Status of Practical Learning

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Going through the status of scientific discoveries and emerging scientific ideas not at university and research institutions but also at college and school level in the countries like USA, UK, Canada, Germany, China, Australia etc. we in India seems lagging far behind in imbibing the scientific culture in our students.  Our training to students in research at any level (school, college or university) seems to be following the inputs from the research outcomes of these developed countries. Scientific experimentation which is the back bone towards critical scientific thinking andoutcomes in general and in professional courses in particular, has not taken a strong footing in Indian context.

The onus of this status of practical learning in Indian schools, colleges and at university level not only lies with the students but also with teachers.  Even the scientific exploration taking place towards acquiring higher educational degrees like M.Tech. and Ph.Ds. in most of the Indian educational institutions is far behind to the expected level in comparison to the levels of research set up by the scientific community of developed countries. We are progressing well in quantity of research but not in quality of research.  Need is to put efforts by the teachers at every level not only to motivate students towards scientific practicality by hand but they should act as a source of learning and demonstration to the students.

Teachers should be an integral part of a team while students perform experiments in science laboratories.  The process of experimentation should not be left solely to the laboratory staff to supervise and to students to perform in order to waste their precious time. Most of the students always feel uncomfortable with science practical and need supportive guidance and mentoring while performing the experiments. However, students should also be sincere in reading and understanding the basic theoretical concepts behind the practical as well as the procedure to perform the practical. In the present day of competitive entry with multi choice questions (MCQ) examination system in professional courses has further taken students in schools away from practical classes. Throughout the tenure of their schooling courses they are fully occupied with coaching classes leaving no time to practical classes. Students entering in first year of B.Tech/BE courses after 10+2 are totally deprived of practical skills and this gap is further get widened without proper nurturing and environment provided to them in professional courses.  In the practical labs neither teachers nor students show much interest to go through the rigorous practical training as they think practical just as an easy component of passing and marks scoring.

Many times, we see the list of young (at school and college level) innovators coming out in media from the developed countries and be surprised to see the level of innovative thinking displayed by the young generation in these countries.  In India, practical education and performing capabilities leading towards the thinking of innovative ways of science and technology is facing ignorance at the hands of educational administrators, teachers as well as students.  Teachers rarely spare time to be with students in practical laboratories and students are also not at sincere and are only interested to copy the material and reading from each other or from earlier records. 

Simple experiments like dropping of a coin placed on a card board on a tumbler (verifying law of inertia of rest), floating a needle on the surface of water (exhibiting surface tension), rotating of a simple thorns made wheel with the help of a water stream (demonstrating energy of flowing water from a height), rotating paper or green leaf made wind mill (exhibiting the concept of wind energy), attraction of paper pieces to a comb rubbed in hairs & clinging of a balloon to wall when it is ribbed (origin of frictional electricity) always fascinate young minds to think scientifically and many people might have put their hands on these simple experiments.  This fascination of a child towards science practical may be further strengthen in schools and colleges through proper encouragement, cooperation and sincerity of teachers with students.  This training with simple experiments at school and college level will not only motivate students towards critical scientific thinking and experimentation but help in boosting the scientific temper in the country.  Further, a strong footing in simple scientific experimentation at school and college levels will help students to go for innovations and some break through scientific ideas and outcomes at higher education. Let us hope that National Education policy-2020 will prove to be a milestone in imbibing practical training in students at every level of their education career. 

The idea is that students are taught to carry out their own scientific enquiries and so acquire scientific knowledge for themselves. While doing practical, students to acquire professional and practical skills as well as academic and theoretical knowledge. Here, there are some suggestion, which can be taken care off in order to make practical learning among students more effective to make them innovators so that our country can also become a leading science and technology idea generating platform and we need not to always keep repeating and copying scientific and technological ideas already explored by the developed countries.

  1. Practical classes with simple experiments should be an integral part school students of any level instead of only for science students at higher classes only.
  2. School laboratories should be equipped with working-hand-on simple science experimental items/apparatus/devices.
  3. More advanced practical laboratories with working-hand-on experimental setups should be an integral part of college education.
  4. Systematic planning should be laid down at performing simple to medium to advance practical.
  5. Teachers should be well trained and they should devote equal time with students in practical class.
  6. Every student should be motivated to perform the experiment on his own.
  7. An enquiry-based approach by students should encourage to make students more independent and self-reliant. Students should be made clear by teacher about the basic concepts and advanced learning about the practical.
  8. Laboratory staff should not be there only to open the laboratory and sit on a chair but they should also be competent enough to help students in performing the practical and repairing the equipment. 
  9. Students should also take performing of practical seriously.
  10. Students should be trained and advised to take all safety measures during the practical.
  11. Expert practical demonstrations or fun with science practicals by an expert in the schools should be a regular feature for the students.
  12. Students tours to nearby science cities and scientific & technological establishments should also be arranged regularly.

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