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Title: Ways and means of increasing interest in Science Education in Asia Prof' Dr' M' Shamsher Ali Preside


1
Ways and means of increasing interest in Science
Education in Asia Prof. Dr. M. Shamsher
Ali President, Bangladesh Academy of
Sciences and Vice-Chancellor, Southeast
University, Bangladesh
2
1.Introduction Since mathematics is
the language of science, I shall in this article
include mathematics education as an integral part
of science education. That interest in science
education has dwindled globally. There are many
reasons for the lack of interest in science
education. The responsibility for this does not
lie merely with students a major part of it lies
with us, the teachers. Thus, it is the teachers
who need to address the issues of creating
interest in science particularly in the countries
of Asia which can not import costly equipment
from outside but still has had one of the finest
traditions of producing rare geniuses in
mathematics and science. The question that I
would like deal with is how to increase the
interest in science education in Asia. The ways
and means that I would suggest would only be
indicative but not at all exhaustive.
3
2. Ways and means of increasing interest in
Science Education Some of these ways and means
are a) Observance of the birthdays of the
luminaries of science This practice is followed
by people in Arts and Humanities to create great
public interest in the literary works of the past
and the present through holding birth
anniversaries of people who have attained great
heights in Art and Literature. A similar example
can be followed by scientists who could, for
example, observe the birthdays of Newton,
Faraday, Pasteur, Einstein, Watson Crick and
many others through holding public lectures in
easy parlance explaining how science has changed
our ways at looking at our own lives and the
universe around us. School and College children
and also the members of public would greatly
benefit from these lectures which could be
telecast for the nation. This brings us to the
role of the media (TV, Radio Internet) in
promoting science education.
4
b) Role of media in promoting science
education Today a large number of lectures
prepared by grand masters of science can be
stored in CDs and DVDs for distribution to a
wider section of the masses who otherwise would
not have been exposed to such materials. Since in
all countries of Asia the use of the Radio and
Television and also the internet has been
gradually increasing, it is only imperative that
Governments in Asia have a separate Knowledge
Network in which the explaining of science for
the betterment of life and environment could be
done in a very fruitful manner. The countries of
Asia could also exchange materials to be shared
in the Knowledge Network these materials could
then be translated or dubbed in local language.
Programmes prepared in English would have a wider
circulation.
5
c) Science Exhibitions and Technology Parks
as promoters of Science Education All countries
in Asia should give considerable emphasis of
holding of science exhibition publicly so that
children can display their query based innovation
and make the public more interested in science.
At this point I reminded of Nobel Laureate
Richard Ernst, who visited this country some time
ago. He informed us that even in Switzerland
science camps are setup at prominent places in
the city so as to attract way farers to the
science camps. If Switzerland can do this why
cant countries of Asia do the same? Apart from
science exhibition the setting up the technology
parks can also act as promoters of science and
technology education.
6
We may enumerate a number of other ways of
creating interest in science education but the
real challenge in Asia is to produce a set a
teachers who can enkindle the fire of imagination
and enquiry in the minds of children. Such
teachers are not always born they have to be
trained. They may be given some special
pedagogical guidance. In what follows, we would
outline some multidisciplinary methods of
creating interest in science and mathematics
education which would have an element of fun and
delight in it and at the same time would be easy
and relevant to life and environment. We start
with mathematics education.
7
3. Interest in Mathematics Education One of
the ways of creating interest in mathematics
education is through generating interest in
geometry. Incidentally, the secrets of all life
forms are also embedded in the tiniest of spaces
in the double helical geometrical structure of
the hereditary blue print of life, the Master
Molecule DNA. The interesting thing about
geometry is that the teaching of geometry is not
costly at all. The simple geometrical models that
one needs can be constructed easily with the
locally available materials. This session is to
address hands-on projects also. What better
hands-on projects in geometry could be than to
ask the school children to play with either an
ice-cream cone or a cone made with clay and an
ordinary blade and then to cut several sections
of the cone. We talk of conic sections a point,
a straight line, a circle, a parabola, a
hyperbola are all examples of conic sections
whose mathematical equations are taught at
various levels at schools and colleges.
8
But very few teachers really bother to ask the
students to make cones of clay the apex of the
cone is ideally located at a point. One could
draw a straight line at any point of the surface.
One could cut a section parallel to the base and
get a circle. If this cut is done a little
obliquely, an ellipse will be obtained. Similarly
one can get a parabola and a hyperbola when one
makes sections, which touch the base. This is fun
and delight, which can be realized even while one
is drinking from a glass of water.
9
By tilting the glass one can look at the top of
the tilted surface, which would now appear to be
elliptical. With further tilt, the ellipse is
always there but this time is slightly more
elongated. And still on further tilt, the ellipse
would grow further narrower and narrower finally
the ellipse would degenerate into a pair of
straight lines. Mathematically, this is realized
by noting that the form of the ellipse is given
by the equation where a and b are the
lengths of the major and minor axes. The major
axis a is very large when the ellipse is highly
thin or drawn out. Then
and one gets , or y2 b2, or y
b. Thus one notices two lines with y b and
y -b above and below the axis of the ellipse,
respectively.
10
This is again fun and one can see mathematics
in action. A point that should be highlighted by
teachers is that it is not only humans that make
use of geometry the other lower forms of life
find geometry as very essential to their
existence. An example may make this point clear.
Imagine a rectangular room in which a wasp
is sitting at the center of one wall. Exactly on
the opposite point is sitting a fly. Commonsense
dictates that if the wasp has to prey on the fly,
it has to take the shortest route which could be
down, straight and up or up, straight and down or
side ways, side ways and sideways on both sides
in an Euclidean fashion.
11
In practice, the wasp does not follow the
Euclidean Geometry it follows a path, which is
curved and touches four walls including the roof.
It can be verified by drawing the room on a
reasonable scale that this curved path is
actually smaller than the Euclidean routes
described. This is the geodesic of the wasp.
The idea of a wasp following geodesic may sound
strange but nature is stranger than fiction. An
aspect of geometry, which may fascinate young
minds, is the running of parallel and
anti-parallel helices in DNA, and the way in
which the DNA codes for all characteristics of
life in a tiny volume showing that the geometry
of life is more fascinating than that one
observes externally.
12
Again, through a discourse of geometry and by
having reference to the shapes and sizes of
biological objects (there are thirty million life
forms in nature and we have studied only five
million so far), one comes across a stupendous
variety in the geometry of shapes of these forms
and one may wonder whether this stupendous
variety is really necessary. Shakespeare in
Julius Caesar (act 4, scene 3) mentioned long
ago. …and nature must obey necessity. Many
things can be obtained further from this
statement when one studies the shapes of plants
and animals in different areas of the world.
The thorny spikes of plants in desert places
remind one that the plants cannot afford to loose
water so the surface area is minimized and
nature must obey necessity. In this connection
students may be reminded of the Fibonacci
Numbers 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13….
13
If one looks at the geometrical structure of
sunflowers and pineapples, the proportions in
which the different petals and edges are
rearranged are in a Fibonacci fashion. A similar
structure can be observed if one studies the
patterns in nature, which give a wonderful
illustration of bionics. If one looks at the
Bawa bird and looks at the way its nest is
prepared, one is forced to believe that it
challenges the work of a modern architect. Its
complicated, light and can endure severe
tornadoes. The birds do it by instinct. Men
devise the utility of geometry through reasoning.
In this connection one may be reminded of the
discovery of Fractals.
14
Benoit Mandel coined the word Fractal in 1975
from Latin word Fractus which describes broken up
and irregular stone. Fractals are geometrical
shapes that contrary to those of Euclid are not
regular at all. They are irregular all over and
the same degree of irregularity exists in all
scales. A fractal object looks the same when
examined from far away and nearby. The difference
between classical and fractal geometry lies in
their opposed notion of dimension. In standard
geometry, dimensions come only in whole numbers
a straight line has dimension 1, a plane has
dimension 2, a solid has dimension 3.
15
But fractals as they have fragmented, broken
edges also have fractional dimensions. Strange
twilight zones have dimensions of 1.67, 2.60 and
log(2e) 1. One might think dimensions might
have to be whole numbers, line is a line and the
surface is a surface. But a Hilbert curve can
result by progressively dividing a square into
smaller squares and connecting the centers with a
continuous line. After a few reiterations, the
line formed by the centers approaches two
dimensional surface even though the line doesnt
close back upon itself. Its not a true bounded
plane. A fractal can be seen as a visual
representation of a simple numerical function
that has been reiterated, repeated again and
again. The Mandel Brot set as explained by him
is a set of complex numbers, which have the
property that you make a certain operation, take
the square. You take a number Z, you take the
square of Z and add C.
16
Then you square the result you check to see
whether you have gone outside circle of radius 2
and you plot this on a graph. As you keep going,
the set becomes drawn with great and greater
detail. But all you are doing is multiplying
something by itself and adding itself that is Z2
C. Everything squared C everything squared
C It may be difficult for a teacher to teach
the concept of fractional geometry but it is
quite easy to point out that nature uses a
language namely fractional geometry to produce
many of its products. The fractals can be found
everywhere in nature and Mandel Brot has produced
an explanation which, when graphed by the
computer, mimics the fractal structure of natural
phenomena as diverse as trees, river, human
vascular systems, clouds, coast lines, mammalian
brain form etc. Fractals, Mandel Brot said are
the very substance of our flesh.
17
John Milner of the Institute of advance studies
printed out that, fractal may give us a more
realistic human lung system than conventional
geometry does. Think of the very fine blood
vessels and air channels inter connecting with
each other in a complicated pattern. This does
not make any sense at all from the point of view
of classical geometry, where you study smooth,
differentiable objects, but the lung structure
can be described very fruitfully as a type
fractal set.
Cauliflower A natural fractal
18
Mathematics is seen by many as a very dry subject
in the world of art and music. But little do
people realize that the question of beauty in all
artwork is intricately related to the concept of
symmetry, which results from a special branch of
mathematics dealing with Group Theory. Hermann
Weyl in his book on symmetry explains that
symmetry is used in every day language in two
meanings. One, geometrical symmetry meaning
something well proportioned, well balanced and
symmetry denotes that sort of concordance of
several parts by which they integrate into a
whole. Beauty is bound up with symmetry. Without
any formal lessons about symmetry the modern
artist uses different kinds of symmetry in his
artwork. For example, bilateral symmetry is so
conspicuous in the structure of higher animals,
specially the human system.
19
In fact, if one thinks about a vertical plane
through the middle of the nose and if one knows
the structure of the face on one side of the
plane, that on the other can immediately be
reconstructed. The other forms of symmetry, which
the artist exploits unknowingly, are translation
symmetry and rotational symmetry the idea of
translation symmetry is simply that if an object
has translation symmetry then by merely shifting
it laterally, one would not know at all about the
shift. This would be true of infinitely large
wallpaper with designs in it. If the wallpaper is
really long enough, by shifting the wallpaper the
design would not be altered. In the case of a
wallpaper of limited length this would not hold
because of the special marking of the designs at
the two ends of the wall.
20
The spherical symmetry which has been a very
favorite concept for artists of all times simply
means that if one has a perfectly spherical ball
and it has been rotated through any diameter of
the sphere then it is virtually impossible to
know whether a sphere has at all been rotated or
not. Thus, symmetries are also inherent in the
laws of the small, which are dealt with in
Quantum Mechanics. There are many other kinds
of symmetries that can be visualized in the
structure of different shells, snow flakes,
leaves etc group theory which enables one to
understand the symmetries of nature on both large
and small scales can be taught in an abstract
fashion alright but it can also be taught with
interesting reference to life forms around us.
Starfishes which attract tourists on the beaches
are all examples which can be shown as
realizations of certain kinds of Group Theoretic
Structures.
21
So far we have referred to the application
aspects of mathematics. But the aspect of
mathematics that must not be forgotten is its
appeal to logic and analyticity. Mathematics is
not only doing sums and this is where the
students are bogged down. Mathematics enables one
to acquire an analytical frame of mind and to
argue logically. It has been found that
mathematically minded analysts should be the best
expositors of logic no matter where that logic
holds. No wonder politicians who, in general,
have no mathematical background cannot reason out
on many occasions and as a result take recourse
to emotional appeal of the sort used by Mark
Antonio in Julius Caesar. The world would be a
much better place to live in if the logic of
mathematics found its expression in public
dealings also. Many often view mathematics as
brainteasers but one does not realize that the
logic inherent in the brainteasers is actually
the logic that drives the electronic circuits and
computer network. The logic is simply of FALSE
and TRUTH. Here one may be reminded of one simple
brain teaser a man proceeds to a city A and
while driving to that city he comes to a
roundabout in which he has either to take a right
or left turn to that city.
22
Unfortunately the road sign has been blown off by
the wind. He could ask the petrol station on the
left or on the right and find out whether he has
to turn to left or right. He has been advised
that the people on one side always speak the
truth and those on the other side tell lie. Now,
how does he find out about the right direction by
posing one question to people there on either
side of the road? We all know the right question
should be which way the people on the other side
of the road would point me to the city A?
Obviously, he has to take the opposite of the
answer. Now, in this very example, one is dealing
with logic and it is logic that is at the heart
of operation of modern electronic circuitry. Many
tend to think that people having good commonsense
should not have problems in comprehending how
mathematics works. Although there is quite some
truth in this, the fact remains that mathematics
often defeats common sense. An example could make
this point clear. Consider the circumference of
the earth, which is approximately twenty five
thousand miles.
23
Now, a student may be asked the following
question if you take a string which is larger
than the circumference of the earth only by 25
feet and make a concentric circle around the
circumference of the earth, there will be a gap
between the two concentric circles. Now, could an
orange pass through this gap? Common sense says
that it would be almost impossible to do so. The
common thinking is that the extra 25 feet length
of the second circle concentric to the earth
circle will be so distributed that there would
hardly be any gap for a pea to pass through.
Mathematics says otherwise. Let ?r be the gap
between the two concentric circles. And if r and
r ?r be the two radii of the two concentric
circles,
r
24
Then, Thus five 9 inches footballs could be
passed through the said gap! Mathematics is not
always commonsense. The language of nature is
basically mathematical and logic is the kingpin
of mathematics. The logic of mathematics can be
entertaining also. An interesting example can be
the following. A person A meets his old college
friend B at a market place after a long time. A
asks B, I gather that you have married do you
have children? B replied Yes, I have 3
children. What are their ages, A asked. B
said, We were both students of mathematics so,
you have to figure out the ages, yourself I
shall of course, give you some tips.
25
The first tip B gives to A is the product
of the three ages is thirty six. That is not
enough and you know it also, said A. B now gives
a second tip, the sum of their ages is the roll
number you had in your college. A now ponders
for a moment and says that something else is
required. Then B gives the last tip, today is my
eldest sons birthday, I am going to by him some
musical equipment. A now immediately figures out
the ages of the three children without any
further delay. But how? The reader would do well
to determine the ages and find out that the logic
is very entertaining indeed! The greatest
challenge of mathematics teachers is to unfold to
the students the language and the logic of
mathematics through fun and delight and in ways
directly comprehensible to the students. In this
age of computer technology, we are talking of
various types of software but there is nothing
like the pleasure of understanding mathematics as
the logical software behind the working of
nature. Fishes provide an interesting example of
the geometrical programming of nature.
26
Fishes
27
One may ask if there are any mathematical
relations governing growth and form. A straight
answer may be difficult to give. As Darcy
Thompson pointed out in his book titled On Forms
and Shapes, that in case of fishes, the shape of
one can be related to that of another by
mathematical transformation. If a little oceanic
fish by the name of Argyropelecus olfersi is
placed on a Cartesian paper and if its outline is
transferred to a system of oblique coordinates
whose axes are inclined at an angle of 700, then
we get the mathematical figure of a fish which
actually represents a simple shear of the first
fish.
28
But it is indeed fascinating to note that such a
fish by the name of sternoplys diaphana actually
exists in nature. No wonder Dirac, the celebrated
theoretical physicist of all times pointed out
that God is the greatest mathematician. The
humans have discovered through the discovery of
force laws and the way numbers work in nature
that without the use of mathematics, life forms
would find it difficult to survive. So far we
have considered the ways and means of teaching
mathematics, the language of science in an
interesting manner. Let us now turn to interest
in science education.
29
4. Interest in Science Education During the
last few decades, the development of science and
technology has been so rapid, that it is becoming
gradually difficult for a teacher to cope with
such developments. Should the teacher be
conversant with all the scientific development
and teach all of those? This may sound to be a
difficult question. But the answer is simple. The
teacher may want to know many thing but (s)he
should not attempt to teach the students
everything under the sun. (S)he should teach them
the very basics on which the whole edifice of
science hinges, e.g. the conservation laws of
nature, the least principles of nature namely the
principle of least path, the principle of least
energy, principle of least action, the symmetry
principles in science, the multi-disciplinary
nature of science etc.
30
A science teacher should consider himself or
herself successful if (s)he has been able to make
his/her students ask the right question at the
right time. The principal goal of the science
teacher would be to generate a spirit of enquiry
in the minds of the students. Not all enquires
can be satisfied with words. Action is needed.
Science is not merely talking. Science is doing
things. But doing things for what? The answer is
for verifying how Nature works. And who should
do these things. Again, the answer is Yes for
students and No for teachers. In doing
scientific experiments, it must be ensured that
students are the key players and teachers are
passive watchers. Even for doing very simple
things, students need some equipment. And it is
in respect of equipment that a sorry state of
affairs exists in the schools and colleges of
developing countries. True, equipment costs
money.
31
The effort then should be to do the same set of
science experiments as is performed in developed
countries, but using local materials in the
students own environment. Experiments thus
designed, have to be innovative in nature and
must have the potential for attracting students
through elements of fun and delight. For example,
for the purposes of creation and of sound in a
media, tuning forks imported from abroad may not
be necessary in a rural setting a mango seed
with a little opening in it can act as an
excellent material for the vibration of air and
creation of sound two children can dive into a
pond and while under water at a distance from one
another, one can make a sound by clapping his
hands and the other can hear it these kinds of
things are fun and delight and make science easy
and attractive. Similarly, the demonstration of
the working principles of the flight of an aero
plane or the flight of a bird (which led to the
idea of the flight of an aero plane) can be made
by holding a sheet of paper before a running
table fan. On the curved sheet of paper
(resembling the wings of the plane), there is a
net upward thrust which keeps it upward thus the
basic scientific principle in the flight of the
plane is simple the rest is the matter of
involved technologies.
32
That water finds its own level is another
experiment that can be performed using local
pottery rather than imported glassware and the
students can have fun when they pour water into
the following pitchers having openings at
different heights. Figure Two pitchers
having openings at different heights.
33
The abovementioned simple principle namely water
finds its own level has profound applications in
the dredging of rivers. Dredging a river is of no
use unless a slope exists in the river bed --- a
point often missed out by administrators and
politicians. Similarly the law of cooling can be
verified by a student who could put some boiling
water in two buckets, and in one of the buckets
some water at room temperature could be added to
one of the buckets. The student could then verify
by measuring the temperature of water in both
buckets and find out that the one that has high
temperature water is cooling faster. This is one
of the simplest hands-on projects that one can
think of.
34
Another interesting hands-on science experiment
could be the measurement of Youngs Modulus, not
of a steel wire (which is one of the conventional
experiments in laboratories and does not greatly
ignite the imagination of students) but of the
biological material collagen tendon. This
experiment could demonstrate one of the
interesting examples of bio-physics and could
explain the mystery of lifting heavy weights with
the help of our muscles. The key point to note
here is that science is all around us in the form
of a wonderful interplay between living and inert
matter.
35
UNESCO, quite sometime ago, listed some 700
science experiments which everyone can do in a
book titled 700 Science Experiments. Many of
these are very interesting no doubt. But the
performing of some of these experiments involves
a cultural shock. For example, in a certain
experiment, a student has been asked to use a
beer can. The fact is that not only many people
in developing countries do not drink beer, they
simply do not know what a beer can looks like.
The materials chosen in scientific experiments,
especially in the case of improvised ones, must
be familiar and available to the students.
36
5. Teaching Science and Mathematics in an
integrated and inter-disciplinary manner. During
the last few decades, in all major scientific
developments, especially in the areas of ICT
(Information and Communication Technology) and
bio-technology including genetic engineering, the
interdisciplinary nature of science has been
brought out in a prominent way. The role of
physicists in unraveling the structures and
secrets of the DNA molecule, the role of
material scientists and of metallurgists in
devising special materials are becoming well
known. As explained earlier, even the symmetry
concepts of group theory including translational
invariance, reflection in variance, rotational
invariance and time reversal invariance are not
topics of interest to physicists and chemists but
also to artists who use some of these symmetries
(knowingly or unknowingly) in their art work, and
in their concepts of beauty.
37
Thus, the physicist teaching symmetry properties
in the laws of nature should draw the attention
of students to numerous fascinating examples of
these principles around their own life and
environment difficult things would look easy and
familiar. Now that all eyes are on Biology and
many people very rightly say that the twenty
first century might very well belong to molecular
biology and all its ramifications, let me cite an
example involving physics, biology and
environment. In a Unesco sponsored workshop at
Puna in 1986, I made a documentary film titled
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world
in which I tried to show that if a house has a
mother having a science background, then she
could explain some difficult concepts of physics,
chemistry and mathematics to her children in the
cozy environment of the garden, kitchen, drawing
room etc. In a scene in the film, a mother was
calling her son to breakfast as he had an
examination to take in the morning. The son came
downstairs running and as he touched some worm
potatoes on his plate on the dining table, he
said Ma it is very warm. The mother cut the
potato with a knife into four pieces and was
fanning those.
38
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39
When the son returned home, the mother eagerly
asked him how was your exam? the son replied,
It was all right Ma, but there was an odd
question which I could not reply in the question
it was asked why is it that in winter, we curl
up our bodies while sleeping in bed, while in
summer, we stretch our hands and feet while
resting.
40
(No Transcript)
41
(No Transcript)
42
The mother said you could not answer only one
question dont be upset about this. Then I
appeared in the film and explained that the
mother could have taught her son the answer to
this question at the breakfast table.
Figure A Sliced Potato
43
As the mother sliced the potato into four pieces,
she was unknowingly but with a cultural practice,
generating more and more surfaces for the potato
to give out heat and cool down fast it is known
that the amount of heat an object exchanges with
its surroundings depends on the surface area of
the object. In winter, we curl up our bodies in
order to reduce the surface areas of body so that
we can remain warm. In summer, we maximize the
area, by stretching our arms and legs, so that we
lose more heat and keep cool. This simple
principle of heat exchange is also operative at
the very root of different shapes and sizes of
biological objects. Polar bears are large as
they have smaller surface areas compared to their
volume whereas desert bears are small having
large surface areas compared to their volumes.
Their shapes and sizes are commensurate with the
environment they are in. These matters of biology
and biodiversity and of thermodynamic principles
in physics are interconnected with each other
these things should be taught by the science
teacher in an interesting manner.
44
An interesting example of the (interdisciplinary)
nature of science and mathematics can be cited
while teaching matrices. Most of the students
know a matrix as being an array of numbers and
also are familiar with the addition and
multiplication of matrices etc. But when asked to
cite some (from life or nature) applications of
matrices, many seem to be groping for examples.
That the bus conductor follows a matrix while
collecting bus fares is not known to many .Also,
the following energy conversion matrix could
prove to be of immense interest to
mathematicians, physicists as well as energy
planners. One matrix could speak a million words.
45
Matrices
46
Magnetohydrodynamics Table Energy Conversion
Matrix
47
Examples of matrix elements a fire fly
Chemiluminescence


48
Solar cell (Matrix element Electromagnetic to
electrical)
49
Hydro electrical Plant
50
Matrix element Kinetic to electrical
51
There can be nothing more innovative than
making the children understand the fact that
nature works according to laws of science, and
that the very observant of the working of nature
can identify nature in the role of a teacher. In
fact, a good student of science, even at very
advanced stages, learns only a limited amount of
science from teachers and text-books, but can
learn a lot by simply looking at nature. The
teachers of science would do well to make the
students treat nature as teacher. 6. NATURE AS
TEACHER Consider for example a pond which is
found in almost all countries. A pond can be a
very good example of studying numerous flora and
fauna.
52
King fisher
53
Insects walking on the water surface of the pond
using the property of surface tension of
water.
54
Frogs spawning in masses of grey jelly floating
on the warm water.
55
Tadpoles wriggling among the weeds.
56
Water snails on the edge of the pond or on the
stems of water plants, devouring all kinds of
rotting matter and keeping the water of the pond
clean.
57
Water snake swimming gracefully.
58
Pond-beatles attacking smaller creatures
savagely.
59
Pond Skate gliding on the water.
60
Water scorpions
61
Water spider
62
Brilliant dragon-flies
63
Water lilly
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Duckweed
65
Water hyacinths
66
All the organisms that dwell in the pond may
serve to give an illustration of bio-diversity
existing even in a limited area of nature.
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68
So far we have discussed the instructional
management of the sheep (the students) it would
be in order to say a few words about the
management of the shepherds (teachers)
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7. From the management of the sheep to that of
the shepherds Tending sheep has been regarded
as a holy job and most of the Prophets who were
given Divine Messages were regarded basically as
teachers (Ustads) and were shepherds. The
teachers of all subjects in general, and of
science and mathematics in particular, must be
accorded the honor for meeting the challenges of
the times. They must also be given incentives. In
this connection, I am reminded of a book titled
The Man Who Counted authored by Malba Tahan3.
In this book which is a collection of
mathematical adventures, is given the legend of
Beremiz Samir who, coming from the village of
Khoi in Persia, was a shepherd and used to tend
vast flocks of sheep.
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For fear of losing lambs and therefore being
punished, he counted them several times a day. He
became so good in counting, that he could count
all the bees in a swarm and all the leaves in a
tree. Satisfied with his mathematical agility his
master granted him four months leave. During
this leave he showed wonderful feats to many, and
finally was offered the post of Vizier by Caliph
al-Mutasim of Baghdad. But Samir did not accept
the post. Science and Mathematics teachers do not
want to be Viziers but they at least want to be
paid reasonable salaries so that for purposes of
meeting the costs of living, they do not take up
many jobs and can remain faithful to one
profession only, namely teaching.
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In some of the countries of Asia and presumably
of other continents, teachers salaries are very
low, and as a result they often do other jobs to
the detriment of their own profession. This
practice must be stopped. A recommendation that
could be made in respect of salaries of science
and mathematics teachers is that once a teacher
is evaluated for his qualification, experiences
and teaching potential, his salary could remain
the same whether he works in a school, college or
university. In other words, a teacher should be
judged by his intrinsic merit and not by the
place he is working in. Universities cannot
flourish if schools are neglected. We must
remember the saying The battle of Waterloo was
won in the playground of Eton.
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8. Conclusion Science and mathematics are the
essential tools for the study of nature. While
utmost care should be taken to attract students
to these basic subjects through teaching in a
delightful manner, the teachers to be appointed
must be selected very judiciously. And once
selected, his salary structure must be logical.
It would be a great irony if teachers responsible
for upholding the logic of science and
mathematics are themselves not dealt with in a
logical way.
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Talking of logic which connects science with
mathematics, one might come forward and say
rather pessimistically what is the use of
teaching logic in the present day world where
force is prevailing over logic? In this
connection, I would like to narrate a story told
in the book of Malba Tahan A lion, a tiger and
a jackal hunted a sheep, a pig and a rabbit. The
tiger was given the responsibility by the lion of
dividing the prey amongst themselves. The tiger
gave the tastiest of the prey, the sheep, to the
lion, kept the dirty pig for himself and gave the
miserable rabbit to the jackal. The lion was very
angry at this division and said who has ever
seen three divided by three giving a result like
that?
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Raising his paw, the lion swiped the head of the
unsuspecting tiger so fiercely that he fell dead
a few feet away. The lion then gave the charge of
the division to the jackal who, having already
witnessed the tragedy of the tiger said to the
lion, the sheep is a feed worthy of a king, the
appetizing pig should be destined for your royal
plate. And the skittish rabbit with its large
ears is a savory bite for a king like you. The
lion praised the jackal and asked him how he
learnt this kind of division of three by two so
perfectly! The jackal replied I learnt from the
tiger. In the mathematics of the strong, the
quotient is always clear while to the weak must
fall only the remainder.
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The ambitious jackal felt that he could live in
tranquility only as a parasite, receiving only
the leftovers from the lions feast. But he was
wrong. After two or three weeks, the lion, angry
and hungry, tired of the jackals servility ended
up killing him, just as he had the tiger. Thus,
the division of three by two realized with no
remainder could not save the jackal. This story
contains a moral lesson adulators and
politicians who move obediently in the corridors
of the powerful may gain something in the
beginning but in the end, they are always
punished. Therefore, there is no use in going
away from logic which is so inherent in science
and mathematics. The greater the number of people
who follow logic, the safer will be our earth to
live in.
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(The author is President, Bangladesh Academy of
Sciences and Vice Chancellor, Southeast
University, Dhaka)
77
References 1 Symmetry by Herman Weyl,
Princeton University Press, Princeton, New
Jersey, 1952 2 700 Science Experiments for
everyone, compiled by UNESCO, Doubleday and
Company, Inc, Garden City, New York, 1958. 3
The Man who Counted by Malba Tahan, W.W. Norton
Company, USA, 1994.
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