Nat Geo Explorer Education Program

March 27, 2013

A member of National Geographic Explorer Education Program conducted a presentation at HBCSE a couple of days ago.  As we know the photo, video quality of Nat Geo has always been a visual treat to us. They are now exploring into the education arena with so called state-of-the-art technology.  After the seminar, during the discussion, I made quite a lot of observations and raised some concerns as well. I thought of discussing here also.

I thought, in order to create a direct impact of the life with its environment, the appropriate context needs to be defined. Although the content was encompassing the world’s geography, to me, it does not make sense if I am not aware of the geography, the life, the environment of my own surroundings, and neighbors. I recalled that in our education system, giving Western names were being criticized and it was emphasized to give names that convey about the Indian context. I thought NGX education program is repeating the same old method.

Again talking about the context, the photos of classroom learning, were shots of  Western people. And it was being contrasted with  the lack of facilities in education which were shots of poor, tribal people with ‘look of hope’ photographs.  I did not understand why do they still hold such prejudice.  (On a side note: I recalled the scene in Munnabhai MBBS, where a tourist wants to see India and he mentions that he wants to see the crying people, sad people. To which ‘circuit’ slams him by saying that all you tourist want to portray is a bad picture of India, don’t you ever see good things of India like, Taj Mahal, etc.).

My concern, was that since the program is packaged with a subscription which can also allow online content, seems to cater to elite schools in India. But the country has a huge number of govt. schools, where there are huge number of first generation learners, let alone English speaking learners, I doubt how the program could cater to such situations. The program seems to be compliant with the smartboard method of teaching. But it does not cater to a traditional chalk and talk classroom teaching which is still being practiced in many schools in the country.

Access to teacher’s handbook is mandatory, but this is possible only after subscribing with a fee. That leaves with no option for a teacher to explore the content. I also could not get a satisfactory answer when I asked whether the content was in public domain.

The presenter made a remark, that NGX education provides knowledge, and quoted KBC’s promo ‘Gyaan hi Sabkuch hai’. To me, this kinda knowledge presented is fact-based knowledge. From the presentation, there was no hint that learning can be activity based. The program is a visual treat of photos, videos, simulations, with text. However it lacks activities. When I raised this issue, the presenter mentioned that there are activities, but it needs to be done under the supervision of teachers.  Above all the presenter also asked whether the Indian textbook provides scope for activities. Immediately I clarified that the science textbooks in the country are activity based which is a direct influence of the policy document NCF 2005.

Anyways, I am still skeptical that such a program could provide support to science learning in the country’s govt. schools, given that a large number of learners are first generation learners, native language speakers, uses traditional chalk and talk method of teaching. Let me further state, that even with such situations, I think, we are certainly doing quite well.


my presentation at the annual research meet

February 18, 2010

as part of annual research meet in HBCSE, I presented the current work of my ph.d.  It was mainly focussing on “to determine a fixed set of relation names to represent secondary school level cell biology”. The abstract can be read from here.  there were useful inputs and comments on the work.

the presentation depicted the number of concepts at 8,9,11 standards and the number of relation names required to link these concepts.

concept mapping – article in indian journal

November 24, 2009

I have been always thinking to publish our research work for an Indian audience. Atleast in India, the community of educationists, teachers, etc., get to know what we are working on. With this objective, I had
submitted some preliminary findings of my Ph.D. work to an Indian Journal. The following research paper has been published in the Indian Educational Review (a journal published by NCERT).

Kharatmal M. (2009): Concept Mapping for Eliciting Students’ Understanding of Science. Indian Educational
Review. 45(2), pp.31-43.

The article is on display in our library. I have also uploaded the article which can be downloaded from the publications page of my blog

vishwakosh – vai

November 20, 2009

I happen to visit the vishwakosh (encyclopedia) office in vai on 7th nov. I was really glad to interact with the people and look at the interesting and resourceful library of classic collection and encyclopedia. It is worth visiting the library. Prof. H.C.Pradhan was discussing with Mr. Chaunde related to the biology encyclopedia.  Since i had some curiousity about it which i have also mentioned in my earlier post related to change in biological terms, I participated in their discusison. Chaunde was showing how they are managing the entries, the usage of sorting cards. The information on the sorting cards display the name of the term and also a related entry with see also. In this way, they are now trying to embedd the terms which are introduced in the textbooks. It seems that the vishwakosh project began about five years ago, the list of entries was decided but the textbook committee have overlooked this project and hence there has been discrepancies in the names of the terms. But even this problem is being handled by the vishwakosh. They are really meticulously taking care of such issues.

Over a cup of coffee, Chaunde shared his experiences about peoples responses to their work. Overall, I was satisfied with this meet, cos my quest of finding the rationale behind the change in the terms was a bit resolved.

change in the names of scientific terms in marathi textbooks

September 12, 2009

Today, discussion over lunch made me curious to find out who decides the changes in the scientific terms that are used in the textbook.

We were discussing about the Marathi Vishwakosh Project that HBCSE is involved in. In the early years of HBCSE, V G Kulkarni (Founder Director, HBCSE)  instigated the project on language in science. Since then, there are a few members who are working in this area.

Deshmukh explained the volumes of work that the project is coming up with. It has been decided to bring a separate volume for biology subject and produce it in three parts. Related to the scientific terminology, he mentioned that a few scientific terminology in marathi textbook has been changed and hence the members have to pay heed to the latest usage of the term. He gave two instances of such change: the marathi term for auricle has been changed from karnika to alind; for ventricle it has been changed from javanika to nilay;  the other instance of marathi term for skull has been changed from kavati to karkara. I was anxious to know why the name of the terms got changed, who decides that such change is required in textbook, what is the rationale behind it. May be the textbook bureau decides about these changes. Jayashree too agreed, and she added that it could be that they want to give a more specific word for a very specialized part.

But i am not yet convinced. Can a name of a scientific term change over a period of time. Well of course, if the meaning that is implied to it changes. But in this case, atleast the meanings of auricle, ventricle, skull  are not yet changed, and their english names of terms are still the same. So what makes the marathi language textbook bureau to change it. Then we thought we should check the bodies/organizations who possibly could be involved in this work. We all headed to the library, and referred a few books related to Vishwakosh, Paribhasha Granth, etc. We could find atleast two bodies who have been involved in this work since the 1970s: Bhasha Sanchalanalay (Directorate of Language); and Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya-Sanskriti Mandal (Maharashtra State Board of Literature and Culture). Perhaps one can write/meet these people and find out more.

As i am also interested in the language of science, all this discussion has made me more curious, and i am into finding out as to who decides the changes in the scientific terms and what is the rationale behind it.