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In Punjab govt schools, students shy of science, number hits a new low

The numbers in this year's science stream includes 3,327 admissions to meritorious schools of Punjab, where 3,600 seats for science subjects are available.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
July 18, 2018 5:46:29 am
In Punjab govt schools, students shy of science, number hits a new low Teachers and students claims that they have ample other opportunities available over science subject now. (Representational photo)

The number of students opting for the science stream in Punjab government schools has been steadily reducing, and has touched a new low this year.

Of the 1,56,979 students who took admission to Class 11 (this includes both fresh admission and failed students of class 11th exam) in the government schools under the Punjab State Education Board this year, only 9 per cent, or 14,546 students, have opted for sciences in both medical and non-medical streams.

In non-government schools including affiliated, associated and government-aided schools, nearly 34,000 students have opted for science subjects to date while over 1.60 lakh students have taken admission in such schools.

The numbers in this year’s science stream includes 3,327 admissions to meritorious schools of Punjab, where 3,600 seats for science subjects are available.

Ironically, the number of senior secondary schools offering science as a subject have gone up from 553 in 2014-15 to 588 schools in 2018-19. The total number of government senior secondary schools is 1,973. Schools too have been given the target of increasing science admissions by 20 per cent every year.

According to the available records, in the past five years, Class 11 admissions for science have been steadily coming down. But it spiked in in 2016-17, when the highest number, 21,400 students enrolled for science.

In 2014-15, the number of science students was 19,163; it rose to 21,114 in 2015-2016; to 21,400 in 2016-2017; came down to 19,143 in 2017-18. The number for this year is the lowest.

During this five-year period, the total number of students has held ranged between 1.5 lakh and 1.76 lakh.

“While the number of schools offering science stream has been increased, the number of students have decreased,” said a senior district science supervisor. Lack of infrastructure in the labs of the government schools and shortage of staff of various science subjects led students either to opt for arts, commerce or vocation courses or to opt for private schools, the official said.

“Only negligible number of students of our government schools go to the private schools after class 10th,” said Director General School education (DGSE) Punjab Parshant Kumar Goel, adding that they are focusing on Science subject too so as to increase the number.

Ludhiana district, which has the highest number of schools offering science stream, has seen a decline in the number of students from 2,295 in 2015-16 to 1,598 in the current session. The number of schools offering science in Ludhiana increased from 48 in 2014-15 to 51 currently.

In Jalandhar, there are 36 schools offering science and around a dozen of these schools have just 15 to 20 students in science groups. In two schools, Uccha and Goraya government senior secondary schools, teachers have been asked to increase the number of students to 15 to continue the science stream.

“In all these schools only a dozen schools have good labs fully equipped with apparatus but other labs are lacking one or other apparatus and even chemicals for experiments,” said a science teacher, adding that in majority districts of state there is a shortage of 15 to 20 per cent science subjects teachers.

There are also several schools with science stream but no enrolment. In 2014-15, there were 48 schools across Punjab in which no students opted for science; 41 such schools in 2015-16; 20 in 2016-17 and nine in 2017-18.

“It is a serious concerns that fewer students are opting for science subjects. Science is what tells us about the reason of everything happening around us. If today we are using mobile phones, computers, which are an integral part of our lives, it is not a magic but a science behind it,” said Amit Mitter of Taraksheel Society Punjab, adding that the NGO, which was established in 1984, had provided around 200 books to inculcate the scientific temperament among the people as well as students. He emphasized that there should be at least 30 to 40 per cent students in science subjects.

“Our children must know that they are travelling in a car, watching TV, listening radio, using Internet because of the great efforts of the scientists,” he said.

Teachers and students claims that they have ample other opportunities available over science subject now.

Surinder Singh, a science teacher in the government senior secondary school in the Basti area of Jalandhar, said he had encouraged his daughter to opt for humanities.

“She wants to go abroad after 10+2 for for further studies, so there was no point to take science subjects as not several opportunities are available in other subjects,” he said. “Students are preferring to study abroad after 10+2 and they opt for those subjects which can get them through their foreign dreams.”

Jalandhar district science supervisor Baljinder Singh said they had been asked to increase 20 per cent students in science stream every year against the existing number of students in the stream so that it reaches a “respectable” number.

“Such instructions have been there for over a decade,” he said. “But now, students have large opportunities and they are more attracted to social sciences.”

One reason for the miniscule preference for the science stream could be that almost 40,000 of the students who wrote Class 10 board exams in 2018 have “compartments” in either maths, science or English, that is they failed in one or two of these subjects and have to reappear these exams even though they have been admitted to Class 11.

But even students with high marks are not opting for sciences.

Azra, a girl student of Government Senior Secondary School Nehru Garden, scored 93% marks in class 10th this year but she opted for commerce. “I want to become a bank officer, so I need to study commerce, and not science. My teachers also supported my decision,” says said Azra, adding that several of her classmates who scored 70 to 80 per cent marks in 10th opted to join the commerce stream.

Sakshi of Government senior secondary school Kapurthala scored above 90% marks and her first choice was commerce. “I wanted to do B.Com but my teachers were unhappy with my decision and they have asked me to join science stream,” she said. Sakshi has joined science classes, but is unsure about continuing and may go back to commerce.

Rukhsana, another student of Government Senior Secondary School in Jalandhar, had scored above 85 per cent marks in class 10th last year, but she opted for humanities as she wanted to pursue a career in fine arts. “I want to pursue a career in law. Then, why should I go for science,” said Gurpinder Kaur, a students of Meritorious School Talwara.

District Education Officer Jalandahr Satnam Singh said that the fewer admissions to the science stream could be attributed to the shortage of staff for some science subjects. “In our district, we are 15 to 20 per cent short of teachers in different science subjects including physics, chemistry, bio and math,” he said.

But even in the “meritorious” schools of Punjab, specially set up to prepare science and commerce stream students, the maximum vacancies are in physics, chemistry, biology and maths. The posts of 96 teachers are vacant while the sanctioned strength is around 150 for the science subjects.

Punjab Education Minister OP Soni could not be contacted for his comment.

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