Karim Mohammad Khan
Nobody can deny the blessings and benefits of scientific knowledge, inventions and innovations in mitigating challenges and making life style cozy and comfortable. The covid-19 pandemic outbreak has further amplified the importance of science among governments and the public at large as the entire world are now executing the guidelines emanated from medical science through W.H.O, other medical professionals and health-sector experts in combating the lethal virus in their respective countries.
Science is about revealing the truth and unseen treasures of nature through carrying out research studies and experiments. “Research in science education is to discover the truth which involves the combination of reasoning and experience (Daniel, 2016). The Holy Quran also draws attention to ponder over the mysterious system of nature and how it functions. It is said that around 750 verses in the Holy Quran deals with natural phenomena and many verses of the Holy Quran plead human being to study nature which also means scientific inquiry. The Holy verse says, “Behold in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding.” (Q.3:190).
However, the Muslim states across the globe in general and Pakistan in particular have failed to establish world level standardized learning scientific institutions and centers of excellence in their respective countries. Studies uncover the causes behind the failure of seeking scientific knowledge is the deeply rooted dogmatic ideology of the dominant Muslim clergies in earlier period i.e. perceiving science as secular and against Islamic doctrines. In this regard, some Muslim scholars were labeled as infidels whenever they encouraged and guided youth towards getting scientific education.
Alongside, it has not been the priority of successive governments and monarchies in Muslim states as well to set up well reputed educational institutions and research centers, rather national wealth had been consumed on building luxurious palaces, grand tombs and other majestic infrastructures. Now the contemporary Muslim societies are paying the price by getting riddled in vicious cycle of flimsy democratic system; extreme poverty, fragile economy; rampant corruptions, chronicle illiteracy, prevailing crimes and indulging in internal and external perennial conflicts.
When the then USSR successfully launched its sputnik satellite into space in 1957 leaving the USA behind in the space race that triggered the then government of the USA to rethink its curriculum particularly Math and Science. After critically scrutinizing the curriculum, one of the faults found was traditional classroom practices in which lecture and book reading was dominant pedagogy while students were passive recipients of knowledge and rote memorization was common practice.
After that, traditional classroom pedagogy was changed into child-centered classroom in which students were provided opportunities to had direct contact with natural phenomena and engaged in funny and activity based learning and teachers had to play the role of facilitator and guide. The reform brought an impact within a decade as the USA finally landed on the moon on 20th July 1969 with Apollo -11 successfully.
Similarly, the problem here in Pakistan lies in the foundation of our science curriculum as students are confronting difficulties in conceptualizing and re-conceptualizing the basics of science and scientific terminologies due to multiple factors such as inefficient methods of instructions as classroom demo reveals that science subjects are taught in a monotonous manner by reading textbooks and lecture method. Whereas, engaging students in observations, experiments, researches, problem solving activities and project work are somehow missing, which is vital in developing students’ creative thinking and problem solving skills.
Next, shortage of science teachers particularly in rural setting are also widening learning gap in students as the number of trained graduate science teachers (TGSTs) are inadequate to meet the needs of all secondary schools. As a result mostly F.Sc level science teachers have to teach science subjects at secondary level. Adding to that, most high schools have no separate Laboratories for Physics, Chemistry and Biology and the relevant subject apparatus are stuffed in one room which causes shortage of space for students while carrying out experiments and observations. Chemicals for experiment purpose are usually found expired which further block students conceptualizations of different themes.
Besides, classroom observation and constructive feedback on delivered lessons is not actively in practice in most of the schools. Questioning is the key to learning, but this skill is least developed in children as posing questions are usually discouraged which also impede in developing students’ confidence, critical and creative thinking skills. Moreover, parents are the key stakeholders in disseminating education and building children’s character but their cooperation regarding school improvement initiative is diminutive and nor children are provided proper guidance and learning environment at home.
By keeping the pathetic condition of science education in view, it is vital for the political and educational leadership at federal, provincial and district level to show their will power and reinvigorate science curriculum by critically evaluating and updating science textbooks as per needs and interest of the learners and the country. Further, hiring talented science teachers in schools and updating the incumbent teachers’ subject knowledge and pedagogy are quite important to enhance students learning outcomes.
Additionally, appropriate infrastructures such as spacious classrooms; comfortable furniture; safe drinking water; functioning toilets; friendly social milieu; safety buildings surrounded with boundary walls; separate science labs equipped with relevant and updated resources, clean and green environment and play ground are equally significant for desired learning to take place.
But the process does not end here; rather getting the best out of human, material and financial resources for the attainment of students learning outcomes is the ultimate goal of any school in which the role of a competent and committed pedagogical principal is absolute and nonnegotiable.
Finally, the critical roles of the principal is to carry out classroom observation and sharing feedback with teachers; is to provide opportunities for professional development; is to utilize resources and engage parents and other stakeholders in school improvement initiatives. Therefore, government education department must place committed pedagogical principals in schools based on merit and performance in order to prepare students with sound subject knowledge, creative skills and positive attitude for higher studies.