Towards a scientific revival

To make Science education interesting to students, we require new strategies and reframing of the curriculum.

April 04, 2022 03:19 pm | Updated 03:19 pm IST

04EPBS_Online only_Babul Das

04EPBS_Online only_Babul Das | Photo Credit: Freepik

Interest in science is reported to be declining among secondary school students across India. Studies from several Indian states not only confirmed this trend, but have also traced the reason to be uninteresting ways of teaching. The trend is not unique to India. Many other educational systems — some similar and others different — from India are also facing the same issue. The emerging disinterest, surprisingly, comes at a time when global awareness of the role of Science, more popularly referred to as STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), is rapidly spreading. The fight against COVID-19 has underscored our dependence on science. 

Studying Science is not just to train one to become a scientist. It has a more utilitarian purpose: that of creating an informed citizen able to weigh on various issues. This is why the waning interest in Science is troubling for educators.

Modern science rose from the ashes of a crumbling ecclesiastical order in distant Europe. At its core was the will to change and to make a difference to human life. Using one’s hands as much as one’s mind gained respectability almost overnight. Yet, a couple of centuries later what is taught in schools as Science is shockingly different. Rote learning of facts and techniques, mountains of information to be ingested and regurgitated in exam halls, and a decontextualised and often dehumanised set of collective experiences to be memorised for posterity is what confronts the young learner. 

Addressing the problem

Researchers are now talking about the STEM Cliff, a progressive waning of interest beyond primary years. This coincides with a growing deficit in curiosity. Studies worldwide have shown that Science is best taught in context and is most enduring in its impact when woven together into a larger interdisciplinary tapestry of stimuli and thought. To retrieve Science education from the morass it is sinking into, Indian educators, policymakers and the political cognoscenti will need first and foremost to recognise the problem itself. 

Research continues to elude policy, and content in secondary Science courses is spiralling out of control. To slow down and reverse the current trend requires wisdom, will power and a collective desire for change. One study showed that when learners were asked whether they would like to study Science in high school, the majority responded with a “No.” But when asked if they would like to know how life originated, or what makes their computers work, with exceptions they said “Yes.”

There is hope as long as Science educators in India remain connected globally, sharing knowledge, insight, and experience. New strategies for restructuring curriculum have been initiated at the national level, which hold the promise of a transformation. 

The writer is Head of Science, Neev Academy

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