मेरा आँगन

मेरा आँगन

Friday, April 24, 2009

WORLD BOOK DAY(23rd April,2009)

Science Communication amongst Children : Challenges and Prospects
Dr. Manoj Patairiya
Director (Scientist 'F')
National Council. for Science & Technology Communication
Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India
Technology Bhavan, New Mehrauli Road, New Delhi 110016 (India
Phone: +91-11-26537976, 26590238; Fax :26866675
Email : <mkp@nic.in> <manojpatairiya@yahoo.com>
Website : <www.dst.gov.in> <www.iscos.org>

          The World Science Report of UNESCO states, literacy understood as an everyday working knowledge of science, is as necessary as reading and writing (literacy in the commonly understood sense) for a satisfactory way of life in the modern world. Scientific literacy is necessary for there to be a capable workforce, for the economic and healthy well-being of the social fabric and every person, and for the exercise of participatory democracy. It also implies the ability to respond to the technical issues that pervade and influence our daily lives. It rather points out to the comprehension of what might be called the scientific approach, or the scientific way of conduct, or even the method of science. The major segment of these efforts is also focused upon children, as we need to them young to be able to change the country to be a nation of scientifically aware and attitudinally rational people.

          There has been a common belief more -recently that only things having commercial and economic viability will sustain in today fast advancing world that is governed and influenced by commercial and economic factors. The issue of increasing influence of commerce on scientific research and development and problems arising thereof has been the focus of the policy makers and media recently. A step ahead, the efforts directed towards science communication amongst children can someway influence the way we think and behave. Such efforts may also lead to enabling them to take informed and rational decisions in their day to day life without any bias or prejudice and that is the spirit of scientific temper.

          Most of the time, we have been debating on various aspects of communication. When a communicator tries to make it in most cases it turns out as As a contrast, when you try to make it it may turn up as or The real challenge lies in making a balance between both of them, so that it may become scientifically accurate at one hand and palatable to the children on other. Science communication may also be clearly understood in its broad perspective, technical communication and popular communication being sub-sets. More impetus is required to be on popular science communication to improve scientific literacy in the country, especially amongst young people.


          It emerged that technical science communication is directed towards dissemination of scientific research especially to the experts such as research papers, research journals, seminar proceedings, etc. Popular science communication has less well-defined goals. It serves the practical function of building the foundation of public awareness on which technical science communication is based but it fulfils other roles as well. It provides trustworthy knowledge about the world and out selves and it is a source of excitement. It helps us develop an attitude of critical rationality and it is a source of non-partisan expertise, a necessity in an age when governments and other organizations require scientific advice when taking many decisions. Popular science is public oriented, not proprietary. Some of its objects include, wealth creation, improving health, preserving the environment, and developing scientific attitude and so on. Society needs both kinds of science communication for its overall development.

          Developmental change emerges within specific economic, social, and ideological contexts, and in turn reshapes the thinking and working of institutions as well as individuals. Awareness and more precisely, the scientific and technological awareness can bring about these positive changes in an appropriate manner. The last two decades have been characterized by the rapid development of new scientific and technological advancements across a wide range of fields. Access to these advancements is distributed very unevenly within the country. Even people in far flung areas often lack access not only to leading edge technologies, but also modern scientific knowledge. Overcoming problems of access to these technologies and knowledge is important for economic and social growth.

          Basic sciences are attracting little talent nowadays for pursuing research and higher studies. It is a matter of grave concern that many of the science departments at undergraduate level are left with substantial number of vacant seats for lack of interest by the younger generation in science. This may lead to a crisis in the area of science and technology and so as in the area of science communication. Induction of a good quantum of talent in science and technology may explicitly or implicitly lead to enhanced scientific awareness. Incidentally, the Department of Science and Technology has recently introduced a number of fellowship schemes to attract young brilliant minds towards basic sciences, such as INSPIRE.

          Some of other challenges that come to the fore are : to arrive at a consensus over quantum of minimum science, ways and means for linking scientific awareness with education campaigns, to cope up with stereotype science education, to develop a science fun learning culture, resolving the gap! conflict between scientists and communicators, forging connecting links between scientific information and development, etc. A fine blend of scientific knowledge and a scientific bent of mind holds the key to develop a problem solving approach and create a conducive environment for the overall child development.

- Manoj Patairiya


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