The Role Of Practicals In The Schools For Teaching Purpose

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Most of us must have used the Vernier Callipers in the physics laboratory. What use is it today, if yesterday’s physics student lands up with a posh job in the banking sector. Pranita was good at dissections in biology but landed up as a glamorous airhostess. What happened to all the animals she had so neatly dissected and more than that- her passion and skill for dissections? Remember the experiments on the test of starch, chromatography, tracing an optical pathway or understanding the laws of refraction.

Yes, it would have helped if Deepak, a topper in physics had reached the Bhabha Atomic Centre and Nithya, the gold medalist in the National Talent Search examination had reached The All India Institute of Medical Sciences. But neither of them did and millions of students across the country that performed these experiments as part of their science practicals also didn’t make it to their respective fields but some landed up as hotel chefs and others as Managers. What a waste! Lots of schools have begun to question the role of practicals in the Indian education System.

This is largely the result of increasing financial pressures within schools and local authorities, meaning that the costs of these experiences can no longer be met. This is exacerbated by the concerns of teachers and Heads about the health and safety responsibilities which fall to them, and their lack of confidence in their own field skills. There is also a lot of burden from the higher levels in the Ministry of education on teachers associated with this form of learning. Another big load on staff time is that a group which can be taught by a single teacher in a classroom environment is likely to require more than one member of staff while conducting a practical session or performing a demonstration.

In addition, many teachers and Heads are concerned about the impact on delivery of the rest of the curriculum of teaching children through a laboratory class. Closer to the exams these very children have seen to have developed considerable stress within them, which significantly reduces the rigour and enjoyment of learning. Why? Why is it that closer to the practical examinations, children have been found to develop chills and fears? Why is it that groups of them have been found to copy down notes, or make friends and family go through the ardous process of drawing diagrammatic sketches.

Practical work in Primary science education should build on the natural curiosity of children, enabling them to experience and explore both the material and natural worlds. This process will continue in secondary schools, but it will be supplemented with the development of discipline-specific skills and the use of specific equipment. The cost of some equipment and consumables associated with practical work remains prohibitive for some schools, and the number of schools and range of equipment that fall into this category are both likely to increase in the coming years as schools’ budgets come under increasing pressure. A school science department must balance the costs of the equipment essential for practical work with the substantial demands for photocopying and stationery.

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