reach of most schools.

  7. In modern times how can we call these institutions ‘schools’? Only a massive dose of funds can equip schools with the required infrastructure. And without this infrastructure, these schools remain primitive. How can we think of equity when we force poor parents to send their children to these schools?

  8. Is it possible for a body like the NCERT to draw a blueprint of a ‘school’ and suggest to the states to bring their schools up to that level? Can the examining boards be empowered not to recognize a school unless it meets these minimal requirements?

  9. However, for the sake of argument let us assume that all schools have the minimal infrastructure. It might ensure equity, but not necessarily the quality of education imparted in these schools. For this I suggest the following agenda:

  10. Reduce syllabi considerably at all school levels. Reduced pressure of syllabi will give students more time to devote to fundamental concepts and skills (measurements, drawing and interpreting graphs, etc.).

  11. It is well known to educationists that no worthwhile learning can take place if students do not get time to pause, observe, reflect and imagine. We also want students to be able to apply the knowledge that they acquire to unfamiliar situations. For this the thinking skills of students must be sharpened. To do that they must be given enough time. This entails that the syllabi must be cut down.

  12. Once the fundamental concepts and skills are properly learnt, the rate of learning can improve in higher classes, since college-going students can take higher pressure. At present students going out of schools have neither grasped fundamental concepts nor have they learned necessary skills. Pruned syllabi will give more time to students from weaker sections to cope with schoolwork, thereby helping promote equity.

  13. In any case, the conditions in India are so different from one part to another, that it is not possible to imagine that all the schools in India can come up to the same level of achievement. Keeping equity in mind, it is necessary that the school syllabi at all level be pruned considerably.

  14. Language of science books should be simple. If language of books is difficult, science becomes doubly difficult. First, the student must comprehend the language and then the concepts expressed in that language.

  15. Every writer of school textbooks should pause at each sentence and question herself, maybe more than once, if she can replace this sentence by a simpler one. We cannot avoid technical terms, but we can certainly strive to make the language connecting these terms as simple as possible.

  16. If the students do not understand the written word, how would they understand concepts of science expressed through these words? And if they do not understand concepts of science, they would fall back upon rote learning, whereas our objective is to make students think and be able to apply what they learn.

  17. You must have seen the reports that India is falling behind other nations in innovations. Even much-admired IITs are not doing very well when it comes to innovations. The reason is that the overall rate of literacy is low and the quality of our ‘literates’ is quite poor.

  18. Poor language skills of textbook writers and that of students promote rote learning . On top of that, there is little visual support in class rooms. The result is that students stop thinking. They are unable to apply their knowledge to unfamiliar situations. Under these circumstances, how can one think of innovations?

  19. One hears complaints from some states (Uttrakhand, for example) that the language of books translated into Hindi is quite difficult. My request to the lovers of Hindi and other languages is that they should temper their enthusiasm for the language they love and make the language of textbooks easy-to-understand and child - friendly.

  20. The use of simple language makes subject matter accessible to all and thereby contributes to equity. Training of teachers Our teacher training methods have remained unchanged for several decades. There may have been a revolution in Information Technology in the world, but it has bypassed most of our teacher training institutes.

  21. Computers and Internet do not yet figure as tools for preparing lessons and as sources of information. I wish learners in teacher training institutes were trained to use internet to search for good material for their lessons. They could be trained to use computers to make better diagrams, to make animations and prepare other visual material to make their teaching more effective.

  22. Internet offers a very powerful forum for teachers to share their ideas and experiences with the fellow teachers all over the world. But this is possible if teachers are trained to surf the internet and if they have access to internet in their schools. It is not sufficient for schools to have internet connectivity: Teachers must have access to it. With access to internet, the teacher will never feel alone and helpless.

  23. Evaluation Newer teaching strategies require students to think so that they can apply their knowledge to unknown situations. But to test if this objective is being fulfilled, there must be a change in the methods of evaluation too. I am told that the Government, NCERT and CBSE are working on it.

  24. I wish only to emphasize that evaluation methods must be in consonance with the teaching methods. Continuation with the existing methods of evaluation with the new textbooks which require working through hands-on activities will simply promote rote learning.

  25. Autonomy to teachers Although this is my last point, this is the most important point in my opinion. Teachers in schools (and elsewhere) are under pressure from bureaucracy to teach and evaluate in a certain fashion.

  26. This leaves little room for initiative and innovation. I understand that the senior secondary results matter a lot to schools. But, even when the Board classes are not involved, teachers are given little freedom to experiment and innovate. I plead that some of these restrictions be relaxed and allow teachers scope to display their creativity.

  27. We must realize that teachers are the agents of change in the system of education. Their opinions and suggestions should be given due respect and weightage. This would improve their self-respect and boost their self-confidence . As a result they would become more effective teachers.

  28. These are all general suggestions. Essentially, we must work on many fronts simultaneously to improve education in science and mathematics. I hope that the speakers following me would make more concrete suggestions on these points.

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