The city of Mumbai (Bombay) hosts several institutions of research in science and science education. It also has about 1,200 schools where education is imparted to about half a million students. The children are from all economic and social strata and it has always been a challenge to continuously upgrade the scientific knowledge of teachers so that they can not only impart meaningful formal education but also feed and satisfy student curiosities. In order to formalise this desire, scientists from the Tata Institute of Fundamental research, Mumbai started an organisation called the Bombay Association for Science Education (BASE). It is important to note that while there are formal continuing education or in-service programmes for teachers at college level no such formal programme exists for schoolteachers in Mumbai.
The Bombay Association for Science Education was started in 1972 to increase interaction between scientists and science teachers. After several different experiments, the organisation has settled down to a model of Workshops and Symposia, which has been pursued for more than a decade. In the present article we briefly discuss the various experiments pursued in the past and discuss in detail the model pursued at present. We find that the model of workshops and symposia with equal emphasis on expert and teacher presentations seems to be most effective in conveying the new excitements in science, technology as well as science education.
Conventionally, the Chairman of BASE comes from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research while most of the other office bearers come from schools and colleges. All the members work on voluntary basis and BASE has no permanent staff. This has ensured that only those members of the scientific and teaching community who are seriously concerned about the objectives of BASE will participate in its programmes. This arrangement has been particularly successful in ensuring that the teaching community continues to regard this as their activity rather than an enforced interaction session. This has also allowed the activity to remain particularly sensitive to the continuing needs of the teaching community in terms of the requirements for discussions on subjects that teachers find most interesting or important. BASE has also avoided getting official patronage from the Government though financial aid has been received from the Government Organisations for specific programmes. While this has restricted the total funds available to BASE for general activities, it also ensures a complete freedom to programme planning sensitive only to the needs of science teachers. At the same time BASE has avoided getting large donations to avoid peripheral interest from deciding the BASE programmes. Its corpus has also been kept low for the same purpose. BASE is a registered Charitable Organisation making it necessary to maintain a proper book of accounts, which is properly audited and open to government scrutiny.
In its initial stages in early 1970s, BASE was involved in a lot of more orthodox activities of teacher and student interaction with scientists. In particular BASE initiated programmes such as annual science exhibitions for school students, radio quiz and popular science lectures. Some of these programmes, particularly the science exhibitions soon grew to a scale where it was not possible for a voluntary organisation to manage and it was taken over by the Government Department of Education which formalised into a Nationwide annual event. In recent times, BASE has returned to this activity in terms of assisting the Government to improve the quality of the presentations, teacher orientation and judging of exhibits. Its experiment in science quizzes on radio was well received but it was subsequently overtaken by professional presentations and eventually integrated into more regular childrens radio programmes. Also, BASE conspicuously avoided participating in programmes such as syllabus evaluation, formal learning methods, syllabus implementation and textbook writing and evaluation. This was done by another organisation started by the scientists of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, namely the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), which has evolved into a formal research centre into problems of science education. However, HBCSE has closely assisted BASE in some of the teacher training programmes.
Since 1982, BASE decided that one form of feedback the teacher community needed was formal interaction sessions with scientists on topics of current interest as well as problems with hands on problems with classroom teaching. It has therefore decided to start annual symposia, which discuss these issues threadbare in a manner understandable to teachers. These symposia were conducted by carefully selected speakers from the scientific community and involve extensive interaction and formal teacher feedback sessions. In particularly, the symposia are held for 3 days typically running into about 20 hours of interaction sessions. Of these about 10 hours are spent in formal lectures and question answer sessions with speakers, about 5 hours of demonstration explanatory sessions and 3 hours are spent in teacher interactions amongst themselves. Two hours are reserved for teacher presentations on six different sub topics of the symposium. Each teacher presentation is then followed up with an expert comment on the presentation. The last part has evolved into a crucial session since it allows teachers to clarify their own understanding by investigating the various information given to them, also helps all the participants to get a summary of the presentations made during the symposium, and, equally importantly, allows the scientists to clarify potential misunderstandings that may have been left in the mind of teachers. About 100 teachers participate in these symposia and are divided into six groups for the purpose of teacher presentations and one or more teacher from each group presents a summary of their discussions.
These symposia are open to teacher from all over the state of Maharashtra. The registration fee covers the cost of food provided at the symposia and the other expenses while all other expenses are met through donations.
Apart from these symposia, BASE organises one-day workshops on more focused and current topics of interest to teachers. The Workshops are typically held for one day only. Normally there are three workshops every year. One of the workshops is on new developments in science, another on technological developments and the third one on new trends in science education. Over a period of time, a specific structure has been developed for the workshops, which includes an element of teacher participation and demonstration apart from lectures. The workshops are divided into two parts. In the morning, experts from the field under discussion give three or four topical lectures. In the afternoon, the sessions are more activity based where the teachers are either taken to laboratories where research in a specific field is underway or are involved in group activities to discuss and analyse their experiences if a teaching related issue is to be discussed. About 50 teachers attend these workshops. During the last 10 years BASE has held 43 workshops distributed in thirteen annual series and 4 more workshops, that will constitute the fourteenth series, are underway during the current year. These are listed below.
1. Atomic particles in motion: Electricity and electronics (February 3, 1990)
2. Nucleus of the atom (December 15, 1989)
3. Importance of the atom (November 19, 1989)
4. Genetics (November 23, 1991)
5. Environment (October 12, 1991)
6. LASERS (September 28, 1991)
7. Nuclear magnetic resonance and its application (September 22, 1992)
8. Communication technology (September 12, 1992)
9. Earths magnetic field and the environment (August 22, 1992)
10. Superconductivity and its applications (September, 25, 1993)
11. From Research to Manufacturing: the process of developing new product (September 11, 1993)
12. Medicines: Uses and abuses (August 28, 1993)
13. Tissue culture (October 8, 1994)
14. Mass communication: Present status and future prospects (October 1, 1994)
15. Space Astronomy (September 17, 1994)
16. Chromatography (September 3, 1994)
17. Science of Learning (November 11, 1995)
18. Solar Eclipse (October 7, 1995)
19. Forensic Science (September 30, 1995)
20. Molecular Biology (September 9, 1995)
21. Buckfullerenes (September 7, 1996)
22. History of Science and its role in Curriculum (August 24, 1996)
23. Traditional Sciences (August 10, 1996)
24. Science of Archaeology (August 30, 1997)
25. Fun with Mathematics (September 27, 1997)
26. Physical, Chemical and Biological Surfaces (Sept 20, 1997)
27. Giant Metre wave Radio Telescope (November 7, 1998)
28. Mathematics with toys (September 26, 1998)
29. Earthquakes (September 12, 1998)
30. Radiochemistry (October 9, 1999)
31. How children learn Science (September 18, 1999)
32. Making effective science projects and models (September 4, 1999)
33. Solar Eclipse (August 1, 1999)
34. Water in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Astronomy (July 31, 1999)
35. How to ask questions in Science (26 September 2000)
36. Plastics and Polymers (9 September 2000)
37. Nuclear radiation: its physics, technology and applications (26 August, 2000)
38. The story of light (18 August, 2001)
39. The art of flying (15 September, 2001)
40. Role of History of Science in Science Education (22 September, 2001)
41. Vermiculture (27 July, 2002)
42. Paints (7 September 2002)
43. Fun with Mathematics (28 September 2002)
44. Molecules in Biology, Chemistry and Physics (26 July, 2003)
45. Dyslexia (23 August, 2003)
46. Nanotechnology (20 September, 2003)
47. Guidance about Career in Science (17 January, 2004)
48. Smallest Objects in the Universe, (31 July, 2004)
49. Green Chemistry, (21 August, 2004)
50. Making Science Demonstration Kits, (4 September, 2004)
51. Light and Illumination, (15 July, 2004)
52. Nuclear Energy (15 July, 2006)
53. What & How to Ask in Science (5 August, 2006)
54. Understanding Weather (16 September, 2006)
55. Teaching of Mathematics (7 July, 2007)
56. Plate Tectonics: Continental Drifting, Earth Quakes & Volcanoes (4 August, 2007)
57. Teaching Physics (24-26 August, 2007)
58. Nuclear Energy and Health Care (1 September, 2007)
The runaway pace of scientific developments and new ideas in education over the past few decades has made it impossible to be fully informed about various aspects of science. In order to help teachers gain access to the scientific knowledge, current trends in Education in a more informal manner where teachers can ask detailed questions on one to one basis without the difficulty BASE has recently initiated a Scientist Teacher Enrichment Programme (STEP) under which scientists and Educators will come and sit with teachers and interact with them informally. The guests will not give any formal lecture but will instead talk to teachers informally across a table for a reasonably long period so that teachers may ask questions and interact with the scientists. This programme is held on the first Saturday of Every Month. The following topics have been covered so far.
Two more areas where BASE has recently initiated activity is in assisting teacher in improving the quality and effectiveness of science demonstration models that are exhibited at Annual Science Fairs in the city. For this purpose several orientation and motivation seminars were held for about 1,500 teachers in association with the Department of Education, Government of Maharashtra, The Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education and the Nehru Science Centre of the National Council for Science Museums. Apart from this BASE has also begun collaborating with the twenty-four hour dedicated education channel Zed to produce science films targeted at school going children.
While no objective method has been evolved to judge the activities, there are several feedbacks indicating that the programme is meeting its stated objectives. In particular, teacher presentations are invaluable in deciphering the information penetration amongst teachers. A teacher feedback is also taken about the symposia where teachers are asked to evaluate the programme in detail, including comments on individual aspects of the lectures, demonstrations and programmes. These have consistently shown a positive feedback and have been valuable in identifying good speakers as well as effective information delivery techniques. This is also the stage at which we take teacher suggestions on possible other topics which need to be covered. Another feedback is the follow up of the rate at which teachers return to the programme. It should be noted that since the programme is entirely voluntary, teachers get only a limited credit for attending the programme. Hence the teachers who come to attend the programme do so only out of interest for the subject. Hence teacher-return rate is an excellent indicator of the effectiveness of the programme. This test has also been very encouraging where typically about half the teachers are regular returnees who attend the programme, which is targeted to the subject of teaching. One more feedback is the consistently growing membership, which has been steadily increasing. There have also been repeated request to conduct the programme in other cities, which we have been unable to meet.
The Bombay Association for Science Education is particularly grateful for the
support it has been receiving from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research,
Homi Bhabha Memorial Science Teachers Library, Nehru Science Centre, Homi
Bhabha Centre for Science Education as well as several Government Departments
as well as Zee Interactive Learning Systems. BASE would also like to express
its gratitude to several chairmen and other members of BASE who, over the last
twenty-five years has made BASE a vibrant organisation. We also want to
express our fond remembrance Ms. Vishalakshi Gangadharan who remained the
steadying force for BASE all her life.
Address for correspondence:
Dr. P. K. Joshi,
Department of Nuclear and Atomic Physics
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research,
Homi Bhabha Road, Colaba
Mumbai 400 005, INDIA
Email: pkjoshi /at/ tifr.res.in or base /at/ tifr.res.in