Sunday, July 6, 2008

Austin Day 2

Austin Day 2 (before I left for India, obviously!!)


I never knew that there were university researchers in so many varied fields. I guess having been a natural resource major in undergrad and then an education person for grad school; I never really encountered people who do research in the social science areas who have such a specific focus.

Our lectures focused on a variety of cultural topics about India. The first was on science and religion in India. This was a very interesting topic to me since as a science teacher in the public school setting, this is something that I think about and deal with constantly. In India, there isn’t a division between science and religion. They are not seen as “against” each other they way they are here. In India, it is not necessary to believe one to the exclusion of the other and they definitely teach evolution without question or controversy.

This same lecturer also offered a really interesting perspective because she had grown up in India but moved to the US for graduate school and never left. Her research focused on feminism in science(among other topics) but even that is really an over-generalization because she looks at highly specific topics within that.  I never realized people were researching things like this but I am glad they are because it is important work! It was absolutely fascinating! She discussed that Indians and Americans really see that India is doing something “right” with science and math education and that Americans are doing something “wrong” with science and math education. She also, as I had suspected, discussed how school in India is very focused on rote memorization. So, as I thought I wanted to do a project on pedagogy (teaching and instructional methods) about India, I am not sure now. If everything is focused on memorization, how much is really happening in classrooms besides lecture? Will be a really interesting observation to make while I am in Indian classrooms.

Then, that lead me to think about how we focus so much on critical thinking and creativity. Among a variety of other social, political, cultural reasons, is that why America became a technological leader? Or, what is? We used to teach through rote memorization and that is what leads us to that? (Do I smell doctoral dissertation here?) I am really interested in this! What kind of problem solving with scientific concepts are American kids doing compared to what Indian kids are doing and how does this affect innovation in science overall? And, I know that it is important to have a solid foundational understanding of scientific concepts, but at the exclusion of critical thinking and problem solving? It is such an interesting dilemma!

We also learned more about the Indian school system in general. Largely, the schools we will be visiting will be schools of middle to upper middle class students, as I had suspected. There are still a lot of very poor people who do not have a lot of access to education for a variety of reasons, and I figured since we are studying curriculum development, we wouldn’t be in schools that weren’t teaching extensive science and math curriculum.  Indian students take an exam at the end of Year 10 and then based on the results of those exams, choose their path for years 11 and 12. Even more specifically, they choose which area of science (or other topic but I am just going to discuss science because that it what I learned about yesterday) they will focus on for the next two years and then in their undergraduate years. Once they have specialized, they are done taking any liberal arts classes and if your focus is biology, you would only take biology classes. So basically, it seemed to me, by the time kids in India have finished high school, they have probably already taken all of the equivalents of early college biology.  Interestingly, they also take chemistry, physics, and biology concurrently during their years of school before they specialize and most of them also take advanced math courses in addition to learning Hindi, English, and their own regional language.

The rest of our lectures yesterday were on Muslims in South Asia, art history of the Taj Mahal, and the Ramayana, an ancient Hindu text. They were all very interesting my brain is jam-packed with information right now! We had dinner at a Texas BBQ place that was dingy, dirty, and awesome! I love dives with good food!

So, now we begin our LONG HAUL to India! I can’t wait! It still doesn’t seem real. So, by the time you read this, I will probably be in India already! CRAZY!!! My first roommate in Delhi is a teacher named Chandra from California. She teaches math at another School to Watch!

Bon voyage!


No comments: