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Teens know only dead scientists

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st August 2005 03:00 AM

IT is amazing but true. Modern science seems to pass unnoticed by most of us, including students. So, it was haywire when students were asked to name any living scientists. Most of them dashed for Microsoft chief Bill Gates and a few cited Ben Carson, the legendary neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Univ

IT is amazing but true. Modern science seems to pass unnoticed by most of us, including students. So, it was haywire when students were asked to name any living scientists. Most of them dashed for Microsoft chief Bill Gates and a few cited Ben Carson, the legendary neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Univ

By Esther Alalo
and Agencies


IT is amazing but true. Modern science seems to pass unnoticed by most of us, including students. So, it was haywire when students were asked to name any living scientists. Most of them dashed for Microsoft chief Bill Gates and a few cited Ben Carson, the legendary neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University.

Others even mentioned artisans at the Katwe-based Musa Body as scientists besides their science teachers and colleagues.

The study done by Education Vision in a few Kampala schools, including Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo, Kibuli SS, St. Kizito, Kyambogo College, City High, Kireka High, Bethany High, Kololo SS, St. Peter’s Naalya, Our Lady Consolata and Progressive Secondary School Bweyogerere, discovered that students were more abreast with dead scientists than living ones.

Asked to name any scientists, they were quick to recall Isaac Newton who, discovered the law of gravity, Albert Einstein, who coined the law of relativity, Charles Darwin, who came up with the theory of evolution, Louis Pasteur, the man behind the pasteurisation of milk and Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin.

They also knew Archimedes, who discovered the law of floatation, Thomas Graham, the inventor of the telephone, Robert Brown, who discovered the plant cell nucleus, Francis Crick and James Watson, who discovered the structure of DNA. Some named Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

The students were, however, put off when asked to name living scientists. But do not blame them because a similar survey in the United Kingdom was no better. Students there even cited designers and musicians like Madonna as living scientists.

Like in Uganda, they also cited teachers and fellow students. They were also quick to name dead scientists. Top on the list was Isaac Newton cited by at least 39% of the about 1,000 respondents followed by Albert Einstein — 29%.
Kampala students blamed the examination-oriented curriculum for their ignorance.

“We just cram things to pass exams. We get little time to understand what we are taught,” said Aringa Gideon of Kyambogo College.

The students said science textbooks used today are of olden days. “The textbooks were written by old scientists. it is hard to know new scientists without learning about them,” said a City High School student.

Many students, however hailed the policy of making sciences compulsory saying, it will reduce government expenditure on expatriate scientists. They also believe there are more jobs for science students than for arts.
Like in the UK, some students said making sciences compulsory is not good because sciences are difficult and boring.

The study showed that most students prefer studying sciences in the morning when their brain are still fresh.
Now, before you blame the students, how many living scientists do you know?

Write to the education editor,
P.O. Box 9815 Kampala
jeremu@newvision.co.ug

Teens know only dead scientists

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