SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Written by on November 29, 2010

LINKING SCIENCE EDUCATION TO A LONG TERM ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

Science Education in Elementary Schools

The Government of Grenada has indicated plans to introduce science education earlier in Grenada's elementary school curriculum.  This is a very important initiative and the Government must be commended for this decision.  Although this is necessary and vitally important, it is, however, not sufficient.

I am not an educator, but I believe that introducing the study of scientific concepts to kids in elementary schools is an excellent idea and one that can have significant benefits; including a major positive impact on the long term economic development of Grenada.

Leveraging children's natural curiosities in the Teaching of Science

The teaching of science and the associated lab demonstrations and studies should leverage children's natural curiosities regarding how things work and encourage them to be inquisitive.  Scientific teaching should never be about memorizing formulas and equations but about learning, deriving and applying scientific theories to understand and explain real life phenomena and occurrences.

An early science education program should start with the identification of the most important concepts to be taught at the elementary level.  Laboratory studies should then be developed or selected to specifically help children learn these concepts.

Examples of important concepts may include topics such as density, growth and development (leveraging Grenada's agriculture and botanical variety), ecosystems (leveraging Grenada's marine ecosystem), gravity, thermal conductivity, speed and inertia, aerodynamics, directionality of forces, etc.

These may sound complicated, but they are basic scientific concepts that help with the understanding and explanation of many of the natural curiosities of children.  For example "what happens when bread is baked in an oven", "what's the reason for adding salt to the ice when making ice cream", "how does a microwave oven work",  "what makes a kite fly", etc?

Scientific teaching in elementary schools should not just provide answers but encourage children to formulate and ask questions and motivate them to work together.  This will help to develop a better understanding of scientific concepts and principles and foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

Several schools in Grenada, and even the ministry of education, have requested support for lab equipment but few have been able to articulate an objective, strategy and/or specific needs.  For example, if schools could articulate the scientific concepts they are trying to teach, those willing to help can provide more meaningful assistance.  Maybe, for example, instead of pipettes what they really need are microscopes or imaging and optical measurement tools or petri dishes.

Nature and Grenada's Natural Advantages

Grenada has an abundance and rich variety of plant life, as well as a very interesting marine ecosystem.  These present "natural laboratories" for studies in botany, agricultural science and marine biology.  It is surprising, therefore, that in Grenada and the Caribbean in general, there is not more emphasis on and a much better strategy for including these into educational curricula at all levels.

Botany, Agricultural Science and Marine Biology should be greatly encouraged and be much more popular among Grenadian primary, secondary and tertiary students.

Why aren't more of Grenada's brightest students specializing in these subject areas?  Is it because our most talented science students are lured to physics, chemistry, IT and engineering by the dream that they will make lots of money working in the high tech industry?  Is it because those disciplines and associated businesses get more attention from the local and international media?  Is it because we have not adequately exposed our students to these subjects and highlighted the benefits that specialization in these areas can bring to themselves as well as to Grenada and the region?  I suspect all of the above, plus others.

Just as there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to start high tech businesses in Grenada, there may be even greater opportunities for entrepreneurs to start very viable businesses in marine biology (for example) by exploiting their knowledge of the local ecosystem and the natural advantages of Grenada.  In fact, to some extent, these business opportunities may offer greater potential with greater natural competitive advantages than some of the high tech opportunities being pursued by young entrepreneurs in Grenada.

Linking Science Education to an Economic Development Strategy

The government needs to develop, articulate and implement a vision and long term strategy with measurable objectives and milestones, not just for this, but for several of its initiatives.

There needs to be a vision and strategy for linking science education to a credible long term strategy for economic development.  This would require a well developed, properly managed science education initiative that includes a vision statement, objectives, implementation strategy and execution plans with milestones and performance metrics.  Having these will be necessary to measure performance and progress and help with ensuring accountability.   

Are there market segments and/or industries the administration would like to focus on as part of an economic development plan?  If so what incentives, mechanisms and infrastructural support are also being implemented or contemplated as part of this overall strategy?

Grenada needs to transition into a knowledge-based society where knowledge of science and technology can be leveraged for economic and social advancement.  The right strategy, if properly implemented will lead to significant national economic growth.

This will not happen overnight, it will take time but to get started we need vision, a strategy and effective execution.  America did not achieve global technological leadership by chance,  China did not develop into the second largest global economy by chance; and the small island nation of Singapore did not become an economic giant by chance.  It took, vision, a well developed strategy, effective implementation and leadership.


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