Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Women in science education

Women’s global scene   in science education and Bangladesh
The UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 has been released which tells     the women of Bangladesh have achieved equality in science education but they are lagging behind in engineering and research. In agricultural and medical science post graduate and research levels women’s participation has increased worldwide but Bangladesh lags behind. This picture in Ph.D. and in higher level research between men and women also proves discriminatory. Their participation decreases drastically in these fields. According to this report, at present 72 percent researchers are men and 28 percent are women in the world but in Bangladesh only 17 percent women are found in this field. They get married after graduation or post-graduation education and get engaged in looking after children, families and other familiar affairs. So, it becomes difficult for them to conduct research. Their participation in agriculture is 31.1 percent and 33.3 in medicine globally whereas this percentage is still below 30 percent in Bangladesh. This report gets published every five years and presents a picture of the trends in global research and development, based on a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data.
Women tend to have more limited access to funding than men and to be less represented in prestigious universities and among senior faculty, whether on faculty boards or at the higher levels of decision-making in universities. The regions with the highest shares of women researchers are Southeast Europe (49%), the Caribbean, Central Asia and Latin America (44%). Sub-Saharan Africa counts 30% women and South Asia 17%. Southeast Asia presents a contrasting picture, with women representing 52% of researchers in the Philippines and Thailand, for instance, but only 14% in Japan and 18% in the Republic of Korea. While, globally, women have achieved parity at Master’s level, their share diminishes at PhD level to 43% of all doctoral graduates. The gap continues to widen after this, as women only represent 28.4% of the world’s researchers. Gross domestic expenditure on research and development increased globally by 31 percent between the period of 2007 and 2013 rising from $ 1,132 billion in 2007 to $ 1,478 billion in 2013. Five regions represent 77% of the global investment in research and development: 28% for USA, 20% for China, 19% for the European Union and 10% for Japan. The other 67% of the global population just represent 23% of global investment in research and development. The investment in research also translates into an increase in the number of scientists, estimated at 7.8 million worldwide, which is up by more than 20% since 2007.
The trends and developments in science, technology and innovation policy and governance between 2009 and mid-2015 described here provide essential baseline information on the concerns and priorities of countries that should orient the implementation and drive the assessment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the coming years.  The world can learn from the report that despite the economic crisis that hit industrialized countries in 2008, gross domestic expenditure on research and development increased globally by 31% between 2007 and 2013. This increase was more rapid than that of global gross domestic product  during the same period (20%).Research investment by countries such as Brazil, India and Turkey is increasing rapidly.72% of the world’s researchers can still be found in the European Union, China, Russia, the United States and Japan.
To alleviate global poverty the study, research and development of science is a must and women’s active inclusion and participation in science is crucial. Encouraging women to take part in science would allow any country to maximize its valuable human assets, empower its women, and improve its economic prospects. We cannot lag behind in this respect if we really want to alleviate poverty. It is still rare to find women working in scientific fields in many countries.  Female researchers, those that continue to actively practice science after obtaining higher education degrees, remain under-represented. Bangladeshi women have already proved their worth and potentiality in various fields such as administration, armed forces, police, doctors. It tells us that they have every potential to shine in scientific fields if we can give a genuine drive.
Why Bangladesh students particularly girls in rural areas don’t study science is not unknown to us. They get promoted to higher classes with the poor conceptual ideas as they didn’t get proper guidance in science subjects. They develop a fear to study science subjects. Those who already study science experience limited or no access to laboratory facilities in the schools.  
To address these issues, some TV channels can introduce science programs where the basic and tough chapters can be discussed. The rural students can follow these programs and the programs must be developed according to their level.  The newspapers can publish at least one page a week focusing on the basic concepts of different issues of science to be contributed by trained teachers and educationists.
A student brigade can be formed by the ministry of education where the brilliant students of colleges and universities will be included. The brigade will work during the longer vacations. These students of the brigade will visit a cluster of schools in rural areas for weeks together to discuss, conduct sessions on basic facts of science where the students of rural schools and colleges will participate in to have clear conception about science subjects. The District Education Officers along with Upazila Secondary Education Officers can coordinate the affairs locally. Science education must be made easier, interesting and popular. Only then, more girls will study science who will grow up with special affinity with science education.  
Masum Billah

Transport crisis and children's going to school

Traffic jam, transport crisis and children’s going to school
Dhaka is a peculiar city in many respects. It witnesses serious traffic jam in one hand, on the other the crisis of transports has made the life of the city dwellers hell. The office going people, commuters and the children going to school and coming from schools face the worst portions of the problem. The number of vehicles is far less than the existing population of the city. And more peculiar is city dwellers have to spend a huge amount of time every day on the streets due to heavy traffic gridlock.
It’s a common scene every day that hundreds and thousands of commuters and passengers crowd in thousands of spots to catch vehicles. They are to wait impatiently and as soon as a vehicle arrives they frantically try to get into it. This is mostly during going to office, school and college and the same scenario repeats when office and educational institutions break up and it continues long hours and sometimes all day long when any political meeting takes place in any part of Dhaka. Office goers become late to reach office and become mentally upset as it continues throughout the year. Thinking to catch a bus itself is a matter of tension whether they will get it or not. This abnormal situation contributes to increasing the number of private cars. Having a private car in the city stands as a symbol of security. How can you expect to go to your destination with your wife or kids or both when the traffic situation poses so abnormal? CNGs and rickshaws will not go to your destination even if you wait for hours long. Rickshaws are for short distances but they are not allowed in all the roads which further discourages them to take passengers for all the destinations. To mitigate the sufferings of the city dwellers the authorities must introduce big buses to be plied on the streets from very early hours to late at night at a regular interval (every two minutes). The small and scattered bus companies, CNG owners must be made united to form big companies. Already it is learnt from the newspapers that the mayor of Dhaka North has talked to 190 transport companies to squeeze them into five to bring about discipline and uniformity in transport sector. It must be done immediately and more government and private partnership endevours  should  be developed in this sector. We also learn that a huge amount of idle money is waiting in the banks. We can utilize the money to bring discipline in transport sector. The government is trying to implement some long term projects to solve the traffic congestion but to meet the scarcity of transport no tangible effort is discerned yet. 
The authorities hold unawareness of the people about traffic rules, narrow roads, unfit vehicles, reckless driving and showing disregard towards traffic laws responsible for traffic jam. We have also different experience in this regard. The members of armed forces were invited several times previously  to control the traffic of Dhaka City and 90 percent traffic jam disappeared when they stood on the roads despite the problems mentioned at the beginning of this para. It clearly indicates the inefficiency of our traffic police who mainly remain busy with other sort of business. The authorities must take this fact into serious consideration.
During the period of 1991-2002 Dhaka city saw many buses on almost all the big roads and the passengers had to ride in those buses buying tickets from the ticket counters available at the roadside ‘. Passengers developed a good habit to ride those buses. They maintained discipline to ride the buses.  Unfortunately, uncontrolled ‘toll collection ’by mastans and the chasing of the ticketing people by sergeants on the plea of occupying footpaths have killed the good system.  When good amount of transport will be available in the city, people will feel discouraged to buy private cars.  When private cars will not flood the streets, the traffic situation can be more disciplined and fair.
All the educational institutions must have their own transports to take the children from certain places to schools and colleges. They need not wait for public transport which increases their tension and they cannot manage time to reach the classes and give concentration on their lessons. In all the developed and developing countries we can see that the schools have their own transports. Even you can see it at Kathmandu. You will see there that school buses are carrying the students and no traffic jam develops around the school campus. Can’t we follow it? In developed countries you see the yellow buses carry students. Another interesting thing is, no private car or public buses stand close to those yellow buses as children may run to and fro and may meet accident. This bears their sign of  honour towards children who will lead the nation in future. We have miserably failed to show this honour towards our children. They stand beside the streets to catch a public transport but nobody bothers about them even though they cannot manage a transport. Even, they cannot reach the examination halls on time either due to traffic jam and scarcity of vehicles.

Hundreds and thousands of private cars, office cars ply on the streets without any passenger except the driver or one or maximum two passengers. At the same time we can see hundreds and thousands of school going children remain engaged in requesting rickshawpullers or CNGs one after another but they don’t agree to go to school. The same thing happens when they come home after school break up. The experience with CNGs proves further difficult and harassing. Why do they do that? We always tell tall talks but in reality we hardly do any genuine work for the citizens. We have miserably failed to establish the commuters and passengers rights which is a fundamental right of citizens. What happens in other countries? The passengers’ first get into a transport and law tells the drivers to take the passengers without asking any questions ‘where they will go.’ They don’t have any right to ask the passenger this type of question. The drivers’ duty is to take passengers first. The passengers will tell the drivers to go to their direction and destination after riding the vehicle. Thus they have established the right of the passengers.  More interesting is, the taffic police keep standing to help and control the whole affair. They stand in the airport, stations and any important places to make this citizen facility available to the passengers. What about our traffic police? You see them everywhere but their business is different. They don’t bother about whether any passenger or commuter or children get the vehicle or not. They just bother about stopping the cars, CNGs, Lorries, pick up vans for some reasons known to all. They are very much attentive to catch the vehicle which will give them much monetary benefit. Hell the traffic jam and problems of city dwellers. Should we stare at this scene?
Law must be made that all the vehicles – public or private must- give lift to the students waiting for transport for going to school and coming from school. Any vehicle must stop to take any student with uniform when he/she raises hand even if the guardians are with them. This will not only develop their fellow feeling, it will also help minimize traffic jam which is every citizen’s expectation.

RACE Research results

RACE research reveals ineffective creative method
Research for Advancement of Complete Education (RACE) conducted a research on the effectiveness of creative system in primary level, problems and the level of understanding of the issue among the students and teachers. The surveyors interviewed the 100 teachers and 80 students of 21 schools in the country's 16 districts between April and November last year. More than half of the 100 primary school teachers, who took part in a survey, are still unclear about creative education method introduced five years ago to bring a qualitative change in the field of education. However, more than 1,000 students from class three to five were included in a written test for their opinions on the method. Research for Advancement of Complete Education (RACE), a non-government research organization, unveiled the findings of the report at Drik Gallery in the capital on 24 January 2016 under the title “Ambiguity in understanding among teachers and students render creative method ineffectiveness -- a study on primary school in Bangladesh,”
The report shows that the principal problem of creative system is the dependence of students and teachers on note and guide books. Instead of trying to make them creative students mostly depend on guide books of the market. 92 percent students depend on guide books and 67 percent take the help of house tutors  to prepare for the examination based on ‘creative method’ (?) . The method is still vague and hazy even to the teachers let alone learners. The report says that more than fifty percent teachers still don’t have transparent idea about creative method. 42 percent teachers understanding in this regard is very meagre and 13 percent teachers are absolutely ignorant of the method. The report also shows that 47 percent teachers use note and guide books available in the market to teach the students and to prepare them for the examination.  35 teachers talk about it with their colleagues and then give teaching.  18 percent teachers teach the subjects according to their own way and understanding which is sure to make a mess. We can also learn from the report that 39 percent students are afraid of English as this subject seems very difficult for them, 33 percent think mathematics is very difficult and 25.65 percent feel both mathematics and English difficult.
Some recommendations have been made in re response to these revelations. Special training arrangement for the teachers, quality teacher employment which is actually a matter of time, making the question papers comparatively easy so that students can answer those from their textbooks without going through unnecessary hassles to pass or to obtain good grades in the examinations. Making digital materials such as projector, computer and internet available for the students and teachers. Of course, it’s a general recommendation as the government is supplying these materials to the schools in phases. Another chronic issue has been touched by these recommendations that the students and teachers of hill, coastal, scattered areas, borders and far off lands should be given special importance and a separate arrangement can be made for them to develop their teaching learning situation.
Columnist Abul Makshud says, “this kind of research really deserves praise done in non-government sector though this kind of research should be conducted by the ministry of education which we don’t see actually.’ Cognitive research reveals that even with what is taken to be good instruction, many students, including academically talented ones, understand less than we think they do. With determination, students taking an examination are commonly able to identify what they have been told or what they have read; careful probing, however, often shows that their understanding is limited or distorted, if not altogether wrong. This finding suggests that parsimony is essential in setting out educational goals: Schools should pick the most important concepts and skills to emphasize so that they can concentrate on the quality of understanding rather than on the quantity of information presented. People have to construct their own meaning regardless of how clearly teachers or books tell them things. Mostly, a person does this by connecting new information and concepts to what he or she already believes. Concepts—the essential units of human thought—that do not have multiple links with how a student thinks about the world are not likely to be remembered or useful. Or, if they do remain in memory, they will be tucked away in a drawer labeled, and will not be available to affect thoughts about any other aspect of the world. Concepts are learned best when they are encountered in a variety of contexts and expressed in a variety of ways, for that ensures that there are more opportunities for them to become embedded in a student's knowledge system. But effective learning often requires more than just making multiple connections of new ideas to old ones; it sometimes requires that people restructure their thinking radically. That is, to incorporate some new idea, learners must change the connections among the things they already know, or even discard some long-held beliefs about the world. (Ref. effective learning and teaching project 2061).
‘If students are required to go to coaching centers, why should they enroll at schools?’ Professor Anu Mohammad asked expressing his reaction to this report. And it is known to us that coaching centers don’t make our learners creative rather they cram their brain with many unnecessary details just to prepare them for the examination. This creates a conflicting situation between creativity and public examination results. On creative method, Anu Muhamamd again said, ‘Invited by Asian Development Bank, some people of our country visited some countries to see their education systems and then they introduced this method here. But where teacher-student ratio is nearly 1 for 80 and lack of adequate classrooms is common, providing multimedia devices will not gain much there.’ He continues saying” the government run after pass rate for political reasons. Side by side, serious type of education business continues in the country.  Future may be dark if this trend does not stop. Students of primary level are overburdened with books and they are to undergo serious pressure both mentally and physically which don’t allow them to be creative.” This issue calls for serious attention from the relevant people of education in general and the ministry concerned in particular.
Masum Billah