Teachers have a special role'

Print edition : December 16, 2011

Anil Kakodkar, President, Vigyan Prasar.

How far has Vigyan Prasar succeeded in promoting scientific temper in rural India?

Children have a natural curiosity about everything around them. Children in rural areas are closer to nature than those in urban areas as there are relatively fewer distractions. Therefore, they show far greater interest in science activities and participate in them in large numbers.

Although children learn several things from their parents, teachers and elders, there is a great desire to get to learn about things in an objective and rational manner through other sources. Programmes of institutions such as Vigyan Prasar help in this. It is important that this thirst for knowledge is adequately fulfilled through multiple ways.

Vigyan Prasar has been providing an important resource stream in this context. Satisfying the curiosity of children, nurturing a spirit of enquiry and a rational approach to questions, the joy of scientific research, providing awareness and information on scientific developments, inspiring children with the life histories and works of eminent scientists, and motivating them to take up science as a career option are some of the key objectives of any science popularisation programme. As India moves up the economic growth ladder, we will have to pay greater attention to technology development and nurture the spirit of innovation in areas of national socio-economic interest. We, therefore, need a large number of motivated and capable scientists and technologists.

Children in rural areas are a great source pool for this purpose, and organisations like Vigyan Prasar can play an important role in this regard. I think Vigyan Prasar has made very significant contributions already.

Of course, the requirements are very large and much more needs to be done in a coordinated way by all government and non-government agencies at the Centre and in the States.

How can science education be best imparted at the elementary level?

Understanding various concepts logically through observations and experiments and nurturing a spirit of enquiry are, in my view, the key aspects of science education at the elementary level. Teachers have a special role in this regard. Several concepts can be demonstrated through simple experiments using materials available around us in our daily life.

Institutions such as the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education have done pioneering work through research in science education, running camps for schoolchildren and orientation programmes for schoolteachers. Through such programmes, we need to reach a large number of teachers and students. Enriched content for science education should be made available widely.

Open education resources in regional languages can be aligned to the school curriculum and they could become important teaching and learning aids for students, teachers and parents alike. Children should have access to science centres in the neighbourhood, where they get exposed to a variety of topics in science through active/live displays. Such places should also provide for activity-based fun learning of science and hands-on exploration.

Modern information and communication technology (ICT)-based learning tools can make a big difference to quality science education. Initiatives like exploriments' as well as a combination of distance learning and face-to-face learning methods can help one understand concepts properly, overcoming any shortcoming on the part of teachers, thereby ensuring a constant improvement in the delivery of science education. Availability of low-cost tablets, solar panels that can power hardware in schools, and solar light for in-house use can make a big difference to education in rural areas.

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