Our education system is so fond of science that it starts to provide science education early at class eight only to the children who prove themselves talented. They begin to be filtered out throughout the rest of their education career and the chosen ones take up the most valued professional subjects like medicine, engineering, etc. and keep hearing the same clichés: 'You are here because you are the most talented in the country."
But the chief talent they show throughout their comfortable careers is to make money the way you and I turn on the tap to collect water. But for us the tap might be dry for some time for lack of water in the supply. Their taps never get dry, always ready for running money 24 hours a day. The only best application of science education in our country is to manufacture these money-making machines.
This pure financial application of science should never make people very enthusiastic about it. For this, some of them can be easily provoked against science education with the weapon of religious sentiments by some evil quarters. This happens sometimes when we see a confrontation between pro-science intellectuals and anti-science religious minded people. Hridoy Mondal's incident and other similar cases are frequent reminders of this.
This year saw a confrontation between these quarters surrounding the topic of evolution included in Class VI textbook on social science. This was unnecessary but was caused mainly due to mishandling by the textbook authority. The topic of evolution has long been in the science textbook of Class IX-X without any ado from any side. So the controversy surrounding the new textbook is a matter of concern whereas man has not descended from the monkey was twice mentioned there, unnecessarily. Was there any hint of some unwanted incident happening in the country?
If people were so much sensitive about what science is taught in school, why were there no words against science book of Class IX-X? Darwin's evolutionary theory is not a thing out of the blue for our people; many are quite familiar with the basic idea of it. There are many Bengali books on Darwin and his scientific theory available in the market; none has called for banning of these. As people are free in this democratic country to talk freely about any issue, there are debate on Darwin's theory in their own small circles, which never overflow into dictating what will or will not be taught in the classroom. This time it overflowed, not on its own, but due to the string being pulled from vested quarters.
Where does the heart of the problem of science education lie exactly? Before searching the answer we can remind ourselves of some words of Professor Shahidul Islam, an educationist and former teacher of applied chemistry at Rajshahi University, regarding this issue. At a seminar on Jagadish Chandra Bose and Begum Rokeya organized by Biggan O Sangskriti and Shikkhalok on 23 December last year, he regretted that nowadays great darkness lies in science faculties, medical colleges and various technology universities. What a shame!
The problems in science in the country are manifold-in student selection, teaching method, contents, and teacher quality, almost everywhere. First things first, let us talk about the matter of student selection. Those who take up science in school really are more talented than everyone else, and the rest are less than average? What is our scale of measuring talent? How much our school system care about head and how much about heart?
We practically think that higher education, especially in science subjects, cannot be provided in our mother tongue; it should be only in one foreign language, English. How can our children internalize science through a language which is not theirs? Why the country, which can launch a satellite in the space, cannot give its children science education in Bangla?
And what our children learn in the name of science? At best they memorize some facts and theories and at worst they connect these with income generation in their future professional life. Ahmed Sofa complained fifty years ago in Buddhibrittir Notun Binyas, "Scince is taught in our schools, colleges and universities, but even the science teachers remain in the dark about the real objectives of the subject."
The method of teaching science is also problematic; it is boring, clerical, uninspiring, obstructive to imagination and repetitive instead of being innovative. There cannot be any science education where there is no curiosity, wondering, newness, etc. on the part of both learners and teachers. So what are we doing here in the name of science education which revolves around only passing the exams and adopting a career with financial security?
The education authority has also to keep in mind that science theory is not society-neutral. All science theories have some socio-political implications; some like the Darwinian evolution theory are half scientific and half political. So teachers should have proper training to deal with these issues in the classroom and classroom must be free of any outside influence with regard to what teachers discuss there with their students.
The education authority also has to keep in mind that scientific truths cannot be established by war. This can only be established with mathematical logic and application in real life. There is no place of confrontation between science and anti-science camps though scientists have often been imprisoned, exiled, tortured and murdered in history by state power and fanatics. Our people are pro-science despite an ill attempt to place them in opposite camps on the basis of their attitude towards science.
Our education authority has to make sure that doing science is not simply to learn some mechanical techniques, biological or physical whatever. Science is philosophical, beautiful, magical, morally uplifting and a thing, to a good extent, for mass consumption. It is time we brought science out of the narrow boundary of college-universities and put it into the hands of ordinary people not just as some mechanical devices but as poetry and music of the mind.
Alamgir Khan is Editor, Biggan O Sangskriti
Leave a Comment
A reception was hosted at Baridhara on November 29, 2023, celebrating ...
In its most urgent and scathing statement yet on the situation in Bang ...