More than three quarters of schools in the country do not have fully equipped science laboratories for students
in class 11 and 12, a survey of 2.4 lakh secondary and senior secondary schools has found. For classes 9 and 10, where an integrated science module is taught to students, over 58% schools don't have the requisite lab.
"This is an atrocious state of affairs," says a sad Professor Yashpal, scientist and former chairman of the UGC. He was instrumental in setting up India's space programme in 1972 and has been one of India's most well known science communicators.
"Everybody knows the importance of labs in science teaching. But learning science has been reduced to mugging up things. Policy makers should step in immediately to rectify this situation," he said.
The shocking state of science teaching at the school level contrasts with the high profile science education and research institutions at the top, like IITs, IISc, and others. Across the world, practical work in well equipped labs is considered essential for science teaching.
The survey was carried out under the Unified District Information System on Education (UDISE) and data analysed by the Delhi based National University for Educational Administration and Planning (NUEPA). The report was released recently.
In several states the situation is much worse than what the national average indicates. In Karnataka, just 6% of schools have fully equipped labs for senior students while in Andhra Pradesh, the share is a mere 13%. The other two southern states have better share of schools with equipped labs - 34% in Kerala and 38% in Tamil Nadu.
In Assam, just 4% schools have labs while in West Bengal the share of such schools is only 6%. Smaller states and union territories like Delhi, Puducherry, Chandigarh, Goa and even Manipur have relatively higher proportion of schools with labs for senior students.
Perhaps this dire situation is there because there are no science students? Although this in itself would be a matter of serious worry, but data in the same report shows that over 5.4 million students study science. That's more than one third of the total students covered in the survey. Note that these students are spread over all the schools. In fact, 43% of schools offer the science stream to senior students, as reported in the survey report.
In fact the lack of science facilities would be forcing students, especially in rural areas, to abandon any dreams of studying science.
The situation appears to be slightly better at the previous level of study, classes 9 and 10. But considering that the integrated science paper is compulsory at this level, this improved situation is illusory. More than half the students of classes 9 and 10 are learning science without labs. This itself would discourage them from pursuing science further.