It's no wonder that the number of enrollment in science has been on the decline over the decades in such a "demotivating" education system prevailing in Bangladesh. At the age of thirteen, an eighth grader has to decide whether he will study science, humanities or business studies. Most of the eighth graders have no idea what they want to be when they grow up or what they will be good at after four years or a decade down the line but they are bound to choose a career path at such an early stage of life. And so their choice of study eventually reflects their parent's preferences.
The state of science teaching in our secondary and higher secondary school is far from satisfactory as there is a huge shortage of qualified teachers. Properly equipped laboratories could hardly be found in most of the schools situated at city - let alone in the school situated at villages. Students with a strong science background are likely not interested in high school teaching as salaries and other benefits of teacher do not perform anywhere near expectations.
As part of my graduation, now I'm doing my internship as a teacher at a renowned higher secondary school in Dhaka. To my utter surprise, I observed that the school decides the fate of the students to some extent upon consideration of their previous academic performance in Junior School Certificate examination. You can't term this practice as an isolated incidents rather this is a very common scenario of most of the secondary school in Bangladesh. It might not be surprising to you in such a society where your academic results meant to be a lot that they override all else.
Most of the guardian and students believe that the ultimate goal of studying science is only to become engineers or doctors. The belief is now so far reaching that parents think that their only job is to push the kids to the "rat race" and the teachers think that finishing the syllabus is their only job. This stage is all about taking preparations, working hard and finally sitting for the competitive examination to get into university.
The stereotype beliefs of studying science meant to become doctor or engineers demotivate a huge number of students from taking pure science subjects for higher education e.g. mathematics, theoretical physics, chemistry or biology. Moreover, Graduates with bachelor and master degrees in pure science disciplines struggle to find a job in comparison with their counterparts who hold a BBA or MBA degree as there is less opportunity available for the pure science graduate.
To survive in such an unwelcoming job market today's generations with intentions to get a good job eventually prefer business studies or other job oriented areas of study. Therefore, most of the private universities don't have any pure science departments rather they tend to admit students in utilitarian programs.
Therefore, the reasons for students' apathy towards science education are more about structural than personal. Without making any structural changes it is impossible to overcome the present state of science education in Bangladesh. As a result of this existing restriction, many a student who cannot or do not take science after passing JSC fail to study science formally for the rest of their lives. So there is a need for restructuring of our education system by introducing a science based one-way education system without any specialization (Humanities, Business Studies or Science) up to Secondary School Certificate examination to eliminate such early-age restriction.
Science fair, Science weeks and Olympiads need to be organized regularly at a local, regional and national level so that students find joy in science through common place scientific experiments. Classroom teaching learning activities should emphasize on experiments besides problem-solving oriented evaluations should be introduced. Salaries and other benefits of the teachers should be given consideration to encourage strong science background students in high school teaching. We have to keep in mind that all efforts will be nipped in the bud if we failed to create job opportunities for the pure science graduates in their own field of study.
It is required to make science and technology education a priority in the country's broad national development strategy as science and technology are part of the national strategy for development. A commitment of the government to introduce a science and technology based secondary education in much more important as well as what is needed to enhance science education is public pressure and motivation to encourage more students to study science. The writer is a final year undergraduate student of Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka.
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