Science & Technology

Science for All campaign eyes pan-India presence

Increasing the number of classrooms, introducing a post-graduate fellowship and launching a foundation programme to train full-time primary teachers are in the offing

By Jigyasa Watwani
Published: Thursday 25 February 2016

SEI focuses on problem-solving and critical thinking instead of rote learning 
Credit: SEI

The Science Education Initiative (SEI), a Pune-based non-profit, announced the extension of its Science for All campaign (SFA) on Thursday.

The process involves bringing 60 classrooms in Pune under its (SEI’s) ambit, introducing a post-graduate fellowship in addition to the already existing undergraduate fellowship and launching a foundation programme to train full-time teachers for classes 3 and 4.

“We are looking (forward) to expanding the initiative outside Pune. SFA is a global initiative that seeks to address the education needs of developing countries, all of which more or less, sail in the same boat as regards their science education,” Ananya Mishra, lead, SEI language programme, said.

Another plan is to introduce English in the curriculum in the academic session beginning June this year. “Catering to the local classrooms, we found that (the) integration of English in the course is a must as it is the standard medium of instruction for higher education in the country and abroad. It was tested as a pilot project last year and will be implemented in 10 schools in Pune from the academic session beginning this year,” Mishra added.

What is SFA?

SFA helps train and place science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) undergraduates as part-time teachers in schools across India.

It also helps teachers formulate lesson plans and assessments based on the Next Generation Science Standards and the Math Common Core practised in the US.

According to the SEI, the STEM skills attainment of 80 million students enrolled in India is among the lowest in the world and there is a deficit of over two million teachers with STEM expertise in the country. Another objective is aimed at addressing the lack of standardisation of STEM content at the primary level.

The plan is cost effective. The total investment on a child per year comes to US $ 60. This includes the stipend paid to part-time teachers—Rs 250 per two-hour session—and the money spent on procuring stationery items and other supplies for the students. Teachers applying for the post-graduate fellowship will receive Rs 18,000 per month.

“The state of science education in primary schools across India is such that students are not capable enough to innovate. The challenges we face today need a scientifically-literate population. Science can no longer be the privilege enjoyed by a select few,” Abhilash Mishra, founder-director of SEI said. Ananya Mishra added that other subjects may be integrated into the curriculum later.

SEI’s principles

For teachers’ training and formulation of lesson plans, SEI’s guiding principles are clear. It will focus on problem-solving and critical thinking instead of rote learning and mould the curriculum to suit local needs and translate it into local languages. The SEI will also ensure that there is a continuous evaluation of programmes.

“The SEI functioning is a two-way process: there is a top-down mechanism in which we incorporate guidance by academicians and scientists from top-notch institutions across the world in our lesson plans and teacher training modules. There is also a bottom-up approach in which impact assessments are carried out every six months and this feedback is incorporated in plans and modules,” Mishra said.

Success tale

Since its implementation three years ago, the SFA campaign has benefitted over 1,000 students across 35 classrooms in Pune. Since 2014, the SEI has trained and placed 40 fellows in low-income classrooms and provided professional development support to over 40 full-time teachers.

The SEI is supported by the Central Square Foundation (CSF) and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). “We used to get all our funds from donations, but in November last year CSF gave us an initial grant. The support received from the CGI is not financial as of now. We are only making our presence felt in the US through them,” Mishra told Down To Earth.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.