Reach of education should be extended: Oz expert

A systematic way to expand the scale of operations is essential for a vast country like India to ensure that quality education reaches right beneficiaries, said internationally-acclaimed scientist and Senior Fellow at Questacon, Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre Dr Stuart Kohlhagen PSM on Sunday.

“Like many other sectors, the enormous population is the biggest challenge India faces in delivering quality education to the grassroots. But students across the country are motivated and they are the biggest asset for India. Their willingness to learn makes them well placed to pick up simple innovations in addition to formal knowledge to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving abilities,” he said.

Also known as ‘The Science Nomad’, Dr Kohlhagen was interacting with Deccan Chronicle on the sidelines of a week-long workshop, ‘Mathematics and Computational skills development project’, as part of the nation-wide Australia Fest, a six-month celebration of Australian culture and creativity in India. 

At the workshop, science and mathematics models are being developed through interactions with 36 educators and curators from various science centres, which fall under the National Council of Science Museums. Dr Kohlhagen is leading various training sessions to equip delegates with skills to engage students. Later, these models will be deployed in different parts of the country to help students pick up skills in addition to their regular curriculum.

“These models open ways to encourage educators and students to think differently. It is not necessary that they teach a new topic or a concept, but we aim to foster investigation and inquiry among young minds to ensure that they take the right path towards real innovation,” he said.

‘Encouraging participative approach a game changer’
Asked what is a possible solution to reduce fear among students towards mathematics and science, Dr Kohlhagen said that a participative approach would be a game changer. “Students should be encouraged to experience principles behind mathematics rather than being forced to do the mechanics of the subject. When concepts are introduced in an accessible manner, like games completely avoiding exam and assessment-related anxiety, they will gain confidence and show interest towards understanding mathematical relationships. It is high time we realise that once the capability of resilience is lost, learning reaches a dead end,” he explained. The workshop, which will continue till Tuesday at the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, is organised by the Australian High Commission. It is among 75 other events taking place in 20 different cities of the country till March 30, 2019.

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