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Sunday, September 23, 2012
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Science education on the wane

Number of science students declining alarmingly, no govt initiative to encourage them, The Daily Star- Freedom Foundation roundtable told

Discussants at a roundtable on the alarming decline in science education at secondary level, jointly organised by Bangladesh Freedom Foundation, a private think tank, and The Daily Star at the Daily Star Centre in the capital yesterday. Photo: STAR

Science education in the country has suffered an alarming decline over the last two decades as it is no longer considered lucrative and the government remains indifferent to the situation, eminent scientists told a discussion yesterday.

In his keynote speech, Munir Hasan, a consultant in the science and technology ministry, said the number of science students has fallen by half while that of commerce students has risen significantly, falling for the lure of lucrative jobs.

His findings are based on two research works carried out on 440 secondary schools of 23 districts two years ago.

Bangladesh Freedom Foundation, a private think tank, and The Daily Star jointly organised the roundtable on the decline in science education at secondary level at The Daily Star Centre in the city.

Of the total SSC examinees in 1988, 41 percent was science students, but the figure dropped to 22 percent in 2010. At the secondary level, science students have decreased by 31 percent over the last eight years, according to education ministry data.

Citing the statistics of an education officer's data, Munir said that out of 52 secondary schools in Kumarkhali upazila of Kushtia, as many as 32 do not have a single science student.

On an average, only 18 percent of 148 SSC level students at each school study science, said the specialist, which should have been more than 50 percent.

In 1987, the Ershad government had made religious study compulsory for all students and higher mathematics an optional subject for science students, which was earlier compulsory for them. As a result, science graduates became math teachers without studying higher mathematics.

Referring to a survey, Munir said 3,600 out of 4,500 math teachers studied only general mathematics at the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) level.

The government in 1985 had allocated Tk 33 lakh for hosting science fairs all over the country, but about three decades later the amount allocated is now 28 lakh.

More than 94 percent schools surveyed never organised a science fair, while there has been no such fair in all the schools in Chittagong and Sylhet.

The survey revealed that nearly half of the teachers influence students saying it is hard as well as costly to pass from the science group.

Prof AR Khan, a retired teacher of Dhaka University, said science education should be made popular through the revival of exhibition, science week and Olympiad with government support.

It is difficult to find competent science teachers, he mentioned, as teachers as a whole do not have financial and social recognition.

He observed that poverty alleviation and overall social change are not practicable without the knowledge of science and technology and therefore it is vital to promote science education from as early as school level.

Dr SM Mahbub-ul-Haque Majumder of Daffodil International University blamed poor salary structure and lack of social recognition of the teachers, among other things, for the decline in science education.

Kanika Chakraborty, who works for Muslim Aid of the UK, said as a parent she is caught in a real dilemma about whether to send her son to study science as it is expensive and difficult to find competent teachers.

Citing Indian examples, Vice-chancellor of University of Asia Pacific Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury said study of science should be rewarded financially and socially to stop the decline in science education.

Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said a society without strong scientific basis is unimaginable in today's world order and a nation cannot survive without the knowledge of science and technology.

Climate change challenges are in a way a great opportunity to advance science education in the country, as solutions to its adverse impacts lie in science and technology, he mentioned.

He announced that The Daily Star was ready to recognise the best science teacher and the best science writer nationally every year if eminent persons in the field of science education take the lead.

Leading businessman Syed Manzur Elahi said science education should be the number one priority.

Prof Narayan Chandra Paul, member of National Curriculum and Textbook Board, and M Saidur Rahman, director general of National Museum of Science and Technology, spoke, among others.

Speakers at the discussion made some recommendations to arrest the decline in science studies. The recommendations include forming a national taskforce to address the decline, financial incentive for students and teachers, higher salary for teachers, setting up a science laboratory at every school, dedicating one-third of the TV channels' airtime to education, use of internet and other communication tools to disseminate science education, publishing science pages in newspapers with interactive content, motivation of teachers, parents and students through the mass media, training to the existing teachers and demonstrators and reform of curriculum.

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A student should be blessed with the interest and merit of studying science and not pursued upon. If 20% are genuine science student then that should be enough but we have to make sure that they study higher maths. Besides we should not pursue all the students to go tertiary education rather a good portion of the students should be given good vocational training so that they can enter work force after higher secondary level.

: Rawshan Iajdani

Like the market of goods and services, it all depends upon jobs and career opportunities. Education sector is making the necessary corrective measures in this regard. The best brains are attracted to medical and engineering, and the residue, excepting some, go to study science at universities and colleges. Long sighs and bemoaning that's what we can do but cannot reverse the trend unless we create lucrative prospects for them.

: Reaz Hassan


  • Mahbubur Rahman Sharif
    Sunday, September 23, 2012 11:50 AM GMT+06:00 (176 weeks ago)

    In the era of information technology, we are flashing out towards business study that is closely associated with the job market. Based on specialised area of education, job market was not decorated in the country. For example, graduate from medical science joins cadre service as superintend of police, graduate from agriculture works at the banking sector. Another discipline especially arts and humanities is very subtle situation while science is alarming to turn down. Above all, because of not building the prospective education systems, students like disciplines which have certainty of getting job after obtaining the degree. We should be created discipline-based job market without stigma and discrimination or else the decline will be mounting day after day; it may be science, arts, commerce. For containing life in the planet there should be an effective coordination among all discipline because all are correlated in some extend.

  • n. Alamgir
    Sunday, September 23, 2012 05:37 AM GMT+06:00 (176 weeks ago)

    Analysing the situation of the social fabric of the country, science education is on the wane because of a number of important reasons. Think of this, a student, after having completed his Engineering studies for 4 years, starts wit a salary of Tk14000 to 20000, whereas one who has done business studies, easily nets in a starting salary of Tk.25000-40000. Now think of this, a driver now earns as much as Tk 11,000 as his starting salary!

  • nds
    Sunday, September 23, 2012 09:18 AM GMT+06:00 (176 weeks ago)

    No discussion, motivation, encouragement will be of any use unless in the field of employment it can be made more lucrative. Only motivation that has the capacity to make any impact on the choice of career for the poor people like us is the prospect in monetary terms. The discussants know it very well what ever they might say for the sake of respectability.





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