‘Lack of science education hindering technological advancements’

Panelists decry prevalence of rote learning in country’s classrooms


Our Correspondent December 23, 2017
PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: The continued use of outdated methods in teaching science education in Pakistan’s classrooms, coupled with a lack of emphasis on developing qualified science teachers, is holding back the country’s potential to excel in science and technology, according to public and private sector experts speaking at a policy dialogue at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development.

The policy dialogue brought together a panel of experts from Alif Ailaan, the Sindh Curriculum Bureau, the Institute of Business Administration as well as science teachers from schools and universities to discuss how to transform education practices so that today’s students can become tomorrow’s innovators.

The event’s objectives are in line with goal four of the Sustainable Development Goals - ensuring inclusive and high-quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning. Targets under the goal call for steps to widen access to education and ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.

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“Innovation in science and technology begins by inspiring students about the possibilities of science. Too many classrooms across the country have teachers using rote learning methods that fail to involve students and limit their ability to apply their knowledge to the world around them,” said Professor Nelofer Halai from the Institute of Educational Development.

On the reasons why rote learning methods remain prevalent in schools, experts noted that there are serious gaps in the content knowledge of teachers at all levels of the education system.

Specialist teachers for science are only present at college level - even though all students from primary to secondary to higher education should have access to knowledgeable, trained teachers, said Prof Halai. Since many of today’s teachers lack confidence in their understanding of the subject, they focus on telling students how to pass exams instead of teaching them how to think for themselves, the panel noted.

Experts recommended that teaching training programmes for science teachers should employ inquiry-based teaching methods that require students to pose questions and develop their own processes to arrive at answers. To this end, Prof Halai noted that science teachers would need formal mentoring programmes to help them introduce such techniques into lesson plans and called for the induction of science teacher educators in colleges across the country.

“Science education of the future needs to accommodate the changing views of science as well as the changing views of effective professional development to make real headway in developing science literacy in Pakistan,” she added.

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Salman Naveed Khan, head of policy and political engagement at Alif Ailaan, said, “Subjects such as science and mathematics can be inspirational when taught well. Our studies have shown that Pakistani students consistently score the lowest in mathematics and science even though these subjects are key drivers of a country’s economic growth. We need to act now to ensure that Pakistan’s large and growing youth population is inspired by the potential of science and can contribute to the country’s prosperity.”

Panel members also stated that the world’s most prosperous societies are distinguished by their ability to generate knowledge that helps them tackle the challenges posed by poverty, hunger, pollution and inequality. This ability to generate knowledge by asking questions and approaching problems in new, imaginative ways relies on a scientific mindset being inculcated at primary, secondary and higher education levels.

Other speakers at the event included Dr Shehzad Jeeva, director of the Aga Khan University Examination Board, deputy director of the Sindh Curriculum Bureau Noor Khoso and head of the department of education at Sukkur IBA Dr Irfan Rind.

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