Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
Tayib Jan Co-founder & Managing Editor

The people of Pakistan are impatiently waiting for a coronavirus vaccine to come from the developed countries of the world. Why we could not produce our vaccine that suits our needs? The devil lies in the answer, which is we do not have scientists and science resources in the country that could help us come out of such be a terrifying situation. The education system can be held responsible for the former cause and political willingness for the latter. We can start producing Scientists as early as the children are four years old. Unfortunately, starting from schools, science is viewed as a collection of facts and figures, which students have to learn by heart and reproduce in an examination. Instead of becoming part of the science community, the students are alienated from any kind of scientific reasoning. It needs to be understood that scientific understanding is a matter of personal sense-making and contextualizing.

Science should not be considered just a subject, it is a culture, and language is intrinsic to the expression of this culture. Science has a language of its own, and failing to understand this language means failing to be a part of science culture. Our school science education should aim at developing students in ways, think, and act like scientists. We are lagging to achieve this aim because we put all our efforts into enabling children to confirm what has already been tested. Science is taught the way general knowledge is taught; names, facts, numbers, formulas, figures, and definitions. Schools, colleges, and universities do not try to prepare students to become scientists like recruits are prepared to become the future army. As a result, despite securing high marks in examinations the students do not think scientifically and act like scientists. My argument and firm conviction are that there is only one way of dealing with the problem and that is withdrawing from the myopic notions of science education. We need to reconceptualize science education and put forth the argument that scientific discourse is at the heart of scientific knowledge. We need to know how hands-on activity turns into personal knowledge, skill, and attitude. Activities themselves prove to be mere plays and probably a time-waster until and unless it is completely discussed. As a result, the students do not construct personal knowledge out of it. Sometimes just a simple description and scientific explanation of the activities serve the purpose.  Using scientific language which means using scientific terms in talking, drawing tables, presenting terms in signs and symbols, drawing flow charts, drawing formulas, and calculating numbers are some major expertise that is required to learn science. In addition to teaching the content of the textbooks, science teachers need to teach their students to develop science process skills and acquire the attitude that enables them how to learn rather than what to learn

            It is a fact that the more the students will be allowed to talk in the science classrooms the more likely they will learn. Contemporary research has identified that learning science means learning to talk science and talking in science means, observing, describing, classifying, analyzing, discussing, hypothesizing, theorizing, questioning, challenging, arguing, designing experiments, following procedures, judging, evaluating, deciding, concluding, generalizing, reporting, writing, lecturing and teaching in and through the language of science. In a normal science classroom, the students engage with some of the things mentioned in the list but very individually and with common sense. There is no mechanism developed for the science classrooms where these practices are institutionalized and are part of every science classroom routines.

            Pedagogical scientists unanimously approve that if pupils are to genuinely understand the scientific practice and if they are to become equipped with the ability to think scientifically through everyday issues, then argumentative practices need to be a prominent feature of their education. It means when students will be allowed to engage in confrontational practices inside and outside the classroom they would be able to generate their understanding and will engage in scientific discourses. It is only when we talk we become acquainted with what we think and know. Talk stimulates thinking and reflecting, which in turn, leads to the articulation of thoughts and development of science process skills. New insights are communicated and gradually used as new outlooks. Our society being hierarchical the students do not feel very comfortable speaking in the presence of the teachers. In cases when the students dare to talk to the teachers, they are discouraged. On the other hand, responding to the students’ quarries ultimately seizes the students’ thinking skills. It is beyond imagination why teachers think they are supposed to answer all the queries the students raise in the classroom and end the scientific discourses there and then.

Teachers and students, especially in the content areas, often talk across each other. The language, the teachers use in the classroom, comes from their years of practice for a college and university degree, their pupil to understand it without actually teaching it. Thus, the students’ competency needs to be developed before engaging them in the scientific discourses in the classroom. Science educators need to talk to their students by coming down at their level. Teaching science in an actual manner is hard to occur until and unless the students are taught to communicate in and through the medium of science. The idea of teaching new learners the method of science talk seems valuable but since the teachers themselves are not taught Science through these interactive ways, it seems a tough ask for them.

The students should be encouraged to learn the use of the contextualized language of science that are terminologies, formulae, diagrams, flow charts, and use it in their science classrooms. The teachers can design activities that stimulate scientific thinking and encourage students to reason about the different scientific phenomenon. In simple words, the teachers can help students to think about what works in nature and why. 

By Tayib Jan

The writer is an educationalist, working as the head of a private teacher training institute. He can be reached at tayib.bohor@gmail.com

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