Curriculum in Science
After reading this chapter, you will be able to:
Critically analyse the existing science curriculum at various stages
Describe the various principles of the curriculum construction
Discuss the salient features of science curriculum in schools
Compare science curriculum at various stages
The entire school programme and various classroom activities are based on the curriculum. A curriculum is the heart of schooling and the education process. It is, in turn, formulated on the basis of the aims and objectives of teaching. Thus, a curriculum of science includes whatever content and activities are applied to achieve the objectives of science teaching. It includes content or subject matter given in the text book, learning experiences through laboratory work, co-curricular activities, interaction with the community, learning through pupil-teacher relationship.
Thus, a curriculum is the sum total of all the experiences which students go through in classroom activities, playground, practical work, library, cultural programmes, picnics and examinations.
For deciding and organizing the curriculum for any class, the most important criteria are the aims of teaching science for that class. Generally, science education enables a learner:
- To know the facts and principles of science and its application.
- To acquire skills and understand methods and processes.
- To be able to view science as a social enterprise.
- To acquire theoretical and practical knowledge.
- To imbibe the values of honesty, cooperation and integrity.
- To be scientifically tempered.
On this basis, the curriculum has been designed for different stages of school which is being discussed here. All students learn science as a compulsory subject up to class X. Although the majority of them will not be scientists or professors, they will need the knowledge of science for understanding social, political and ethical issues of society. Therefore, curriculum upto class X is for:
- Developing awareness among students about the issues of health, environment and technology.
- Enabling them to acquire skills and practical knowledge.
Also, science is to be learnt as a composite subject and not as physics, chemistry and biology till the middle level. At the higher stages, study of different disciplines of science becomes more important as in-depth knowledge is needed here. Let us now discuss the ideal curricular context at the various levels of schooling (Figure 7.1).
Figure 7.1 Comparative Account of Curriculum at Different Levels of School
I. Primary Stage
Primary science education has to be a phase of joyful learning for a child. The main aim at this stage is to engage the child in activities so that his/her cognitive and psychomotor skills are developed. When the child is engaged in an activity, abilities of observation, recording, measurement, etc. are developed gradually. The curriculum at the primary stage should provide opportunities to deal with the real and the concrete world. Nowadays, ideas and concepts of science and social science are introduced as environmental studies.
To implement this curriculum, effective pedagogy should be adopted. There should be lots of activities, stories, poems, plays, interactive experiences as a part of classroom experience. These strategies will enable the child to appreciate nature, be concerned about the environment, be conscious about health and hygiene and be socially interactive.
Assessment at this level is meant to gain an insight into the various aspects of a child's learning—articulation, reading ability, comprehension, motor development, observation, drawing, etc. There should be no tests, no grades or marks and no failures. Teachers need to evaluate a child comprehensively on the basis of all the activities.
II. Middle Stage
This stage provides an exposure to the science students where they can relate the environmental studies to the elements of science and technology. The scientific concepts are introduced with the help of experiments, readily available material and various activities. A science curriculum includes making of simple models, common mechanical and electrical devices. Area-specific projects also constitute a part of the curriculum.
Curriculum implementation engages the students in meaningful investigations and simple experiments. This is done through class discussions, peer interaction, information collection from variety of sources and simple investigation. Organization and display of collected information is emphasized. Students are motivated through the narratives on scientists and discoverers.
Assessment of a child includes continuous and periodic assessment through tests. Grades are awarded for various components, but no one is failed. Regular tests are structured to assess the child's practical and problem solving skills, application, graphical representations and numerical abilities. As at middle stage, children are entering the adolescence, the curriculum has to be sensitive to their needs about exploration of their self and body. The theory part includes information on human body, reproduction, etc., but wider and participative discussion on such topics is essential. Such interaction helps in sharing of information as well as doubt clarification.
III. Secondary Stage
Science as a discipline is strengthened at this stage. Concept, principles and laws of science are introduced vigorously. As a result, curricular load increases tremendously leaving a very little scope for co-curricular activities. Science at secondary stage also includes those concepts which are not observable and very difficult to comprehend. Thus, the curricular content is not very student friendly. There is more emphasis on the theory, whereas, experimentation is very limited. Project work, which is a part of the curriculum, is just a formality with only writing part being done by the students.
The curriculum transaction is not very innovative or activity oriented. Most of the time, the main emphasis is on the theory. Practicals are conducted only because a few experiments have been included in the syllabus which will be assessed in the board examination. The main concern of teachers is to finish the course which is very vast as compared to the middle stage.
The evaluation of the science curriculum is 20 per cent internal and 80 per cent external. The written test and exams do not include any question on experimentation and other practical parts. In majority of the schools, student's participation in co-curricular activities is not assessed as the theory becomes the most important.
Thus, changes are needed in the curriculum at this stage. Experiments should be a part of the content of the secondary stage textbook which could be assessed internally. The theoretical tests should have questions based on the experiments. Co-curricular activities must be regarded equally important and assessed as well. There should be an integration of the various components of a science curriculum.
IV. Senior Secondary Stage
The curriculum at this highest stage of schooling is disciplinary with great depth. There is a steep gradient between the syllabi at the secondary and the senior secondary stage. There is an emphasis on experimentation, but they are not of investigatory nature. Experiments are conducted just to prove the standard expected results. There is no scope for the formulation of hypothesis and its interpretation.
The pedagogy being adopted in schools is a mix of traditional methods and ICT. ICT enabled schools are comparatively less in number due to the lack of finances. Assessment of students is done on their theoretical knowledge as well as practical skills, but co-curricular activities are completely neglected.
The curriculum at the senior secondary stage needs some improvements. Keeping in mind, the vast amount of knowledge being given to the students, some delimitation of core areas should be done. The curricula should emphasize problem solving and critical analysis. Theory and experiments should be closely integrated. Co-curricular activities can include creative and investigative projects which may be displayed in science fairs and exhibitions, participation in science olympiad, debates, discussions, etc. More of ICT should be used in classroom teaching with appropriate questioning, discussions and debates. Evaluation of students should be on theory, practical and co-curricular participations. A comparative account of the present scenario of curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation is given in Figure 7.1.
Each child is an individual having intellectual and biological needs, abilities and potentialities. Their needs and development must be taken care by the curriculum. Also, the society is changing fast and demands scientific development. These demands are to be fulfilled by the future citizens. And, a curriculum creates such empowered citizens. Now, the questions is that how can we prepare such a curriculum which satisfies the needs of the children as well as the society. To solve this problem, certain principles for curriculum construction have been framed which are as follows (Figure 7.2) :
Figure 7.2 Principles of Curriculum Construction
A child not only grows physically, but his emotional, intellectual, moral and social development also takes place. It is on the education to provide a conducive environment for an all-round personality development a child and, a curriculum is one of the aspects of this conducive environment. Thus, a curriculum should be child centered so as to provide means and material to satisfy a child's need for proper growth.
II. Principle of Integration of Science
The present era is the age of knowledge explosion and it is occurring in every subject. As everything (objects and phenomena) is based on science, this expansion of knowledge is all the more evident in science. In a real life situation, the three branches of science (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) cannot be separated as everything we observe has components of these branches. Thus, to understand the concepts, integration of all the three branches is important. So, the curriculum should be based on this principle of integration, especially, up to the secondary stage.
III. Principle of Flexibility
Our country is full of diversity in terms of culture, religion, occupation, caste, class, politics, geographical conditions, climate, etc. The same curriculum cannot satisfy the varied needs of the nation, e.g., the rural sector demands the knowledge of agriculture, whereas, the urban sector demands the knowledge of industrial skills. Therefore, it is necessary to have a flexible curriculum.
An individual and the society, both are dependent on each other. The society needs skilled people for its growth and development. Such skilled people can be prepared only through a well-planned curriculum which is based on the social needs.
V. Principle of Activity Centeredness
Learning is maximum when all the senses of the child are used thus, a curriculum should follow the maxim of learning by doing so that simple activities of science in the classroom, in laboratory or at home enable the child to grasp the maximum.
VI. Principle of Creativity
Every child is unique and has some or the other capability. Children by nature are very active and enthusiastic. Most of them are very creative in one way or the other. Therefore, a curriculum should be creativity oriented so that the children get an opportunity to try new things.
VII. Principle of Preservation of Culture
India is a culturally diverse country and we need to preserve as well as transmit the culture from one generation to other. So, the curriculum should take care of this cultural aspect.
- The entire school programme and the various classroom activities are based on the curriculum.
- A curriculum is the heart of schooling and the education process.
- It includes all the experiences which students go through in the school.
- Science education enables a learner to know the facts of science, to acquire the skills and to be scientifically tempered.
- A curriculum at pthe rimary stage is for joyful learning and for engaging the child activity.
- Pedagogy at this stage involves activity, stories, poems, plays, etc.
- Assessment at the primary level is to gain an insight into various aspects of the child's learning.
- A curriculum at the middle stage provides an exposure to scientific concepts.
- It is implemented through investigation and simple experiments.
- Assessment at the middle stage includes continuous and periodic tests.
- A curriculum at the secondary stage introduces concepts which are not observable and difficult to comprehend.
- Pedagogy involves more of theory and almost nil practical.
- Evaluation is done through the written test and exams.
- A curriculum at the senior secondary level includes the in-depth knowledge of science and experiments are conducted to prove the standard expected results.
- The implementation strategy includes the traditional methods and ICT.
- Assessment is done on the theory and practical. CCA are completely ignored.
- To prepare a satisfactory curriculum, certain principles for curriculum constructions have been framed which are :
- Principle of child centeredness
- Principle of integration
- Principle of flexibility
- Principle of community centeredness
- Principle of activity centeredness
- Principle of creativity
- Principle of preservation of culture
- Mention the defects in the present science curriculum at the various levels of schooling.
- Discuss the principles of formulating a science curriculum.
- Critically analyse the existing science curriculum at the different levels of schooling.