A notable achievement of the Centre is the development of an activity based foundation curriculum in science, technology and society for secondary and higher stages. This is an interdisciplinary curriculum woven around the issues of human survival, and aims at preparing citizens for coping with the complex demands of modern technological society. The curriculum evolved through a three-year field project in Mumbai and Solapur sponsored by the J.N.Tata Endowment Trust. A series of books has been brought out to enable the school system to implement the curriculum.
A synopsis of the curriculum books: Activity Based Foundation Course on Science, Technology and Society
Contemporary issues not only affect all citizens to some extent, but also call for a systems approach to its understanding and resolution, considering among other things, the technological, economic and socio-cultural linkages. This approach requires a certain attitude to problem solving. Appropriate training can enable students to acquire these problem-solving abilities. Such training formed the principal objective of the programme for post-school students funded by the J.N.Tata Endowment Trust, and implemented by HBCSE over three years at Mumbai and also for two years at Solapur. The curriculum of the programme was meant to develop sensitivity to, and an understanding of, the complex linkages between science, technology and society. The other vital input was strengthening the comprehension and communication skills of the students.
The following books are a part of the series of 10 books that give concrete shape to the curriculum followed in the course. Each book is intended for coverage in about 20 contact hours. The exercises include analysis of graphs and tables, collages, surveys and essays. The books also invite the participants to script and stage plays, make posters and write poetry. Activities like surveys, essay writing, plays, poster-making and debating may, however, have to be carried out outside the contact hours.
1. The Population Problem: The population numbers in India, a sixth of world population, is often perceived as a major hurdle to increase the quality of life of the country's people. The response to population increase varies from the Malthusian doomsday prediction to a utopian one of a billion empowered people ruling the world. The activities in this book encourage critical thinking on questions of population being a problem of numbers and on the factors that effect a change in population growth rates. (Chitra Natarajan)
2. Resources - Energy: The book deals with energy fuels other than food. It begins with fundamental ideas about energy, its measurement and forms and the laws governing energy flow in nature. It includes a chapter each on the renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, patterns of energy consumption in India and the world, and energy conservation potential. (Chitra Natarajan)
3. Resources - Land & Air: The book makes an ambitious attempt to expose students through activities to the treasure chest that is our land and the precious life giver that is the air we breathe. The first part includes opportunities to discuss land use patterns in India, conflicts involving land and degradation of land. The second part deals with the dynamic nature of air composition over geographical times, the concerns of air pollution and the role of vehicles in polluting air. (Chitra Natarajan)
4. Education: The issues addressed by this book include a brief history of the education system in India and a discussion of enrolment and spending at the elementary, secondary and higher education levels. It also encourages a discussion on the national efforts in education and its social relevance. One of the chapters deals with activities related to the population outside the formal education system, both children and adults. The last chapter probes the link between education and development. (G. C. Pal)
5. Global Climate Change: This book is about three of the global environmental concerns: global warming, stratospheric ozone depletion, and environmental degradation by acid rain. Though each of these concerns has originated in a different context, the activities and discussion lead to the conclusion that their resolution is only possible when they are addressed together. The activities lead to the realisation that the impact of these problems being different, the perception of the problems and their solutions differ among the nations of the world. (Chitra Natarajan & N. Sajeevraj)
6. Ecological Balances: The book provides a brief introduction to ecology, in itself a vast area of study. It invites the students to a discussion of the nature of the growth and dependence of communities of organisms. The ideas of biomes, niches and species diversity are discussed through a couple of chapters. Through a discussion of select ecological disasters in India and elsewhere, the book also raises questions about the role of humans in the dynamic interdependence in nature. (Yogita Parab & Chitra Natarajan)
7. Conflicts: Conflicts are an integral part of human history. The span of the book extends from conflicts within individuals (or internal conflicts) to wars on a global scale. It takes you through chapters on conflicts between individuals and groups, highlighting situations involving specific groups such as castes, classes, gender, race and ethnic groups. Some of the activities in the book are intended to refute those explanations of existing inequalities between groups, which are based on biology. The book ends with issues involving conflict resolution, or peace. (Sugra Chunawala)
8. Health Matters: The importance of health for our survival is undebatable. The health scenario in India is far from satisfactory. Importantly, Indian economy is also greatly affected by our poor health status. Effective preventive programmes of cleanliness, nutrition and vaccination can however, reduce India's disease burden. Besides the major themes of communicable diseases, vaccination and nutrition, the book also covers through a variety of activities the new health challenges and health funding. The activities in the book give a flavour of the linkages involved in addressing health issues.(Bakhtavar Mahajan & Chitra Natarajan)
9. Resources - Food & Water: Issues that concern two of the vital inputs to all life are the topics of this book. The activities address the differences in their geographical distribution, in the access to these among people and their control. (To be published)
10. Information and the Media: Managing information has occupied the efforts of humans for many millennia. Yet, information is certainly one of the vital inputs to modern society. The debate about the media shaping opinions is well known. The next few decades at least will possibly focus on who has access to information and how empowered they are to use it. These are the issues discussed in the last of the series of books. (To be published)
Chitra Natarajan,Series Editor of Foundation Curriculum books