Teacher’s Day Out

Teacher’s Day Out

Science education plays an important role in the area of technological development. Unfortunately, most schools and colleges in our country are highly apathetic towards teaching science. There is no dearth of talent in India. We have many bright and intellectual kids who, given the right guidance and opportunities, can achieve unimagined progress in the field of science and technology.

Perhaps the problem lies in the excessive bent towards theoretical approach to teaching science. Science can be effectively taught only through practical methods such as experimentation, demonstration and exploration. Without these, science becomes just another school subject, to be learnt by rote and forgotten after the exams. Taught in the right manner, science develops the curiosity of children, enhances their creativity and develops in them a propensity to innovate and to excel.

A certain professor V G Bhide, former vice-chancellor of the University of Pune, realised a need for improvement in the area of imparting science education. So he started a movement called the Children’s Science Movement and established a place known as Exploratory. Exploratory is a place where children can explore and discover, innovate and invent, design and fabricate. Exploratory is neither a school laboratory nor a museum. It is a place where children can explore and discover. Exploratory has been designed to excite curiosity, communicate a sense of excitement in doing science, impart computational and communication skills, nourish and nurture creativity and innovativeness. It is a place where children discover for themselves, without being formally taught the basic laws and the concepts underlying them and learn how these concepts underlie various technological innovations.

Exploratory believes that teachers play a critical role in the educational system. Last week, 21 city teachers from various schools and junior colleges grabbed the opportunity to visit Pune for an orientation programme in teaching science the Exploratory way. The visit was organised by Jidnyasa Trust with the objective of building the scientific temperament of teachers and students through encouraging the hands-on approach to scientific problems and challenges.

At the University of Pune’s Physics Department, the teachers learnt about various projects undertaken by the University such as non-conventional energy systems, solar energy systems and so on. Later the teachers were taken to the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) where they were shown India’s PARAM series of super-computers developed by Dr. Vijay P. Bhatkar, chairman ETH (Education To Home) Research Labs.

The group was then escorted to the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), an autonomous institution set up by the University Grants Commission to promote nucleation and growth of active groups in Astronomy and Astrophysics in Indian universities. IUCAA aims at being a centre for excellence within the university sector for teaching, research and development in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

When asked about her feedback, Pranita Medhi from People’s Education Society School in Thane, who was one of the participants of the orientation programme, replied, "As most science teachers work in isolation, this was a great opportunity for science teachers from city to meet, interact and share ideas with each other – it doesn’t happen very often." She also found interacting with a distinguished Professor like Bhide highly motivating. She added, "Before teachers can motivate and inspire children, we have to be motivated ourselves. Meeting people like Prof. Bhide and learning about the advancement in the sphere of science and technology gave an added boost to my interest in the subject." Many other teachers shared this view and agreed that the orientation visit will help them teach more effectively.

Another participant, Suresh Jhangle from Saraswati Secondary High School, thinks that from this visit he learned how to develop a scientific perspective among his students. He particularly liked the many examples that Prof. Bhide gave while discussing Exploratory with them.

These teachers are now all set to lead our city students into becoming better at science by encouraging them to come up with practical solutions to everyday problems. And their first challenge is to propose a design for a non-polluting, fuel-efficient, cheap and easy to drive vehicle for travelling from the over-crowded Thane Railway Station into the city". Any takers?

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