Scholar cites reasons for student apathy

A Massey University PhD candidate has written a thesis examining the reasons for high school students in India not choosing science subjects.

It may sound ironical in a country, which has produced thousands of scientists over the years, but Anil Kaushik has attributed the apathy to a lack of conceptual understanding and motivation.

Mr Kaushik, a teacher-trainer from Chandigarh in Punjab (India) was concerned that few teenagers pursued science subjects that are critically linked to India’s economic growth and future. That concern sparked his desire to make a difference by researching the issue and trialing new teaching strategies.

The Thesis

His PhD thesis, ‘Computer-based collaborative concept mapping: Motivating Indian secondary school students to learn science,’ investigates the effectiveness of a learning intervention on secondary school science students.

Mr Kaushik is currently assessing the results of his innovative teaching model that combines computers, collaboration and conceptual learning, to four classes of 15 and16-year-old students in two Chandigarh schools.

Financial problems

He has completed his research and hopes to obtain his doctorate next year but his own four-year scholastic journey has faced serious financial obstacles.

As an international student, he faced challenges in juggling family and finances. His daughter Nutan was born as he began his thesis, and his son Chetan was born in early 2013 when he was in India gathering data for his thesis.

He had borrowed $40,000 in India but the money ran out as he was half-way through his thesis, due currency devaluation in India.

He had to work part-time at Burger King and later undertook an assignment as a full-time support worker for people with intellectual disabilities and as a rest home care-person.

“I had to keep body and soul together and support my family of four in Palmerston North. My studies therefore took longer than estimated,” he said.

Practical help

“However, my commitment to the doctoral project ­never wavered, in large part thanks to the ongoing support, mentoring and encouragement from my Massey peers and supervisors. My supervisors are Dr Alison Kearney, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Education, and Dr Lone Jorgensen, who has retired from the University,” he added.

Practical help through postgraduate seminars and workshops have also helped him focus on his research whenever he felt dispirited.

A dedicated academic, the doctoral study is his latest in swag of postgraduate degrees. He has three Masters Degrees in Physics, Education and Applied Psychology from India. “I am now at a point where they intersect in educational psychology and science education. I have had many ups and downs, but I believe that the effort will be worthwhile,” Mr Kaushik said.

He hopes his research will help raise science achievement not only in India but also in other parts of the world.

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