What can a scientist do?
The National Academies of the United States list four possible roles for scientists and engineers in basic education: (http://www.nas.edu/rise/roles.html)
- Working Directly with Students
- Working with Teachers
- Supporting Systemic Reform
- Helping Develop Instructional Materials
"Unlike the other roles for scientists discussed in this site, a role in developing instructional materials for K-12 science education is suitable only for a few individuals. Many of those involved in improving science education advise scientists who are interested in developing materials, "DON'T DO IT!!""
One thing I think is very important to consider in the above described roles is that these apply to the United States where local school districts are quite independent. The administrative structure of US K-12 schools is very different from that of the Philippines. Therefore, to make the descriptions of the above roles relevant, one must keep in mind this major difference and with this, some ideas may not apply.
The next question, what we have?, involves even a deeper reflection. It is also a question of where we are. In this exercise, I think we first have to realize our limitations. Without doubt, there is a dramatic difference in depth and level between research in the frontier and what students need to learn in primary and secondary education. Furthermore, mastery of content is indeed helpful, but clearly not a sufficient ingredient for a successful basic education. Scientists who have chosen to work in either national laboratories or industry have likewise reduced their exposure to formal instructional activities that are found in an academic environment. Scientists who have opted to stay in universities are also limited to an undergraduate and graduate setting, which may carry characteristics that are not directly transferable to an elementary or high school.
Nonetheless, if a scientist can indeed contribute to solving problems in education, the third question must be addressed, what could possibly be done? With this question, it becomes evident that we may have been time transported back to the time when all of us are just starting our graduate studies. Amazingly, this perspective may actually just match the fact that research in education is an emerging field. Basic education also involves a myriad of factors, a truly multivariate situation. A scientist addressing basic education really starts at looking hard at oneself in the mirror. It begins with a passion, the one that moves someone into action and reflection, but not the one that drives or defines what the desired outcomes should be. No doubt, it will take a lot of preparation and reading. There will be exploration, and, of course, missteps. But there is a reason for optimism. As James Bower pointed out: (http://www.nas.edu/rise/backg2a.htm)
"After ten years of involvement with precollege science, I have become profoundly aware of the negative effect the poor teaching of science in colleges and universities has on the rest of the educational system. In many ways, colleges and universities set the standards for the entire educational system. So, while I wish to encourage scientists to contribute to the public schools, the most significant consequence for students of this involvement may very well be fundamental reform in the way we educate our own students. After all, the curriculum we ourselves control should be the easiest to change."
It is not expected that what the National Academies of the United States suggest would directly apply to solving problems in Philippine Basic Education. But I do think that the above quote does apply.