Status of Science Education in Kashmir
This paper is based on the field experiences of the authors and reflects what are the issues and concerns in science education at high school level which needs a serious rethink on the part of planners and teachers to reorient science education for the 21st century. During teaching practice we went to different schools and administered computer awareness test to science teachers and on analysis found it low. Action research was conducted in ten identified government high schools. In the pre demonstration session, the opinion of science and mathematics teachers towards Information and communication Technology (ICT) was somewhat rigid and less favorable. The teachers had limited knowledge of Educational websites. They were not given any practical training in constructing low cost improvised teaching aids on zero cost budget and level of willingness to the use of teaching aids was found low. Lack of electricity in these schools is one big impediment in application of technology in these schools. Computers have been supplied to these schools without complete accessories. We found that in some schools, they are being operated directly on the mains or low voltage which puts them on risk. The limited computers which are available in schools are used for administrative activities. Due to lack of internet facility teachers cannot access online professional development literature. Lecture-cum-demonstration lessons were conducted in 10 identified schools, about the application of information and communication technology (ICT) in science and mathematics. A manual was distributed among the participants which contained practical guidelines for learning internet skills, and a computer awareness test for teachers. The authors transferred educational documents in the computer of schools. We encountered one problem. 80% of the schools had no Acrobat Reader version loaded in their desktop computers which is necessary for reading PDF files. These computers are slow and have not been upgraded for years , service contract is not utilized , they are mostly used for administrative purposes. Since most of the educational documents are in PDF format, so we first loaded, all the computers in these schools with a Acrobat Software. Then we sensitized the teachers about the professional development literature available online. They were demonstrated about the online texts, how to use DIKSHA app to access online resources, educational CDs available on NCERT website www.ncert.nic.in. The authors found that the teachers had no knowledge about two important journals "the primary teacher" and "school science" published by NCERT. They were given practical lessons how to maintain reflective diary and write for educational journals meant for school teachers. They were supplied with useful website addresses on science and mathematics which we had painstakingly compiled after intensive navigational skills on the internet. We are looking forward when all the schools will have their own Interactive Educational Websites and, we will join the race of preparing globally competitive students . Opinion of many science and mathematics teachers was studied. We found that the number of active research workers in the field of science and mathematics education is too small. Our science teachers are not in the habit of reading professional journals even those which cost as little as a cup of coffee, for example school science journal (NCERT). The capacity building and training programmes conducted for science teachers are mere repetition of conventional methodology already taught in schools. There is nothing new to offer in these programmes. Many science teachers are not aware about National Curriculum Framework for School Education 2005. There are 120 ways of being talented, but when we enter the science classrooms of our colleagues we observe that there is focus on only one type of talent; that is academic talent and that too confined to mere statistics of pass or fail. This raises the issue: Should schools be all about statistics? We are creating a band of students in our classes who do not have the courage to ask why, how and where of a phenomenon. Take the science text book of your class 10th recommended by state board of school education. This should have been revised in the light of new developments in the field of science & technology.. Most teachers have reason, therefore, to think that they have little to say about the changes made from time to time in syllabi and textbooks. Even there are cases where a textbook has a factual error; no complaints are made by teachers asking for correction of error. There is no established procedure or official forum to mobilize teacher vigilance and participation in curriculum improvement. It is unfortunate that many science teachers intuitively feel that it is not their business to critically examine the syllabus and the texts they teach. Research in science education should be emphasized to develop the scientific temper. What are the basic ingredients of scientific temper? How can it be assessed accurately? Which strategies are most appropriate to inculcate the spirit of science in the students? Research in science education awaits answer to these questions. We made the following observation regarding science practical in our schools. Even currently the laboratory services comprise heterogeneous group of untrained and non technical personnel mostly from the non science stream. The observations are dictated to the students from the old practical science copies. Without doing any experiments, observation are recorded in science practical copies and validated by the teachers. This exercise injures the scientific temper in the students, breeds an element of corruption in our future generation. We should record our experimental observations carefully and systematically and do not manipulate our results under any circumstances. There is no quality control or monitoring cell regarding purchase of laboratory equipment. If anything is purchased, it is either too inferior, outdated, or non functional. The insensitivity of the scientific community at all levels on the existing state of affairs of laboratories and laboratory services has further compounded the problem. Due to lack of proper planning no attempt has been made so far to establish a recognized training institute to train manpower for laboratory services in the state. There is a need for recognizing laboratory services as a professional career at 10+2, undergraduate and postgraduate level. The level of willingness to the use of teaching aids of our science teachers was found low. We do not want teachers say, 'I do not have test tube so I cannot teach science'. Our focus should be on the development of low cost improvised teaching aids .We made the content analysis of the matriculation board papers for science of the last three years. The study revealed that the Board Question Papers are set in the crude manner, they do not test the comprehension, application and higher mental processes of the students. No item analysis of the question papers is done, nor is there discrimination index and difficulty index calculated. No proper standard procedures for vetting the question papers by the experts are being followed in setting the papers. So when there is failure at the matriculation level the poor teacher is a scapegoat. A radical and willful change in the examination system at the secondary school stage must be made. We have to utilize local wisdom in teaching science. For example to explain the working of electric motor we can take the services of electric motor mechanic. During inspecting practice teaching schools we observed that students ask many questions, but most of these questions were teacher tailored and very few asked creative questions. To look at usual things in an unusual way is the first lesson of science. The vast potential of ICT in the field of science education has been well recognized, it still remains largely untapped in our secondary schools in J&K. The efforts have been sporadic. The Internet opens up vast possibilities; it could provide an e-platform for discussion of topics relevant for school children – both curricular and co-curricular – where students and teachers could post queries, provide answers, discuss with experts and exchange views. Innovative scientific experiments using a PC could be Now we shall talk about the training of science teachers .There is a close relationship between education and training. With proper training we shall chalk out practical intervention strategies to realize the theoretical objectives of education. Various educational commissions have recommended the training of teachers and significant portion of public funds are earmarked for it. But there are some missing links in the training of teachers which need be addressed by conscious educational fraternity. In the initial days of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the training sessions had an environment charged with enthusiasm. Participants came in groups of 32; they came on time and took interest in the proceedings. The discussions were meaningful and the participants were present for the entire duration in the training hall. Even outside the training room, there was an environment of debate and discussion. A strange glow could be seen on the faces of the participants when they came out from the training sessions, so much so that even in the bus the talk was about the issues of training, the presentations and the quality of presentations. Apart from dealing with educational issues, these training sessions brought people emotionally closer to each other. People made new friends and shared their problems, their achievements. designed for school students through a software and hardware interface to help students to measure common physical parameters (e.g. temperature, luminosity of light, humidity, etc), and thus inculcating scientific temper in them. All in all, the training sessions were an exhilarating experience. Even officers came in to listen to the sessions every second or third day, and thus became a part of it. In a way the officers considered the teachers to be their colleagues. But the situation has changed altogether. In connection with data collection, last winter we attended a ten day training programme organized by school education department for capacity building of school teachers. Thirty teachers were issued orders for joining the training but only eight turned up. One teacher just marked the attendance and left. This made others laugh. Since the room was almost empty, resource person was hardly enthused about imparting training. A low turnout does not create an atmosphere where you would like to talk about various topics. Informal talks were held with participants. During these informal talks, nearly all teachers admitted that these training sessions were becoming exceedingly meaningless. The teachers found them unpleasant. As we see it, there are many reasons for this. Firstly, there is a lack of discipline in the training centers. People come and go at their own sweet will. There is nothing new and innovative to offer in these training sessions because resource persons repeat the traditional chalk and talk method, have limited exposure to new techniques of teaching, do not read educational journals and inhibit cross fertilization of ideas. The level of willingness to learn new things is low. I administered self- constructed general awareness test, logical reasoning test and standardized teacher attitude test to participant teachers and found these low. This is reflected in their students as tomorrow they fail to crack any competitive exam.
The objective of the training is not to increase the quality of education but to earn money. All eyes are fixed on the huge amount of money that comes for the training sessions. There are some teachers who think that it is their fundamental right not to attend trainings and to be present for a session is below their dignity. Money plays an important role here. It happens like this – they meet some corrupt official and say, "You take my TA / DA for the training and sign on my behalf." After the trainees leave at the end of the training, the corrupt official forges the signatures of the absent teachers and is able to make quite a bit of money. This practice needs to be checked. At a training session one humble teacher put up a proposal that a medical kit be kept in primary schools which would contain medicines for common ailments like fever, cough, cold etc. He suggested that there should be two-days training for teachers on how to use this kit. The ZEO criticized his proposal at once, saying, "If the trained teacher is absent on the day the child falls sick, then this kit will remain unused like the sports and science material". If this is the way suggestions are responded to, then where is the scope to improve!
At the conclusion some of the recommendations of New Education Policy 2020 if implemented in letter & spirit in our state will result in reorientation of Science Education in our state as per global standards. These recommendations are provision of multiple exit and entry points; focus on learning outcomes, pedagogical innovations; creation of quality digital resource bank in science education in open access mode to address the issue of equity; creating autonomous science institutions free from red tape, international collaboration; redesigning board exams to assess conceptual clarity; focus on formative assessment with feedback; inter-disciplinary approach; making science education value-based; ; science curriculum restructuring as per global standards, curriculum flexibility & focus on creativity & innovations.
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Coordinator Distance Education, University of Kashmir
Dr Firdous Ahmad Sofal, Assistant Professor Education, Central University of Kashmir