Too much chalk and talk
June 20, 2002
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This is a step in the right direction because science education in the context of today's world is not an option anymore - it is a necessity.
The world is increasingly being driven by scientific discoveries and achievements. The breathtaking developments in Information Technology in the last decade are an ample demonstration of the application of science in tandem with technology to dramatically change patterns of lifestyle and the transaction of business.
It is therefore vital that a culture of interest and enthusiasm for science be inculcated in students, in order for the nation to increase its capacity for science in the process of socio-economic advancement.
Unfortunately, in Guyana not many students opt for science. The number of students who come out of high school with passes in science subjects is extremely small when compared with those for business and social science subjects.
It is the same pattern at the University of Guyana, with few students graduating with degrees in the sciences or the engineering fields.
Probable reasons for this include the scarcity of opportunities for employment in the scientific field; available opportunities may not be as lucrative as those in the business and other fields and, of course, the unattractive, unexciting and boring manner in which science is taught in many schools.
In fact, the initiators of the microscience project alluded to the latter, correctly describing the way in which science is taught as "too much chalk and talk." The microscience project is exactly about reversing the method of the teaching/learning process.
Science is all about inquiry and discovery through experimentation in combination with theoretical scientific principles and the only way in which it can become attractive, exciting and lively is by providing the facilities for practical work and experimentation.
What is also encouraging about this project is that it has been successfully implemented in schools in Africa, where there are many similarities to the Guyana situation, especially those aspects which are reflected by a shortage of resources. It should therefore be a workable programme in schools here.
The correlation between science and development is overwhelming. Many developing countries have dramatically transformed their societies through greater emphasis on science education and consequently, increasing applications of science and technology to their developmental processes. China, India, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Cuba are some of the developing countries that took that path decades ago and have emerged from being backward agrarian countries to dramatically transformed industrial and economic nations.
Education Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, at the launching of the microscience project aptly declared: "We cannot survive creditably as a nation without the development of science. We must take science seriously not only because of its importance to the development of our natural resources, but without it, we would not even be able to understand the world."
So the challenge is on for educators and parents to reverse the trend and move towards an increasing gravitation to science in the march along the path of socio-economic transformation.