… introduces microscience kits
Today more government policies are moving further into areas that embrace science and technology; but the local education system is being pulled in the opposite direction.
In an effort to turn this tide the Ministry of Education is working in close cooperation with UNESCO on what is called the Global Microscience Experiments Project.
The Project is a hands-on science education project that gives primary and secondary school students as well as university students the opportunity to conduct practical work in physics, chemistry and biology, using kits that come with booklets (UNESCO teaching and learning materials) describing scientific experiments.
According to the UNESCO website the kits are “veritable mini-laboratories.”
UNESCO is currently working to implement the project within the framework of the International Basic Sciences Programme and the Intersectoral Platform for Science Education in promotion of science education. UNESCO is also currently facilitating a workshop with 35 science teachers from around the country where they will be instructed in the methodology by an International Facilitator.
The facilitator for this session was Professor Alex Pokrovsky. Participants will have the opportunity to see the kits being used in conjunction with the accompanying teaching and learning materials.
In practical sessions, participants/ can themselves carry out different experiments on a smaller scale using just a few drops of chemicals at a time. There are kits to address chemistry, biology and physics at the secondary level, and a primary science kit too.
In recent years the number of students choosing to study the sciences past the compulsory requirements have been steadily decreasing.
According to Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, “We are not producing enough science graduates at CSEC and from the University.”
He said that of all the students undertaking the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams, only ten percent take Biology, eight percent take Chemistry while Physics comes in at the bottom of the pile with just five percent of entrants choosing to read for the subject.
But the problem lies not only in the students’ choices but in the availability of teachers and facilities. Of the 110 secondary schools across the country only 50 percent of these have teachers in the single sciences.
The case at the University of Guyana is even more dismal with there being some years when some programmes such as physics cannot attract the requisite ten students in a student body of 5,000 people.
The Minister noted however that the sciences are the key to development and the transformation of Guyana depends on science, technology and innovation. He said that there needs to be an increase in the number of students choosing to follow the sciences but the students cannot do this if they are not interested in the area.
This, therefore, is where the Microscience experiments can be of the greatest use according to Baksh. He said that the use of these kits makes room for inquiry based learning where the emphasis is on doing and understanding the science rather than just cramming rote facts from a text.
Baksh announced that the Ministry will be launching a pilot programme in both primary and secondary schools in all of the administrative regions to determine the number of schools needed to make the programme meaningful.
The kits will be distributed to the schools which have science teachers who will be trained in their use and in one year’s time the Ministry will evaluate the results of the pilot.
The Minister also pointed out several of the additional efforts being undertaken by the Ministry to ensure the sciences take root in our school again. He cited the Ministry’s many science and mathematics workshops around the country that are being used to further this end.
He cited the expansion of the non graduate training programmes to give teachers over an 18-month period the opportunity to assimilate the content and methodology that they will need to teach in these subject areas at least up
to the CSEC level.
Baksh also spoke of spending some $57M on the refurbishing and retooling of laboratories in at least 10 schools this year with more to be done each year.
The context for such a project is the role of science and technology in the country’s future which was alluded to by the Minister when he mentioned the President’s push to implement the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). He pointed out that science has a clear role to play in the transition to clean energy, strengthening agricultural production, as well as slowing down forest degradation all of which are integral objectives of the strategy.
Mention was also made of the University of Guyana’s Science and Technology Programme which is slated to receive a USD$10M infusion from the World Bank towards improving its facilities and programme offerings in these areas. The International Biodiversity Research Center was also mentioned as another future investment in the country’s scientific future.
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