Thursday, January 02, 2014

Not just in US, fewer schools teach science in India

The authorities may want more scientists but the opportunity for studying science at school level seems to be dismally limited. Less than a third of schools offer the subject at the higher-secondary (Classes XI and XII) level across the country. Only 30.07% high schools in India offer the science stream and only in 11 states/union territories-including Delhi-more than 50% schools teach science. Data collected through the Secondary Education Management Information System (SEMIS) and collated in the SEMIS Flash Statistics: 2012-13, also shows that boys outnumber girls in science classes in most states.

"Most of higher-secondary education is in private hands," observes Professor R. Govinda, Vice-Chancellor of National University of Educational Planning and Management. "To offer science, you need laboratories, equipment and other facilities-it's very resource-intensive. Many private schools choose to teach just arts and commerce due to this," he says. In Delhi, most higher-secondary schools are under the Directorate of Education (52.24%) and 33.73% are private, unaided institutions. But nationally, the maximum number of high schools-41.04%-is private-unaided.

Govinda feels the shortage of teachers is also a factor. "For high school, you need a master's degree and in some places, even a B.Ed," he explains, "You may not get people with the right qualifications in some rural or remote areas. Also, you'll need teachers who've specialized. We don't have enough teachers."

Only 51.71% Delhi high schools offer science whereas 86.56% offer arts and 78.39% commerce. The only state/UT where all high schools have science is Lakshadweep. In Tamil Nadu 86.51% and in Puducherry 82.58% schools have it.

The gender imbalance in science classes in north India is startling. In Delhi, where many girls schools don't offer science-60,837 boys study them as opposed to 33,768 girls; in UP it's 495,574 boys and 164,882 girls. In Gujarat, 95,836 boys study high school science as opposed to 47,520 girls. But, on a positive note, the gap is not so wide is several states. In Andhra Pradesh, the number of girls (75,434) is practically equal to the number of boys (75,471). And in states/UTs like Lakshadweep, Meghalaya, Puducherry, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu (south and northeast), girls outnumber boys in science classes.

Source: The Times of India, January 2, 2014

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