Social Scientist. v 20, no. 230-31 (July-Aug 1992) p. 50.

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School Science in Search of a Democratic Order?

'Science for liberation' reverberated through the history of western education, in the last century, as a refrain of the liberal reformers. Recently it has echoed once again in our country, though somewhat ambivalently—on the one hand, in the ambiguous verbosity of the official slogans professing 'Prosperity through Cultivation of Scientific Temper* (a notion as elusive as 'democracy* !), and on the other hand, in the impassioned instrumentality of 'Science as a Social Activism'1 (a concept still being delineated through practice). The school seems to be the common epicenter of both strains of activity: the vacuous yet celebrated tremors of newer official policies invoking 'scientific literacy' as well as the silent yet determined vibrations of voluntary activism working towards 'scientific awareness'. However, an appropriate model for science within school, rooted in our specific socio-cultural context is yet to be evolved. The model we have received originated early this century and was shaped by complex forces serving the dominant interests of a stratified society. This paper attempts to analyse some factors that have influenced the teaching of science in school/ broadly within the perspective acquired by participating in the development of the Science Teaching Programme2'4 in Madhya Pradesh, locally known as 'Vishika'—an acronym for Vigyan Shikshan Karyakram. It is of particular interest to note how curriculum in science, a discipline proclaimed for its democratising potential, has itself perpetrated various forms of pedagogic hegemony within the school while being subservient to dominant pressures from without*


Despite appeals to its liberating potential deriving from its methods of objective observation and analytic abstraction, which could be directed to develop deep social insights, the science curriculum, as it emerged at the turn of this century, conformed completely with the criteria of 'pure' theoretical knowledge laid down by the elite

Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library^ Teen Murti House, New Delhi.

Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 7-8, July-August 1992

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