- Education policy, General

Arousing Interests of Science Subjects in Secondary Schools in Tanzania

Motivating young people to become more interested in science subjects in Tanzania raised the debate since the government decided to exercise authority in education sector at take-off independence. The driving un-implemented strategies are restructuring instruction into learner-centered approach, improving curricular materials and ensuring teaching and instructional personnel. There is no way to a single theory to govern this paper rather than eclectic approach being employed to help to draw-in important philosophical concept to the intended perspective.

The theories adopted in guiding this paper therefore are observed in how motivation can be employed in arousing learners’ interest in science subjects. The theories include motivation as propounded by prominent behaviorist Abraham Maslow, learning theory by prominent constructivist paradigm including Piaget and Vygotsky and the theory of social cognition by its prominent proponent Albert Bandura.

As Maslow (1954) says, “If we are interested in what actually motivates us and not what has or will, or might motivate us, then a satisfied need is not a motivator.” According to him and to other various theories, motivation may be rooted in the basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or a desired object, hobby, goal, state of being, ideal, or it may be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism, morality, or avoiding mortality. Motivation is of particular interest to Educational psychologists because of the crucial role it plays in student learning. However, the specific kind of motivation that is studied in the specialized setting of education differs qualitatively from the more general forms of motivation studied by psychologists in other fields. Motivation in education can have several effects on how students learn and how they behave towards subject matter as for science subjects in our case. It can direct behavior toward particular goals; Lead to increased effort and energy; Increase initiation of, and persistence in, activities; Enhance cognitive processing; Determine what consequences are reinforcing and; Lead to improved performance. Because students are not always internally motivated, they sometimes need situated motivation, which is found in environmental conditions that the teacher creates.

There are two kinds of motivation: firstly, intrinsic motivation which occurs when people are internally motivated to do something because it either brings them pleasure, they think it is important, or they feel that what they are learning is significant, and secondly extrinsic motivation which comes into play when a student is compelled to do something or act a certain way because of factors external to him or her like money or good grades (Wikipedia, 2008). Young people can be motivated to perform science subjects as pleasure when they are supplied with quality, enough materials and sufficient facilitating situation through competition, science clubs, and any other situations where awards and prizes are provided for best achievers. Externally successfully scientists and best students in science subjects can be invited in science celebrations and exhibitions to demonstrate their achievements.

There are cognitive views of motivation by constructivists which stress that human behavior is influenced by the way people think about themselves and their environment. The direction that behavior takes can be explained by four influences which include; the inherent need to construct an organized and logically consistent knowledge base; one’s expectations for successfully completing a task; the factors that one believes account for success and failure; and one’s beliefs about the nature of cognitive ability (Biehler/Snowman, 1997). The impact of cognitive development view is based on Jean Piaget’s principles of equilibration, assimilation, accommodation, and schema formation. Piaget proposes that children possess an inherent desire to maintain a sense of organization and balance in their conception of the world (equilibration). A sense of equilibration may be experienced if a child assimilates a new experience by relating it to an existing scheme, or the child may accommodate by modifying an existing scheme if the new experience is too different. In our case then love of science can be build to young people since their childhood through directing and provision of simpler experiments and observations on various matters and organisms.

In addition, individuals will repeatedly use new schemes because of an inherent desire to master their environment. This explains why young children can, with no loss of enthusiasm, sing the same song, tell the same story, and play the same game over and over and why they repeatedly open and shut doors to rooms and cupboards with no seeming purpose. It also explains why older children take great delight in collecting and organizing almost everything they can get their hands on and why adolescents who have begun to attain formal operational thinking will argue incessantly about all the unfairness in the world and how it can be eliminated (Stipek, 1993). This allows the room for these habits to be turned into science learning and observation interests.

Social cognition theory proposes reciprocal determination as a primary factor in both learning and motivation. In this view, the environment, an individual’s behavior, and the individual’s characteristics (e.g., knowledge, emotions, and cognitive development) both influence and are influenced by each other two components. Bandura (1986, 1997) highlights self-efficacy (the belief that a particular action say for science [as our case goals], is possible and that the individual can accomplish it) and self-regulation (the establishment of goals, the development of a plan to attain those goals, the commitment to implement that plan, the actual implementation of the plan, and subsequent actions of reflection and modification or redirection.

The first strategy is to deal with the policy effective implementation. Tanzania education policy (Education and Training Policy – ETP) highlights on: Access that encompass participation, gender and equity issues; Quality in internal efficiency, relevance and external effectiveness; and Management includes governance, decentralization and resource management. It is one of the best policies in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as pointed by World Bank (2005); with well established strategic plans but had not yet been able to be implemented effectively.

Woods (2007) pointed out that the education system of Tanzania has made commendable progress in the period since 2000, especially in the introduction of free primary education, in steps taken to broaden access to secondary, and in the introduction of competence based curricula at primary and secondary levels. However, there are still challenges to improve system performance in terms of inclusion, repetition and completion at primary level, and to expand opportunity at secondary from the previously very low base. Pre-service and in-service training have lacked the necessary coherence with each other and with the demands of changes in the system, especially of curriculum and pedagogy in enhancing science and technology. Particular attention needs to be paid to equity and strengthening of financial management and mainstreaming of ongoing project and programs. These need to be pursued vigorously and implemented fully. A prioritized strategy for capacity building is required for these and all other major dimensions (World Bank, 2005). In this case there is no problem with the policy; the problem is in the implementation.

In enabling the Ministry to meet the goals the question of teachers concern should be addressed as the second strategy as the foremost activities to motivate teaching resource. Teaching resource elsewhere plays the big role in ensuring maximum success in education arena. Recognizing the unique motivational styles can also help to identify the types of educational products and problems that will satisfy respective needs (Tough, 1979). So, teachers’ in-service training, teaching environment nourishment, reasonable payments and retain/recognition are important factors.

Learners are motivated by teachers so teachers should be motivated in order to transmit it to learners. Apart from sufficient pre-service and in-service training, capacity building and refresher courses provision; the availability of required teaching and learning materials in one hand build teachers’ morale and motivate them. Struggle in finding teaching-learning for themselves, shortage of books and other supportive materials de-motivate teachers and encourage insufficient teaching and rote learning. Ibid (1979) remarked that someone can get easily distracted from the task at hand and become more motivated to do something else perhaps not on task.

Teachers need laboratory with recommended equipments to prepare and demonstrate practical and laboratory technician an assistant. In the past when schools were few, a science teacher needed to have a laboratory to work in and there were also a laboratory technician to work together (Guardian, 2009). Laboratory is compulsory for science subjects; there is no way, without their availability. But these days in some schools even science teachers do not have laboratories to conduct experiments and there is no laboratory technician to help the teacher.

Teaching environment improvements include housing water and sanitation. Research has shown that many teachers do not have houses, and those who do live in houses that are often in serious need of repair and most schools are in very poor physical environment. The challenges of school improvement in rural areas are associated with the presence of teachers, but many rural schools in Tanzania like other countries “serve disadvantaged populations, have great difficulty attracting and retaining qualified teachers and have management systems poorly adapted to their small size”(ADEA, 2006)

Pay reform to adequate salary in the other hand settle psychological and physical unrest of teachers and motivate them concentrate in their work accordingly. Teachers’ low payment is a burning issue and recently caused periodic strikes. In most of developing countries including Tanzania, teachers’ wages were considerably below the level necessary to ensure their adequate motivation (Fry, 2003). The government should revise teachers’ pay reform and come up with solution otherwise academic fraud might emerge or persist. When teachers sell grades or require students to pay for private tutoring, most observers recognize it as corruption. But it is tolerated because everyone understands that it is necessary to survive (Fontana, 2008). Their practices may be interpreted by some as a reasonable adaptive response to a difficult situation. In some instances it is even tolerated by government, which sees it as the only way to maintain the number of teachers and the quality of teaching.

There is a need to train and retain enough teachers. Learning is a process of interaction between teachers and students as they both participate in the learning process, but with more weight given to teachers to show the way, for recommended number of learners in the class. Learning achievements can mainly “be determined in classroom by motivated teachers who plan for teaching, put into practice what they have learned” (ADEA, 2006). But teachers’ motivation is critically ignored factor in all levels of policy choices including crowded classes (Ndawi, 1997). Motivation of teachers helps to retain them at their work places and it includes “materials and psychological needs” as pay on its own does not increase motivation among teachers; however pecuniary motives are likely to be dominant among teachers in less developed countries. In SSA, teachers’ motivation is low and it has been detrimental to the quality of education” (Fry, 2003).

In motivating learners, as the third strategy, emphasis should be applied in approaches such as demonstration, case study and problem based learning. Their introduction or if have been introduced, could aim at increasing the students’ interests in learning science subjects. Also a useful method of concept mapping would be given for assessment, particularly for the development of the students’ self-directed learning skills and lifelong learning skills.

Demonstration as one of the approaches is very useful in arousing interest. According to Lagowski (1990) students retain 10% of what they read, 26% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they say, and 90% of something they say as they do something. So if teachers show as many demonstrations as they can to the students as well as letting the students do demonstrations by themselves, students will learn more actively and effectively. Students also need more positive and realistic demonstrations of the scope and limitations of science and scientists.

Science historical stories are one of the methods which can be used elsewhere even in remote areas and is costless. According to Huo (2006) the development of science and technology can not be separated from the contributions of past scientists. The science stories will inspire students to overcome the difficulties and to gain success. So giving the relevant story will spark the students’ inner-motivation. Only with inner-motivation will the students show their initiative and creative abilities in their learning and working processes. For instance ‘Newton becomes a professor at the age of 25 years in Glasgow University and lately he formulated the law of gravitational force’.

Multimedia technology approach can be applied in areas where it allows. Although it is expensive and it requires power availability for schools that can afford is also recommended. With the development of computer technology multimedia methods are been increasingly used in teaching practice. A multimedia course can combine sound and pictures with knowledge. This reinforces the fact that students retain 50% of what they see and hear, as the use of multimedia technology gives students more information than just writing on the blackboard, and increase the chance of active learning (ibid). But on the other hand it can also makes a more boring lecture for the students, if too much useless information is given or if, when using the projector, the light in the classroom is too dim. To avoid these disadvantages the teacher can combine it with other strategies and gives students more opportunity to think and ask questions.

Case study is another interesting teaching-learning approach and also costless. Science is very relevant to our real life. It would be worthwhile to find some real cases before the teacher gives a lecture. When students find that what they will learn is useful to the society, they will be active learners (Lagowski, 1990). Case studies are capable of being delivered with a range of styles, they can be designed to complement (not replace) other teaching approaches, and focus on re-visiting topics rather than attempting to cover an entire syllabus. In addition, the contexts and delivery styles can be selected in order to be stimulating. It is crucial, therefore, to highlight the importance of science and its relevance to students’ lives.

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a pedagogical approach based on recent advances in cognitive science research on human learning (Barrows, 1985). PBL has been widely used in undergraduate settings in Western countries but there is very little published on the application of PBL in science education in developing countries like Tanzania. A PBL class is organized around collaborative problem solving activities that provide a context for learning and discovery. The responsibility for learning is with the student; not with the facilitator. There are five well-defined stages in the PBL process: introduction, inquiry, self-directed study, revisiting the hypotheses, and self-evaluation (Ram 1999). This approach can be introduced in higher learning institutions although it is expensive, its return to education is more important.

Research shows that students do not like examinations and if their mark is low it may reduce their confidence to continue learning. It also can not reflect all the problems and may not show the abilities that the students have gained (Huo, 2006). It is preferable to find other methods to supplement examinations. Concept mapping is an alternative method: it can show the teacher how much the students knew and how much they didn’t know; and the students can assess their own learning. I don’t suggest examinations to be eliminated completely but they can be reduced in number in levels of education. Elimination of National Standard IV Exam in primary school level and National Form II Exam in O-level is the exact instance. Concept mapping was developed by Professor Joseph D. Novak at Cornell University in the 1960s. The concept map is a knowledge representation tool in the form of a graph.