Home > Current issues in Education > Developing scientific temper among learners


By G. Balasubramanian

The need for scientific temper for successful pursuit of life, and understanding of our relevance in the eco-system, has never been a matter of debate. For centuries, the inquisitiveness of the human mind, its keen sense of observation about happenings in the immediate environment, its logical analysis of the course of events, its interpretation of the cause and effect, its curiosity to explore and innovate, have all led the human evolution to such heights which was neither planned nor anticipated. Neither the alchemists, nor the seekers of Elixir-de-Life have been able to get what they wanted, but their road to explore the myth and their unlimited and uninhibited curiosity did offer them a number of gifts, which had a universal and long-lasting value. Most of them never knew what was ‘right’, but never hesitated to learn from their mistakes. All their learning was experiential and was outcome of a series of questions they had which were waiting in their mind’s wardrobes to demystify the basic fairy tales of nature, to find the reality that was the undercurrent.

Education system, for the last few decades, has indeed been codified to deliver ‘the readymade knowledge’ and to reproduce ‘the wisdom of the elders’. Slowly, it is being packaged to ‘fast knowledge foods’ which can be delivered at the doors for consumption. In the process, the joy of learning, the search for truth, the experiences that would add delight, the struggles that would temper the thinking have been lost. Scientific temper has been encased to be displayed in the museums of textbooks. It is a generational loss.

While newer discoveries are indeed coming in a beeline making the humanity increasingly consumerist, a large section of learners are losing their appetite to think in their formative years as their engagement with learning systems are converting them into ‘fact producing machines’. The new draft policy of education (2019) has indeed thrown some light on this issue. “Evidence based reasoning and the scientific method will be incorporated throughout the school curriculum. In science as well as in traditionally “non-science’ subjects – in order to encourage rational, analytical, logical and quantitative thinking in all aspects of the curriculum.” It adds “Evidence based and scientific thinking throughout the curriculum will lead naturally to rational, ethical, and compassionate individuals who can make good, logical and sound decisions throughout their lives.”

The intents are clear and deserve commendation. But the latent challenges in bringing about this transformation needs a lot of insight and work. The following issues need to be addressed:

1. There appears to be an excessive focus on multi-lingualism in the document and the intents on scientific temper and learning of science and technology, have not been adequately quantified into words that would provide further impetus to this issue.

2. The document encourages classrooms with focus on ‘discussion-based’ ‘analytical thinking based’ approach to the treatment of the content. This would indeed mean an open-ended treatment to knowledge systems and cannot be clubbed with subjective assessment patterns that would call for ‘tailor-made’ replies to questions and consequent award of marks that would determine the future of their learning curve.

3. The teachers would indeed need to look beyond the textbooks and establish meaningful relationships of concepts with the real-time world and provide opportunities for ‘experiential learning’ in their localized eco-systems. The evidence of existence of science in every dimension of understanding the universe has to be encouraged and celebrated.

4. The learning systems should move from ‘right answer syndrome’ paradigms to ‘error analysis’ as the basic of learning; the contemptuous approach to differentiated knowledge has to be replaced with acceptance of perspectives for logical inquiry and test to establish evidences.

5. “Experiments” in science laboratories which are conditioned and are carried out more like a “drill” have to be restructured to encourage investigation, observation, data collection, fairness to truth, and the skills of documentation.

6. “Investigation and research” have to be encouraged to empower the inquisitive mind to seek a meaning in the processes that lead to results, rather than to deliver ‘anticipated results’. A researching mind is an asset to national human capital.

7. Appreciation of Intellectual property and its rights have to be encouraged as the basic element in scientific pursuits so as to put in place the spirit of science.

8. The division of science into different faculties of science has been more for matter of convenience and for intensified research and development in those areas; this, however, should not negate the underlying current of scientific thinking universal to all disciplines. At the early school level, it is important to encourage looking at scientific thinking as an approach to the freedom of investigative learning.

*This article was originally written on LinkedIn.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/developing-scientific-temper-among-learners-some-emerging-g/

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