May 10, 2011, 2:24 PM
A five-day training of trainers workshop for teachers ended recently at the Gambia College in Brikama.
The training on introducing inquiry-based teaching and learning of science in lower basic schools in the country attracted 118 participants.
The weeklong training was organised by the Ministry of Lower Basic and Secondary Education and coordinated by the department of science and technology education.
In his address to participants at the programme, the director of science and technology education at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, Adama Jimba Jobe, emphasised the importance of science, saying genuine scientific inquiry in school science should be encouraged at all levels as a means of giving students experience in scientific procedures that epitomize the nature of science.
Mr Jobe noted that experience in scientific inquiry, in its extension to real life situations, will ensure the important interplay of science and technology with other types of knowledge and values as they are held in society.
According to him, for many students, the evidence is that "long strands were like ladders of increasing difficulty, not offset by interest and relevance." Mr Jobe noted that in The Gambia, there is evidence to suggest that fewer students than in the past are persisting with enthusiasm to climb these ladders of science.
Therefore, he said, it is necessary to "getting the balance right" between the purpose of enthusing enough students to go on to scientific and technological careers and of giving all students an interest in, and enough knowledge of science and technology to appreciate the importance of science and technology in society.
According to him, the key difficulty facing primary science education in most countries including The Gambia is the fact that the persons who become primary school teachers, as a whole, lack the confidence in and knowledge of science to teach it as intended. "Few will have studied the physical sciences in the later years of schooling or at the teacher training college (The Gambia College) and most of these teachers have no background in science or technology at all," Jobe said.
He added that some teachers choose primary teaching as a career mostly out of seriousness or lack of the appropriate alternatives and sometimes because they are interested in children rather than a subject, as science is seen to be, and they are not interested in science during their own schooling.
"More flexible curricula for science and technology in the primary years are needed that will encourage these teachers to use the full range of the skills, and that do not present science and technology as very separate and alienating areas of study," he said.
Inquiry-based approaches to teaching and learning, he added, would enhance the level of competence of teachers at this level and will contribute to their own motivation and as well help to make science an enthusing discipline for their pupils. "Introducing inquiry-based teaching and learning of science in lower basic schools across the country needs no further justification," he stressed.
Demba Ceesay, Registrar at the Gambia College, said in-service training for teachers is an integral component of teacher education as it helps dispense their services to the public in the best of their abilities.
"In-service training helps us better familiarise ourselves with government policies and teaching procedures designed to equip teachers with the right knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and skills in order to perform their function effectively in the classroom, school and the wider community," Mr Ceesay noted.