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For all practical purposes, labs defunct

Science students seldom attend practicals in Haryana schools
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Yamunanagar, April 26
It’s a room locked and forgotten in most government schools of Haryana. That’s the fate of science laboratories wherever they exist. Government Senior Secondary School, Aurangabad (Yamunanagar), is no exception.

Ask the Class XII non-medical students when they last did a practical and they reply, “never”. An embarrassed teacher looks on and tries damage control, almost tutoring the students to back his contention, “We teach practicals only at the end of the session to Class XII. These students are new. They, too, will be taught.” What’s surprising is that the Class XI students were promoted to Class XII without ever attending a practical.

One peep inside the lab says more than all explanations offered. Cobwebs dangle in the room from almost everywhere, even the cupboard where chemicals are stored. A thick layer of dust coats the tables, indicating clearly that the lab has not been opened in the recent past.

Unable to belie the picture the lab presents, one teacher admits, “There are so many students and little space. We cannot accommodate them in the lab. Instead, we focus on theoretically explaining the practicals though we do take a few practicals at the end of the session for the class appearing for the Haryana board exam.”

Teachers further list out their woes. “There are no taps in the laboratory and practicals are not possible without water. The students have to get water from one end of the school premises,” another teacher adds.

At the Radaur government school, one of the better schools with a student strength of nearly 1,700, the lab story remains unchanged. Though it has a well-equipped biology lab, the physics and chemistry labs are better locked.

“Where is the place to have practicals in this small room. We have repeatedly sent requests for providing better labs but it has failed to elicit any response. There is a lot of money coming in to buy equipment and chemicals but we have to have the space to perform practicals, an exhaust to throw out the fumes,” a teacher remarks. At present, this lab, too, is a dumping ground for old practical files with everything - from the equipment to shelves - gathering dust.

At Damla, too, students can’t recall when they attended the last practical because the Class XII of the last session has gone and the new Class XII was never “exposed” to a laboratory or a practical.

The school at Kunjpura is luckier than the rest to have a new lab. However, here too, the school has a problem. “There is one science teacher with a workload of 64 periods. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot accommodate all classes in one week. This leaves no time for practical classes. Then, where is the option to forgo theory for practicals,” a teacher maintains.

While the Haryana government goes about making a big noise about inculcating scientific temperament in the children and the debate on dwindling students in the science stream continues unabated, it would do the world a good to get a reality check on why the science experiment in schools is failing miserably and labs have become mere dumping grounds.

(To be concluded)





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