Demystifying learning of mathematics and science

2010-02-26
THE PUNCH Newspaper-Niyi Odebode


Israel, in the 1940s, was a desert. It is now a leading country in high-tech, sciences and economy. There are some areas where we are the number one in the world and that we are even better than the United States. This is because of necessity. When you live in a desert, you have scarcity of anything. In Israel, we do not have enough water. We don‘t have crude oil. We do not have gold. What we have is our heads. What you are seeing in Israel today is the result of investment in sciences two or three generations ago.”

These were the words of the Regional Manager of an educational training and equipment manufacturing company, Skill ”G” Nigeria Limited, Mr. Shlomo Tzafrir, in an interview with our correspondent during a training organised for science and mathematics teachers in Osun State. The programme was held at the state education resource centre in Osogbo.

Tzafrir, whose company is handling the training of the teachers, believes that with a solid foundation in sciences, Nigeria can join the league of nations that are technologically developed. According to him, emphasis should be on practical methods of teaching and pupils should be made to perform experiments.

The Isreali explained that the kits of the company and its methods of teaching were designed according to curricula of primary and secondary schools in Nigeria.

Explaining the method of teaching, he said, ”The teacher is not teaching. He is instructing. He is executing experiments on certain topics. It brings the pupils to think by themselves. It is already being used in the United States and Isreal. Our target is the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination and the National Examination Council exam. We want pupils to have better results.”

According to him, the programme that is being implemented in Osun State is users’friendly and it promotes active teaching and learning of science and technology in schools.

Also, the state Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, said the state government engaged the Israeli company because of the urgent need to stem the tide of failure in mathematics and the sciences in external examinations.

He said, ”If children are introduced into science at the primary school level, by the time they get to secondary school, it will no longer be strange to them. Every primary and secondary school in this state will have these kits. Teachers are also being trained.

”All the nine technical colleges in Osun State will be upgraded and properly equipped with the necessary laboratories and workshops. It is our vision that graduates of these schools will become employers of labour and assets to the nation. In the developed world, middle level manpower produced by such schools form the core of employable people in the formal and the informal sectors. We believe we can make a difference in this area too.”

The company‘s Head of Marketing Project Coordinator, Mr. Julius Ayo-Bada, explained that the teachers that were being trained would teach their colleagues that did not come for the programme. According to him, the method will also be used in teaching their pupils.

He stated that the materials for experiments were called ”lab-less kits” because they were very potable and could be used anywhere by teachers and pupils.

Explaining the benefits of the project, Ayo-Bada said, ”It emphasises practical teaching. The bane of sciences in Nigeria is that pupils do not understand what they are being taught. Most people think that sciences are abstract. With the project, topics are taught through experiments and demonstrations.”

Tzafrir, who corroborated Ayo-Bada, said that apart from training teachers at the centre, the company‘s instructors had been visiting schools to see how the kits were being maintained.

He added that the instructors observed teachers and pupils while using the kits as well as evaluated them. ”We evaluate the teachers. We also evaluate the pupils,” he added.

The Israeli said that during the training at the resource centre, teachers were exposed to micro-science kits, adding that they had the opportunity of demonstrating their usage in front of their colleagues.

Ayo-Bada said that the method being used by the company had many advantages. ”It enhances the ability of the teachers to teach science in the form of direct exposure via experiments in front of their pupils.”

The Permanent Secretary of the state ministry of education, Mr. Aduande Amoo, disclosed that selected lecturers from the state-owned colleges had been trained at the centre. ”If the state government employs new teachers, we will also bring them here for training,” he added.

One of the trainees, Mr. Olabisi Mathew, a chemistry teacher from Ekejile High School in the Oriade Local Government Area of the state, commended the state government. ”We have been taught a new methodology, which is pupil-centred. You ask the pupils to perform an experiment and this will create a lasting impact on them.”

The Chairman of the state technical education board, Prof Olu Aina, in an interview with journalists, urged Nigerians to embrace technical and vocational education.

He stated that there were nine technical Colleges in the state. Aina, however, lamented that enrolment in the colleges was low.

The chairman disclosed that efforts were being made by the state government to ”reposition the colleges for proper technical education development.”

According to him, the new method of teaching will be introduced in all the colleges with the establishment of 34 laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics and ICT laboratories.

”By the next one year, the board would have been able to deliver nine excellent technical colleges to the state not only in terms of skill development/acquisition, but also as centres for the whole country‘s technical education development,” he said.

Aina further said that participants in the programme would be self-employed, adding that they would not be job seekers.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Lasisi Olagunju, said that the resource centre was part of the state government‘s plan to produce future scientists and engineers, who could compete in the global market.

 

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