THE educator is as good as the knowledge he or she imparts, which is dependent on the depth of knowledge possessed. A good mathematics teacher, for instance, should be one proficient in the subject to an extent that is more than textbook deep.
The very laws that determine a formula must be understood so a child's imagination is captured. Inasmuch as a child travels round the world with the teacher in a geography lesson, understanding topography, wind movements, climates and climate changes along the way, a science or a technology teacher must be able to do the same. The laws of physics, for example, should be taught in a way that a young mind can relate to, like how the bridge they cross everyday can actually carry the user load it bears every day. The same is true for biology, chemistry and technology. In fact, this is true of all learning, including the most abstract of ideas.
It is, therefore, the perfect solution for making sure that the country produces the half a million sciences and technology graduates needed: by turning teachers themselves into scientists. Educating the educators to the highest level possible will indeed breed the expertise and depth of knowledge necessary to excite a pupil's interest in what are now unpopular subjects. Potential teachers ought to be the cream of the crop and not those who do not qualify for other disciplines at the undergraduate level. The outcome is the pervasive incompetence in the teaching profession.
Given the level of difficulty of the sciences is it any wonder that interest has tailed off the moment options are opened to pupils. To reach the targeted 60:40 ratio set by the government, therefore, although easily achieved, does not guarantee the end result. A child may be channelled towards the sciences, but performance is contingent upon the ability to properly grasp the subject. And if teachers are teaching by rote what hope is there for a student?
Indeed, it is no easy feat to produce these "scientist" teachers. Thousands are needed to produce the hundreds of thousands in human capital that will service the economy to bring the country to the next level of the value chain. In the United Kingdom every effort is put into raising the pupil's interest in the sciences. Collaboration with doctoral level students, science competitions, applying subjects to industrial reality by visiting factories and inviting relevant personnel as speakers are some of these initiatives, but in the end it is the quality of the teaching that makes the real difference.
New Straits Times Online Editorial 20 Aug 2013