Idea is to demonstrate essential unity of science and interrelationship between parts

Over the next month, some of the brightest students in Chennai will hobnob with scientists, sample the exciting research at select laboratories and listen to the worldview of musicians and dancers — all part of a summer programme that began on Wednesday.

The “Summer Programme 2010” is held under the auspices of the Research Science Initiative-Chennai, an endeavour to kindle scientific spirit in schoolchildren, led by the Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Group of Schools with the support of a host of other institutions.

Thirty-four students from 30 schools who have graduated to Class 12 are participating in the month-long residential camp at the IIT-M, the lead partner in the project.

The programme is modelled on the one organised annually by the Research Science Institute sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Education based in McLean, Virginia, US and run in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The focus will be on the basic sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology) as well as other interface areas and inter-disciplinary areas that link these subjects. The programme aims to impress on young minds the essential unity of science and the close links and inter-relationships between its different parts.

Addressing students at the launch, M. S. Ananth, IIT-M Director said the fundamental principles of teaching were that teachers only became facilitators of learning, followed the “near-to-far” concept of drawing examples from the immediate environment to support their teaching, advocate diverse approaches to problem-solving (solving a problem from many angles rather than solving many problems) and encourage experimental verification.

Prof. Ananth suggested to students that there could be some virtue in boredom listening to the teacher reiterating a statement. Repetition is a necessary part of education, he said.

Pointing out that humility was a pre-requisite for that rare intuitive insight associated with great minds, he recommended that students combine humility with faith.

N. Murali, Senior Managing Director, Kasturi & Sons Ltd, said for far too long basic sciences had been neglected in India. Science education had been reduced to rote learning leaving students overburdened with the stress of examinations.

However, there seemed to be a new awakening about the need for education reform, he said.