Confused between atoms and molecules, and their properties? To make chemistry more interesting for students, Mumbai schools and experts are trying to change the way the subject is taught in schools. Moving away from burdening students with lengthy periodic tables and archaic experiments in musty laboratories, educationists have come together to make chemistry lessons more creative and fun.
The drop in the number of students opting for pure sciences in colleges has raised concerns over the state of chemistry teaching in schools. Students are studying chemistry in Class 12 only to pursue commercial careers in engineering or medicine later. “We see very few students turn to pure sciences for higher studies,” said BD Yadav, vice-chancellor, Institute of Chemical Technology, Matunga.
“Science subjects are not taught in an exciting way in schools. Schools don’t use technology to teach the subjects. Even if you don’t do direct experiments, you can use simulation.”
Many schools do not even have a laboratory, said Manorema Ramdas, teacher-developer, Royal Society of Chemistry and principal, BTIS School, Pune. The society has launched a Yusuf Hamied Inspirational Chemistry Programme to enhance chemistry education from Classes 7 to 12.
Inspiring teachers to use practical application to teach chemistry is the focus of the programme. “We are trying to ignite their imagination to deliver inspiring lessons that give a glimpse of university-level chemistry in schools,” said Ramdas. “We will hold workshops in different schools and colleges from April to June for teachers.”
Since expensive equipment is one of the reasons schools shy away from conducting too many experiments during chemistry classes, Ramdas said the programme teaches teachers low-cost and minimum-waste experiments.
“Chemistry equipment is expensive, but teachers can use other objects,” said Ramdas. “They can use a jeweller’s scale instead of an electronic scale, make a crucible from bottle caps, and use plastic medicine droppers in place of glass pipettes. It’s all about improvisation.”
“Children find the subject boring because it involves memorising formulae and chemical names. We are trying to move beyond that,” said Seema Buch, principal, Gundecha Education Academy, Kandivli. “A few days ago, I noticed a layer when I mixed hot and cold water. I brought a sample to school and asked teachers and students for solutions,” said Buch. “We got a solution and found that the example could be used to teach students about water impurities.”
“Schools offer 12-13 practical sessions in a year. Most schools don’t go beyond that. The subject is taught only with the aim of scoring marks. The state board organises training for teachers only when the syllabus changes,” said Shrikant Shingare, secretary, Mumbai Science Teachers’ Association.