Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme
An effective intervention in the way science is taught in our schools has been perceived as an essential step towards achieving a society more capable of creatively developing and absorbing technology as well as giving a more scientific foundation to our cultural, political and economic fabric. The directive perspective of the HSTP has been formulated to overcome the gap between these expectations and the reality in our schools.
To remould school science education to fulfil universally accepted national goals and educational objectives. HSTP has attempted to base science education on the principles of learning by discovery, learning through activity and learning from the environment in contrast to the prevailing text-book centred learning by rote method. The processes of science needs to be emphasized if we have to fulfil the constitutional goal of promoting scientific temper and make the child a confident self-learner for the rest of his or her life. In addition science curriculum must relate closely to science and technology experiences of everyday life.
Perceiving Innovation as an integrated whole. An effective innovation has to take into account all the factors that affect the teaching process in the class room. Thus the total package is concerned not only with curricular innovation but also with teacher training, kit for doing experiments, the examination system, school administration, extra curricular inputs, etc. In particular, examination reform has been seen as a crucial factor which really influences how the curriculum is transacted in the classroom.
Innovating in the Mainstream System. Rather than trying it out with a few well-equipped elite schools, the HSTP model has been evolved in Government schools in rural and semi-urban areas in close collaboration with and involvement of the district and state level education department.
Empowering the Teachers. The HSTP innovation has actively involved the teachers themselves in evolving the innovative package. Empowerment of the teachers academically, administratively and intellectually is an essential requisite for effective reforms at the classroom level. Technological aids can at best support the crucial role of the teacher.
Administrative decentralisation. Utilising and equipping the block-level higher secondary school to administratively and academically coordinate the programme has effectively decentralised the field level implementation of the programme. A limitation has been the inability to decentralise financial powers, a problem that needs to be resolved by policy decisions at the higher level.
Participation of Institutions of Higher Education and Research. HSTP group strongly believes that the effort to improve our school education system needs the involvement and commitment of the best scientists, researchers and academicians of our country.
Role of Non-Governmental Voluntary Groups. HSTP is an ideal example of close and complementary working of the State Education Department and Non-Governmental Voluntary groups. With the district level expansion of the programme, the day to day administrative and academic responsibilities were taken over by the State Education Department. Eklavya now has a coordinating role in further development of HSTP in collaboration with the SCERT and the State Education Department.
THE INNOVATIVE PACKAGE
The HSTP implementation structure is laid out in the accompanying organogram. The package consists of :
(1) The Bal Vaigyanik books, one book each for classes 6, 7 and 8 :
- Based on the discovery principle, the books are in a combined format of work-cum-textbooks.
- the layout design of the book has been specially designed to make it attractive, and easy to read and follow for the children;
- the books have been prepared after intensive field testing incorporating feed-back from the teachers and children. Presently, the task of revising the books is in progress;
- the books are being published by the M.P. Text Book Corporation since 1978.
(2) Teacher training. Each teacher undergoes three trainings, each of three week duration for classes 6, 7 and 8 each. The training consists of :
- doing all the experiments and activities of the Bal Vaigyanik, and through analysis and discussion reaching conclusions and conceptual understanding expected;
- discussions about the educational and academic understandings, underpinnings of the programme and the administrative structure of the programme;
- training in evaluation methods and making new questions for open-book examinations.
(3) Resource Group. The quality, motivation and commitment of the resource group has been a crucial factor in the achievements of the HSTP. The resource group has played a key role in :
- development and improvement of Bal Vaigyanik books and teachers guides;
- training of teachers and resource teachers;
- conducting follow-up and monthly meetings;
- preparing test papers - both written and practical for annual evaluations;
- preparing evaluation guidelines;
- answering questions asked by children through letters to Sawaliram;
- conducting trainings, exposure workshops, etc. in other states.
The resource group consists of about 200 trained and motivated school teachers, backed and supported by a group of scientists and academicians from leading centres of research and education like Delhi University, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institute of Immunology, and Colleges and Universities of Madhya Pradesh.
(4) Kit. The kit designed for this programme is an activity kit for children to do their own experiments in groups of four. At present rates, a kit for an average school with 40 children in each class costs about Rs. 4,000. On an average about 20% of the kit needs to be replaced every year to make up the loss of consumable and breakable items. Thus Rs. 800 replacement cost needs to be provided annually which works to less than one rupee per child per month. In addition to the supplied kit, the children gather a lot of material from their environment to be used in various experiments.
(5) Monthly meetings and follow-up. In order to assist the teacher in the school situation and to encourage peer group interaction, a system of monthly meetings and follow-up school visits has been worked out. In the monthly meeting they share their experiences, discuss their problems and are also given a refresher or enrichment lesson by resource teachers. The resource teachers from all the sangam kendras come together with the Eklavya team on a fixed day for a preparation meeting to plan and prepare for that months monthly meeting.
Follow-up visits to schools are organised by assigning a school each to resource teachers to visit and guide the teacher in the school situation itself.
(6) Examination and evaluation. An evaluation system designed according to the objectives of the programme consists of :
- a written as well as a practical examination;
- the written exam is an open-book exam;
- this exam is designed to test analytical skills and de-emphasise learning by rote.
(7) Administrative structure. The decentralised administrative structure of the programme and its functioning has been codified in an administrative manual of the programme issued by the state education department. Main features of the structure are :
- block-level coordination through a designated higher secondary school (sangam kendra) with its Principal as in-charge, assisted by a senior teacher and a specially appointed assistant teacher;
- district-level coordination through a specially created cell, Vigyan Ikai, in the office of the District Education Officers;
- State-level monitoring and coordination through a representative Sanchalan Samiti under the chairmanship of the Commissioner of Public Instructions.
(8) Extra curricular inputs. To strengthen curricular achievement and to sustain children and teachers enthusiasm, a number of extra-curricular inputs have been inbuilt into the programme :
- creation of Sawaliram, a fictitious character. Each book has a letter from Sawaliram addressed to the children asking them to ask questions and much more. An arrangement has been made to reply to their letters. These letters are a rich source of feedback from the children and Provide a way of communicating with them.
- publishing of Chakmak, a monthly magazine for children, as well as small booklets containing interesting activities to do;
- publishing magazine Hoshangabad Vigyan and journal of resource material Sandarbh for teachers;
- encouraging teachers and children to participate in various science popularisation activities like jathas, bal melas, etc.
AREAS OF ACTION AND NEW THRUSTS
The diagram on the next page lays out the major action areas of HSTP :
(a) Implementation and consolidation of ongoing programme. Now in its twenty-seventh year, the HSTP has a comprehensive base of operation involving more than 500 middle schools spread over 15 districts of Madhya Pradesh covering over 2,000 teachers and annually 1,00,000 children working under the aegis of the Madhya Pradesh State Department of Education and the SCERT.
(b) Mainstreaming of the programme. We have been working at the idea of large scale adoption of the programme, eventually upto the state-level. Exercises have been carried out to plan the logistics and the financial implications of such a programme. Implementation of such a large expansion would be possible only with decision at the political level and active backing of the education bureaucracy. The Eklavya group hopes to feed into any such process to innovate science education over the entire state.
(c) Spreading the Innovative Spirit - our role as a Resource Agency. The Peoples Science Movement has proved to be an effective means for spreading the ideas and sharing the experiences of the HSTP. We have been responding to invitations to send our resource persons in meetings and workshops of teachers and peoples science activists in various states from time to time. Contingents of participants from various states are a regular feature of our training programmes. Interaction with other groups continues to be important to our attempt for idea-level expansion of the HSTP.
We have committed ourselves to providing close and extensive collaboration to groups attempting to develop innovative programmes in their states. The prime examples are the Adhyaita Kendri (Learner Centred) Science Teaching Programme in Gujarat and the Upper Primary Programme of the Lok Jumbish Parishad in Rajasthan. The objective primarily is to mobilise and establish an independent resource group in those states which gradually takes on the task of developing innovations on its own. This has been detailed out in the proposal.
(d) Academic innovations in the curriculum material. Continuous innovation is an accepted norm in the HSTP group. The central concerns of the present round of innovations are twofold:
- the accumulated feedback since the last revision more than five years ago indicates that curricular material needs to be presented in a still more attractive and child friendly form. Another area of concern is the efficacy of conceptual development and the ability to articulate it directly or through use in problem solving tasks.
- A common criticism of the HSTP curriculum has been that while duly emphasising the process aspect of science, the product aspect or content is underplayed. Acknowledging this criticism, an attempt is being made to develop materials presenting new areas of content through innovative methods combining activity with narration that emphasises understanding rather than rote learning.
The material prepared is first being tried with teachers and then with children at various levels to establish its effectiveness and appropriateness. In order to arrive at a larger consensus on the issues, we propose to involve persons concerned with curricula design and development at various levels in this process through a series of workshops. We have sought collaboration with creative artists and designers for layout design and illustrations.
(e) Moving towards High School - Classes IX and X. With the implementation of 10+2 system, the years of general education were specified upto Class X instead of class VIII. Ever since we have been under pressure to extend the HSTP approach to cover High School. Recently we have initiated some tentative steps in this direction by organising interactions with high school teachers to understand their problems with the present curricula, etc. We are also preparing a critique of the present curricula and curricula materials. These will be shared with a larger group to evolve a framework for intervention at this level.
(f) Comprehensive Evaluative Studies and Documentation. The nature and expanse of the HSTP offer an ideal situation for a comprehensive comparative evaluation of the academic, administrative and social impact of such an innovative effort. While some piecemeal evaluations have been attempted from time to time, the expressed need for a comprehensive effort and documentation remains unfulfilled. Such an evaluation requires a complex exercise of selection and development of evaluation tools and their standardisation before the actual evaluation and analysis. We are looking for a suitable group or agency which can take the major responsibility of organising such an exercise in collaboration. This would have to be undertaken as a separate project with independent funding.