Notes on the Historical Background Science in School Curriculum

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Science is perhaps unique as a subject in the Curriculum of Schools all over the world. This uniqueness results from the variety of materials and experiments necessary for its effective teaching. It is difficult to say exactly when Science teaching in school began.

Systems of education of the Greeks and Romans had little place for Science. Plato’s interest was in man, whereas Aristotle’s interests were comprehensive about man and nature. In Aristotle’s time, Science teaching and experimentation were in infancy.

Leaders in education held a place for science in their concept of an all-around education for School Children. Comenius (1592-1670) was the first to make a room for the teaching of Science in the Secondary Schools of his time. Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel recognized the use of natural objects and nature as the teacher. Rousseau and Pestalozzi were strong advocates of outdoor and field excursions for children. And Science in intimate part of the environment.

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Science teaching gained little hold upon the Schools only till the recent times. It became a University subject with the establishment of laboratories at Oxford (1683) and at Cambridge (1702). The Royal Commission of the Public Schools in England reported about the neglect of Science education. Only during the 18th and 19th centuries Science came to play a more and more recognized role in the affairs of man.

Gradually, exploration, discovery, invention, the use of astronomy, biology, physiology, chemistry, physics and geology all tended to make Science a part of the School Curriculum. The writings of Herbert Spencer (1861), Huxley (1825-1895), Darwin (1809-1882), Kelvin (1824- 1907) educated the public opinion and as a result, teaching of Science was given an important place in the school curriculum.

Of course, laboratory equipment and science apparatus were costly. And so more theoretical work than experimental practical was earlier involved in Science education. Professor H.E. Armstrong went a long way in the promotion of experimental Science teaching in the Schools. Several great Scientists contributed their best to the cause of Science education and gave it its present position.

In India, Science education in its modern sense is hardly a century old. The charter of the East India Company was renewed in 1813 and for the first time a sum of one lakh of rupees was sanctioned for education purposes. One of the objectives of taking over education by Company’s Government was “the introduction and promotion of the knowledge of Sciences among the inhabitants of British territories in India”.

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The Education Department did not exist at the time and the Dispatch of 1854 prescribed an educational policy for India in detail. Till the achievement of independence, Science was taught in some selected and model schools. Kothari Commission has reported, “We lay great emphasis on making Science an important element in the School Curriculum.

We, therefore, recommend that Science and Mathematics should be taught on a compulsory basis to all pupils as a part of general education during the first ten years of schooling”. At the Higher Secondary stage diversification of studies has taken place.

So Science will not be studied on a compulsory basis by all students. Those who opt for specialization in Science stream at the Higher Secondary stage; this may continue their higher studies in Sciences at College and University stages. In India, Schools did not have Science as a compulsory subject in their School Curriculum before independence. Only some selected schools specially the district headquarters, school, i.e. the Zilla Schools had the provision of Science teaching and Science laboratories.

The Science teaching was limited to Elementary Physics and Chemistry, Physiology and Hygiene etc. as optional subjects in certain selected schools. Now, science has been adopted as a compulsory subject in the school curriculum. And also Sciences have their provisions in the diversified courses for the talented students or in other worlds the students of more than average merit.

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