Coordinator: Centre Director's Office
A Quest for Relevance in our Chemistry Curricula
Dr. Ankush Gupta
Science education in schools and colleges is often focused on learning of a set of “concepts” that usually define that discipline’s curriculum. Many students of science after transacting through such curricula, are not able to find sustainable solutions to practical problems they encounter later in life. A direct evidence of this is a large number of technical problem plaguing our society for decades and yet no discussions or solutions can be found in any science courses and curricula, such as large number of deaths of sanitation workers while cleaning sewers and septic tanks; lakhs of people working in e-waste industry succumbing to deadly diseases, and no scientific methods in practice for safe and efficient recycling of electronic waste; increasing risks of additives in processed foods, etc. There are not many takers for such research problems, even in the scientific research community. This scenario indicates a gap in our science education which under-prepares science graduates to take up or solve real problems of humanity.
In this talk, I will discuss some structural problems of our science curricula, with some instances from chemistry, wherein we can see the disconnects of scientific content from important contexts. I will also argue that it is context which gives relevance or even meaning to concepts, hence making the concept useful. I will present some of our efforts of developing materials in the Chemistry Olympiad and Vigyan Pratibha programs in preparing contextualized problems and learning materials. I will also make a case for modifications in the linguistic presentation of concepts which can bring a shift from giving “fact-like” meanings to “purpose driven/ utilitarian” interpretations of concepts. Such an approach grounds concepts in real situations, and hence can prepare learners better for real-life problem solving situations.
Ankush Gupta did his integrated M.Sc. in Chemistry from IIT Kanpur in 2005 and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry on "Aqueous etching of single crystalline silicon surfaces (for microelectronics applications)" from Cornell University (USA) in 2011. He worked as a fellow scientist at CSIR-NISTADS, New Delhi (2011-12) where he worked on "Solid Waste management" and its socio-scientific aspects. Then he joined Environmental Engineering department, IIT Roorkee in an project on bank filtration as a technology for drinking water supply in the Himalayan region (2012-2015). In 2015, he joined HBCSE (TIFR) as a Reader and has been involved with the Chemistry Olympiad Program and National Initiative in Undergraduate Sciences at HBCSE. Recently, he has also been involved in shaping of the Vigyan Pratibha Program. His interests are in chemistry education and environmental science education.
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The NEP is expected to take the nation towards the development mode that ensures equity and sustainability. There are two challenges teachers are facing and would continue to face in the coming years: (i) need for online education with high quality content and visuals to increase the reach and efficiency of learning outcomes and (ii) preparing the students for an increasingly digital world, which is beyond the imagination of current educators. It is, therefore, critical that teachers are provided with the necessary support and training to enable them to prepare the students for their future.
Prof. LS Shashidhara is currently professor (biology) and Dean of Research) at Ashoka University, India. Prof. Shashidhara, who holds Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, specializes in Genetics, Molecular Biology and Evolutionary biology. His group has identified key mechanisms that specify organ development and regulate growth control during embryonic development. Currently, they are studying the status of these evolutionarily conserved mechanisms in human epithelial cancers. Prior to Ashoka, Prof Shashidhara worked at CCMB, Hyderabad and IISER Pune. He has served/is serving as Chair/co-chair/member of various apex committees of Government of India and S&T organisations, particularly those dealing with education, funding, innovation, policy, international relations and outreach. For his contribution to basic and applied biology, Prof Shashidhara is recognized with top science awards in India, and he is an elected Fellow of Science Academies of India and European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and currently the President of International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS).
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