Professionalising Natural Science Education and Multipronged Open Distance Learning

Professionalising Natural Science Education and Multipronged Open Distance Learning

B. PanduRanga Narasimharao
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2845-8.ch022
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Tobias et al. (1995) postulated in their book on “Rethinking Science as a Career” that Master’s programs could produce graduates who provide the same level of expertise and leadership as professionals do in other fields. They say that they would do so by having the ability to use the products of scholarship in their work and by being familiar with the practical aspects of emerging problem areas. If we consider natural science consisting of physical sciences, biological sciences, mathematics, geosciences, and computer science, degrees in computer science and geosciences served as credentials for practice, whereas physics, chemistry, and biological sciences served as classical graduate education. Robbins-Roth (2006) collected 22 career descriptions for science graduates ranging from public policy to investment banking, and from patent examining to broadcast science journalism. There are several sectors of the society where the principles and knowledge of these science disciplines are used. On the other hand, there are many of the graduates in these disciplines who either are working in areas completely unrelated to their education and training or are unemployable. The need for preparing the science graduates professionally is well recognized (Schuster, 2011; Vanderford, 2010; Narasimharao, Shashidhara Prasad and Nair, 2011; Chuck, 2011).
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Open distance learning (ODL) is viewed as one of the potential system of education to serve the needs of the society (see Ram Reddy, 1988). However, in Indian context this system is often considered as ‘second chance’ or even ‘second grade’ education. It is important to analyze the fact that in spite of ODL gaining more and more importance all over the world in response to knowledge society needs, why it is still treated as ‘second grade’ education by many in developing countries like India. Many factors like equating distance education with correspondence education, ODL following the beaten path of hierarchical approach of conventional class room system, industries not realizing the ODL potential, poor repetition of courses that are offered in conventional university system, and laying more emphasis on producing learning resources of high quality than on the development of local capacity; has contributed to this situation (Rangappa and Narasimharao, 2010). The chapter discusses how a multipronged open distance learning incorporating various developments that are happening in the tertiary education system1 can facilitate professionalizing the natural science education.

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