Like petals of flower, I see the gentle Opening of your eyes. ~ Derozio
The innovation drive in educational institutions for stimulating and nurturing young minds, inculcating scientific attitude, is extremely important and farreaching in its implications. The pragmatic decision to establish open-ended innovation workspaces equipped with modern sophisticated sensor technology kits, elementary electronics and computers, robotics to promote creativity, curiosity and imagination among school students, by reforming the present school laboratories, changing its ambience, promises to be remarkable indeed.
Atal Tinkering Lab, an initiative of Niti, will give an impetus to children to become innovators of tomorrow. The project was started a few years back to encourage students to explore and experience design, thinking, learning by doing, and ultimately derive a solution of the problem. The initiative has already selected about 5000 schools. The laboratories are designed to spur creativity with the idea to go beyond habitual classroom learning. It will serve as a creative technology platform. Using science and technology to support school education and stimulating innovations to students has numerous benefits, but in doing the same, we must also exercise caution.
The benefits are in the ability of information technology based learning environments to sustain student attention, encourage learners to develop imagination, foster curiosity, allow experimentation, and above all move towards a conducive learning environment that is self-paced and adaptive. Students learn at different speeds. A technology-based learning environment can allow the learner to decide how much more practice or learning he/she needs in the area. In addition to adaptive learning, tools with intensive analytical capabilities such as learning analytics can go far in helping teachers to understand the indispensible requirements of the child, thereby optimizing their time by focusing on the needs of the child.
Very recently, Kolkata witnessed a spectacular event to disseminate a scientific attitude, particularly for the young minds during the fifth edition of India International Science Festival (IISF). The festival, apart from focussing on new frontiers, like space research, polar expedition, highlighted the importance of science communication through special screening of films, storytelling with emphasis on science literature. Education should not necessarily aim at success in life but to achieve the perfection in life. It should be a child-centered education enabling the child to get immense pleasure and profound satisfaction.
We should give stress on the child’s healthy psycho-social development including its positive behavioural and emotional needs. Emotionally warm, sensitive care, maintenance of acceptance and responsiveness to the child’s needs are of enduring importance. Creativity, imagination and freedom of mind are also important, absorbing profoundly the spirit of enquiry. Educational institutions are the cradle of conceptual and intellectual development for the benefit of students, for achieving their goals and purposes as well as to receive proper orientation. The styles of learning and the institutional influences on learning and a surface approach are also attributable.
The process of influencing the quality of learning by teachers and ‘learning to learn’ matrix are remarkably significant ideas. There is ferment in science and technology education. It is also recognized that imparting proper science education is the best way of ensuring rapid economic development and technical progress. It is, therefore, imperative that school students should enjoy learning through ‘improved’ science and technology, from their very childhood days. The objective should be to provide all our children with the basic knowledge they need to develop their scientific attitude and skills for better understanding of their environment.
This would help them to counter superstitions and prejudices. Hopefully the children will in due course of time introduce new techniques in the laboratory. Inculcating a scientific attitude is extremely important and learning science in schools should be a joyful experience. The students are supposed to receive the basic knowledge of the physical and biological environment and their immediate surroundings. In order to develop a proper scientific attitude, its foundation must be built up on conceptual understanding and reasoning in a pragmatic way, rather than retention and reproduction of bits of information including statistical data.
It must be borne in mind that in the 21st century, when there is an explosion of information through computers, email, and internet, the traditional lecture method to motivate the students needs to be revised radically. Today science has become too important to be considered merely as a subject in the curriculum. It is one of the most pervasive and influential forces to sustain our culture and society. Imparting science education through the ‘learning by doing’ method has shown remarkable results. This is the “discovery approach”, so-called, of teaching science and technology.
The students themselves learn the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of things by way of experimentation and inquiry. This may be regarded as ‘science in action’ where the process of experimentation, observation and drawing inferences by the children is significant. The term ‘observation’ is vital and plays a pivotal role in learning science. ‘Observation’ by common people and ‘scientific observation’ with its deep penetrating power differs considerably. And all sciences are vain and full in errors which are not born out of experiments, the mother of all certainty.
It is true that most of the schools in our country do not possess sophisticated scientific equipment or enriched laboratories to teach science. To that extent this new project of Niti transpires to be extremely important. It envisages the reform of obsolete laboratories of the schools, in a systematic way. Improvisation of scientific equipment byusing available local resources is a good method to teach science as it is now hard to conceive of science education without the help of equipment and materials. Building scientific models by children and demonstration of the same in science exhibitions also plays a major role in dissemination of a scientific attitude.
This can motivate an appreciable number of enthusiastic students. Various science projects in electronics, computers, chemistry, physics, biology and space science may provide immense pleasure and enduring satisfaction in the pursuit of firsthand knowledge through experiments and observation of natural phenomena. The children can perform simple experiments with water, electricity, magnetism, light, heat, semiconductors etc. and by using apparatus that can be made at home or with inexpensive materials.
This is improvisation of scientific equipment which induces creativity and innovation. The potential value of computers in science education is as great as it is challenging. Computers can control experiments, record data and process data from experiments. Computers may be considered as cultural objects and they carry powerful cultural identities. Perhaps the most exciting way of using computers is as an aid to understanding the theoretical and conceptual processes of science.
Teachers can play a major role in this regard, stimulating and exiting the young mind in a pragmatic way. We need a vast number of qualified and devoted teachers with intrinsic values, morality and ethics. There are enough young minds in our country with the propensity to learn but few teachers to teach them with care. To make the project successful, it is absolutely imperative to train the vast number of our school teachers in modern pedagogy, based on sophisticated technology.
(The writer, a former Reader in Chemistry, Presidency College, Kolkata, is associated with the UGC)