Heart and Soul of Science Education

Reading materials about the current condition of science education in world today often leads me to a realization that science is affecting the lives of the people, both science professionals and not, and how its effects continuously cast shadows as the disliking to this discipline rise (OECD Evolution of Student Interest in Science and Technology Studies Policy Report, 2006).

In this modern world, where everything is dependent on intelligent decision-making of science and technology (Sagan 1997), all of us are being science dependents. When we wake up each morning, we brush our teeth, take a bath using soap and shampoo, drink an instant or brewed coffee, add a little creamer to it, eat bread or instant noodles and ride in our vehicles. Despite of this, majority of the population in the world still lack ideas on how these things are really affected by science as reported in Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century of the Royal Society in 2011.

Heart and Soul of Science Education

In groceries, we buy food and decide what to buy on the basis of its popularity or modes of endorsement in this highly commercialized world. Those who can afford buy Canola and Olive oils because they heard that they are “healthier”, while those who cannot afford just buy coconut oil since it is cheaper. Even in buying toothpaste, soaps, shampoo etc. the same is still the basis for consuming according to the Nielsen Philippines Study on June 2012.

When will be the time that a person will buy a shampoo brand on the basis of her need? Like if she knew that the type of shampoo she needs is something that can have positive reaction with the type of hair she has relative to the components of the shampoo; or that person will choose a soap brand on the basis of skin type and not who the soap endorser was.

I believe that this scenario should be the heart of science education — its true goal. To boost the awareness of the people, whether they are into science or not, the interests of how things can better work for them if only they knew what are the concepts and principles behind this consumption. Science should not be isolated from other learning as it is not just a subject matter in school but an education (HGL, 2004, p.9 In Re-imaging Science Education).

The goal of science education is to touch the curiosity of the student; to think about how the world works and inquire about what they perceive within their environment as said by Michael Purugganan in the news which appeared on February 3, 2012. Why the rocks are hard, why water flows, why the sky is blue; students should be given a situation where they can ask questions and learn.

In doing this, science education can hone one’s character. If the person better understand what is happening with the world, he can better understand other people thereby be “more human”. Comas Camps (1925) In Current Challenges in Basic Science Education identified that there is a portion of the human mind that good science education, better than any other school subject, can cultivate in school like: the spirit of observation, calmness, self-control, the practice of looking for the cause of things, order, caution in making claims, admiration of nature, modesty and tolerance.

Aided by science,people shall be able to communicate their ideas, conveying ideasthat will uplift most, expressing one’s self with clarity and precision without fear as it is found on a sound basis, and this also encourage better relationship with each other (Bowden et. al 2000 In Osborn et. al 2003). This will addressed another goal of science education, which is to develop students to have akeen eye on issues in his society, particularly a concern for the environment. Having this, most environmental issues of the modern world can be elaborated since the students have a deeper perspective on these issues and will know how to care for the environment and understand why there is need for action as they understand how the cycle works. For instance, they will understand the renewable source of energy and recycling because they know how these works (Tan, 2004).

Another important goal of science education is to diminish if not totally eradicate discrimination, not only between the poor and the rich, but discrimination in general by providing the highest grade of science education to all the citizens (Gilbert 2006 In Current Challenges in Basic Science Education). For it is in ignorance lies the person in poverty (Savater 2004 In Current Challenges in Basic Science Education). Science could be the great equalizer, giving every citizen equal opportunities where they could better themselves. For instance, policies and programs of the government must offer concrete solution, solution based on research or scientific findings and not merely on a populist view. For example, when government approves quarrying licenses, it should rely on a thorough investigation on the sustainability of the economic activity and not merely on its profitability, considering all factors like possibilities of flood, landslide, soil erosion, river siltation, and the balance ecosystem.

In brief, the goals of science education for me are:

1. Students will practice concepts of science in real life to solve day to day challenges;

2. Inquire about the things they have observed in the environment thereby discovering new knowledge;

3. Character shall be developed for participation in society’s progress;

4. Be aware of the negative activities towards the environment and the positive effects of taking care of Mother Nature;

5. Have holistic development and be instruments in poverty alleviation by improving quality of life.

With the objectives of science education, let me relate it with my own experiences as a science teacher.

Teaching for almost eight years in a state university gave so much learning experience to a young teacher like me, who at an early age of 21, started sharing bits and pieces of information to my students as what I am supposed to do as a graduate of secondary education and a licensed teacher.

Seeing teaching-learning process then seemed like a simple transfer of liquid from a full glass to an empty one; that when a teacher have so much to say and so much to give, a better science enthusiast will be produced. This is the very way; I was educated in 2000-2004, very transmissive.

Taking another step of learning of education in a university in Manila exposed much challenges in terms of content I had in my previous program. Learning Chemistry in a deeper perspective showed me that being a general science graduate is not sufficient to share an in-depth learning to students today. One problem which appears in front of me is the relevance of what I am teaching inside the classroom to what my students will do in their own professions. Most of my students are taking Hotel and Restaurant Management, Industrial Technology, Teacher Education, Welding Technology, Electrical Technology and Food Technology.

With this dilemma, I kept asking myself, what really are the objectives of science education to the lives of these young people? What will be the effect of the classroom discussions and experiments that we are doing in every day of schooling? What are the objectives of science education to the lives of these future nation-builders?

Although the aims of Philippine education which appears on World Data on Education 2011 is to develop the high-level professions that will provide leadership for the nation, advance knowledge through research and apply new knowledge for improving the quality of human life; these text remains at the depths of what I had experience. And even though the Constitution of 1987 stipulates that the school shall broaden scientific and technological knowledge, the implementation of such in schools is still missing. With high hopes for my students, the following objectives are included as the soul of science education:

1. Students will be capable of selecting science ideas in their field of specialization;

2. be able to distinguish between the true knowledge and false claims in their discipline;

3. demonstrate confidence in expressing himself using scientific terms;

4. be able to explain the application of knowledge in the activities of his discipline;

5. appreciate science concepts with the activities being performed in each specialization.

In this regard, it is my faith that science education should not act like a god that overwhelms everyone but shall be in the grasp of everyone like farmers on what fertilizer to apply in a kind of soil, fishermen not just relying on the sea but raise fishes and mothers in deciding what food to cook for their young children. Science must be more human in nature, not something that hovers above the skies.

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