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'Igniting Minds': A breakthrough in science education

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India's top scientific brains join hands to ignite scientific passion amongst students. Dr Anil Kakodkar, Dr G Madhavan Nair, Dr Vijay Bhatkar amongst the brains behind the programme.

Stalwarts of India's scientific community, ranging from the ‘missile man' Dr APJ Abdul Kalam to Green Revolution architect Dr. M S Swaminathan, will be digitally available to support a trailblasing initiative that promises to dramatically change the attitude towards science, in Indian schools.

Aptly named "Igniting Minds", the programme aims to connect one lakh Indian students with renowned scientists, technocrats, Nobel laureates and social leaders who will share their wisdom and expertise with young brains in order to make science education more alluring and effective.

The programme, named after a 2002 bestseller of former President Dr. Kalam, has been conceived by Vijnana Bharati, a nation-building science movement which has hundreds of science institutions and organisations in its network, both in India and abroad.

"In the first phase, around hundred students each from over thousand schools (both public and private) would join this programme, which will be officially launched in October 2013 from Delhi," said Dr Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India who is the Chief Mentor of the programme. Dr G Madhavan Nair, former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is another Chief Mentor.

By 2025, Vijnana Bharati envisages to create a dynamic scientific leadership, which can propel India to greater heights and groom a generation of youngsters who are in tune with the value systems of the country.

A breakthrough in science education

The key resource persons include Dr Kalam; Dr Bhatkar, Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT Delhi; Dr. Swaminathan, former Director General, Indian Council for Agriculture Research; Dr T Ramasami, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology; Dr R A Mashelkar, former Director General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); and Prof. Prahlad Vadakkepat, expert in Robotics, National University of Singapore.

"The programme uses the latest videoconferencing facilities to connect students with an array of renowned scientists and technocrats, who have created a deep imprint in their chosen domains. The unique feature of this programme is that the students can directly interact with the stalwarts," Dr. Kakodkar pointed out.

The video-conferencing tool, A-VIEW (Amrita Virtual Interactive E-Learning World), used for this programme, has been developed jointly by Amrita University and IIT Mumbai.

The students can also create science-related blogs and share them with others through the knowledge portal developed by Igniting Minds. Further, they will be encouraged to create new threads in the Innovation Board. The best innovative idea will be awarded, and all participants will be given certificates.

"Through this initiative, we aim to mould a generation of students, who genuinely possess a thirst for knowledge and high affinity with science. Our goal is to create a climate for science education that is attractive to students and can fuel their aspirations," said Dr Nair.

The programme consists of 20 sessions (2 sessions a month) in a year, where a set of 10 episodes each will be delivered to students from classes 6 to 8 and 9 to 12, respectively. Each session will comprise a 30-minute documentary film, followed by a ‘webinar' hosted by a resource person/subject expert (scientist) and a live interactive session. In this interactive session, students can pose questions to the scientist in ‘real time' and clear their doubts (via video conferencing).

"In a future increasingly driven by science and technology, there is an imperative need to engage students in the issues that surround them. The programme intends to mould a generation of students, who can dream big and realise their dreams through rational and innovative means for the betterment of humanity," Dr. Nair said.

The participating schools are to benefit immensely through access to information on all scientific activities across the nation. They can also become members of Vijnana Bharati Science news portal for students, besides access to Digital Content Library having all kinds of learning materials.

"We in ‘Igniting Minds' are initiating a movement among the world's largest youth population to carve out a new generation by exposing them to a world of knowledge and information, which can enable them to explore new horizons with confidence, courage and commitment to our nation, said Dr Vijay Bhatkar, National President of Vijnana Bharati.

"Building a culture of interest in science will also make classroom teachers confident in engaging young students with science subjects," he noted. "Science is a constantly evolving field, and topics like robotics, supercomputing, space, nuclear power and climate change need to be understood in all their dimensions. ‘Igniting Minds' will help students learn these complex matters from the celebrated geniuses."

Academic institutions interested in this programme can contact through the website: www.ignitingminds.org.

Source: M D Niche.

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