ROSE “Relevance of Science Education” is an international project, being conducting in 35 countries by research organization of the respective countries. The project aims at providing empirical evidence to stimulate theoretical discussion about priorities and alternatives in science and technology (S&T) education. This attempt would result in improving the relevance, attractiveness and quality of S&T education, to meet the hopes and aspiration of the learners in a diverse world. The overall objective of the ROSE project is to create an environment for pupils’ discussion on the priorities relating to S&T education, to find out experiences, interests, priorities, perceptions and attitude towards S&T, of students who are coming from different backgrounds. The project ROSE started by Camilla Schreiner and Svein Sjoberg, from Department of Teacher Education and School Development, University of OSLO, Norway, is a further development of the project Science and Scientist (SAS) in which one of the authors had participated earlier (Chunawala and Ladage, 1998).

For data collection, the ROSE questionnaire developed by the ROSE advisory group was used. The questionnaire asked students to answer questions related to specific areas of S&T. There were questions on a variety of students’ S&T related out-of-school experiences, their interests in learning different S&T topics in different contexts, their prior experience with and views on school science, their views and attitudes to science and scientists in society, their future hopes, priorities and aspirations, their feelings of empowerment with regards to environmental challenges etc. The questionnaire consisted of 10 areas (with differing number of items) with a total number of around 273 items. The questionnaire was a self administering multiple-choice questionnaire.

Sample of the Study:

The data collection was conducted in 2003 and 2004. The sample consisted of 473 students, studying in X class (three students had not answered this question). All the students were studying in seven English medium co-educational schools situated in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra State. The average size of the classes was 60 plus. Two of these schools were run by the Department of Atomic Energy and belong to the “Atomic Energy Education Society”. Two other schools were Central schools, that is, schools for employees of the Central Government who can be transferred anywhere. These four schools follow the Central Board syllabus. The three other schools follow the Maharashtra State syllabus (set on the guidelines given by the national level central board). The data collection was done during school hours and required around two classroom sessions which are typically of 45 minutes each that is total of one and half hours.

The questionnaire was administered in entire classrooms, despite this there was a gender difference in the number of students with there being fewer girls (216), than boys (254) in the sample, (three students had not answered this question).

Results and Analysis:

Responses to questions under all the subgroups were analyzed quantitatively. Two subgroups I and J had only a one point and two point scale response, while the remaining subgroups had four scale responses.

What I want to learn about:

These questions were aimed at getting empirical evidence on what sort of issues pupils are interested in learning about, and to explore how these vary between groups and to search for patterns in the answer. Each item was classified by two dimensions; they are contents and context. The subject matter of contents are the key words in the different sciences which often occur in curricula and textbooks, like; Astrophysics, Earth science, Human biology with sex and reproduction, Genetics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Technology etc. The subject matter contexts generally included aspects like; Natural phenomena and nature study; Spectacular phenomena, horror/ frightening examples; Humankind and human life and body; Technological ideas and inventions; Care, health, protection and improvement of living conditions, Aesthetical aspects and beauty.

The total number of items in this group (108), were in placed in three subgroups; A (48 items), C (18 items) and E (42 items). The questions were placed in different groups to reduce fatigue. Each of these items had four options, these were; Not interested, a little interested, Interested and Very interested. To learn what it is that interests students a great deal we added the two categories ‘Very Interested’ and ‘Interested’ as well as the two categories ‘Not Interested’ and ‘Little Interested’. We chose the cut-off of 75 % for the interested category (as students are more prone to tick the socially acceptable end of a scale). The items for subgroup A that received more than 80% responses i.e. the items that many students were interested in learning about were totally 8? in number. They were; (i) how it feels to be weightless in space;(ii) rocket, satellite & space travel; (iii) dinosaurs, how they lived & died;(iv) stars planets & universe, (v) comets or asteroids, (vi) how to exercise to keep body fit and strong,(vii) black holes, supernovas, (viii) how to navigate by the stars. In view of contents it was observed that, students were very much interested in learning about astrophysics, light and optics, human biology (with sex and reproduction, care, health, protection and improvement of living conditions).

Gender difference: The differences in the responses of boys and girls to the questions above were scrutinized. For gender difference we focused only on the “Very interested” option and conducted, t-tests to determine whether the difference between the means of the Girls and Boys group is significantly different or not. Of the 48 items, girls and boys were found to differ significantly on 24 items (t-test, 0.05 level). Most of the girls preferred to learn about Biology and its allied fields. In case of boys it was observed that they prefer to learn about chemistry and its allied subjects.

The subgroup C and E was also questioned students about what they would like to learn about. Subgroup C includes 18 items which have same four options like subgroup A (Not interested, a Little interested, Interested and Very interested). In subgroup C we have found that most of the students were very interested in learning about the possibility of life outside the earth; how computers work; unsolved mysteries in outer space; why we dream while we are sleeping; life, death and human soul; how mobile phone can send and receive messages. 

While “Not interested” items included, how crude oil is converted to other material like plastics & textiles, properties of gems & crystals & how these are used for beauty, ghosts & witches & whether they may exists, alternative therapies & how effective they are, and astrology & horoscopes & the planets can influence human being. Remaining 6 items are how things like radios & television works, how cassette tapes, CDs & DVD stores & play sound & music, optical instruments & how they work, why we can see the rainbow, why the stars twinkles & sky is blue

ROSE team in Mumbai

Dr. Sugra Chunawala, co-ordinator of the project, Ms. Smita Patil, Mr. Bipin Apandkar, Ms. Aruna Khamkar and Mr. Mithun Pillai, Mr. Hitesh Khristy and Mr. Nagesh Ganji (project assistants at HBCSE) helped in the data collection and data entry. Mr. Ritesh Khunyakari (a Ph.D student) helped in organizing the data collection.