Hemavathi spoke at the AID-India conference held in Chennai in 1999.
IN MAY THE RESULT OF 8TH standard common exam came. One teacher, the director of education, asked us why many students failed in science. We teachers replied that the scie nce questions were tough. Immediately we asked ourselves to define, in what way were the questions tough?. So one teacher explained that the questions are taken from the result. So the director asked, what is the way to ask the question?. Normally we drill the students in the problems at the end of each lesson. This time the questions came from within the lesson. So it is out of syllabus for our students, we all replied humbly. Most of the teachers acknowledged the same.
At the same time, we are doing the science popularization work. I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I do, I understand. Keeping this as a slogan we are trying to popularize science. As a teacher I am also a bit carried away by the answer. We make the children to answer the questions. If they question the answer is not only the children, we teachers also are in trouble.
How to overcome this?. At the time many of us had a number of low cost experiments in hand. But many of these experiments are overloaded in particular topics. We all know that for Newton’s laws, we have many experiments. How to explain mechanics, we have no examples. Recently, since 2 years we have been working on the hard spot project?.
What are the hard parts for children in science?. We have asked ourselves. But teachers also have hard spots in teaching. For example the mechanics lesson is one I want to finish as soon as possible. So in the Pondicherry Science Forum we have been able to bring teachers together to confess what are the hard spot for them. We want to show this as an experiment among teachers.
We are conducting children’s science festivals. Along with the festival we arrange many activities, keeping the elements of fun, creativity discovery. Science toy corner, electronics corner, creativity, corner etc. It gives a lot of change in the teaching method of the teacher, and some elements will also be carried back to the classroom.
About the hard spot project, we are continuing it. Now we are trying to design each and every science lesson from the point of view of motivation for both student and teacher. For example in middle school physics, we take each lesson, from measurements to the end of the syllabus. How to create activities, what examples to give. In the future we would like to make this seminar available for other teachers.
In primary school, science is less attractive, syllabus appears like nothing to the teacher. So we have designed some alternative lessons. The major demand is that they want tools to make the syllabus more exciting to the teacher.
For bigger children in 8th or 9th standard, we have programs for example we just finished our 6th Children’s Science Congress.
These are the major elements. We have miles to go. We need lots of elements, materials from the websites, science toys, etc. Another point I want to make is that we are not doing many things but the little things we are doing with lot of care and love.
Prakash: there used to be a group which did some experiments going from school to school. Are you in touch with such groups?
Hemavati: We have these festivals where children do experiments but children see this as separate from what they do in the classroom. Even the teachers see this the same way. Teachers tell us that all of this is great here, but I am able to incorporate very little into my classroom.
Ravi: a general comment on education to find out what is wrong with education we have only to look at ourselves. So if we continue the current system we will end up with ourselves. So what is wrong with us is what is wrong with the current systems. Some of the things that are wrong with us for example, we still vote for the same politicians. It is not only the illiterate that vote for corrupt politicians.
We also don’t stand up for our rights. we give bribes, which we call speed money. If we have to wait for a phone connection we will give Rs 200 to get it within a month. We can’t challenge the government. As far as environment is concerned, we don’t know what we do with our garbage. We don’t do simple things like separating our garbage, composting the organic, etc. Though we talk about decentralization and so on, how many of us realize that most of our garbage can be taken care of in our own back yard. Instead it is transported through the cities wasting so much petrol. The whole thing is a mess. I think TNSF, since it has such a strong education agenda and experience should incorporate some of these changes in subject matter both actively and theoretically, so that children do not end up like us, but something better than us.
Hemavati: yes you very clearly explained it, we have to expose the teachers first.
Prakash: EXNORA (Excellent, novel and radical solutions) has involved street people in environmental activities. Very good work is going on in this group. I come from ASHA, where we focus on education. I think that we can all figure out who is doing what, and join hands and more intelligently work together.
Suhas: We need a more multi disciplinary approach, by breaking the walls between the subjects.
Vidhi: We need to do more training of teachers, not only in subject matter, but also values like affection, love. These form a very effective part of education.
Hemavathi teaches science in Pondicherry. In the Pondicherry Science Forum, she has worked with children to set up science clubs and develop innovative science experiments.
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