We all remember stressing over our brevet exams in grade 9, then again over our Lebanese Bacc, just to reach the end of our secondary school, not knowing what we want to do with our lives. A big number of Lebanese students go into university for STEM majors unprepared and are forced to learn the handles all on their own.
Former Minister of Education Elias Bou Saab has said that “Public schools aren’t in their best form. The curriculum isn’t in its best form. Teachers, their class conditions and preparedness, aren’t in their best form. The official exams are also not in their best form.” Let’s elaborate on that.
Lebanese people have always considered education a necessity for survival. Since the end of the civil war, there has been a recovery of the Lebanese educational system, including rehabilitation of school facilities. Despite this, the Lebanese school system is still burdened with the self-defeating pessimism that has accompanied decades of sectarian and ideological conflicts.
“Whereas the need for scientific advances is at its peak, adolescent learning about science in school is facing critical challenges.”*
The common rule is that teachers use facts and completely disregard the teaching of the scientific method. The subjects are presented in an unscientific manner, discouraging scientific thinking. The student is made to believe what the teacher says without having careful reasoning to reach those facts. This is not true learning. Most teachers overlook the true purpose of teaching; their only goal is to meet standards and to prepare students for standardized examinations. Professors would make students memorize paragraphs to put in their tests. Again, this is hindering critical thinking. This is memorizing for the sake of memorizing.
Let’s take biology as an example, your grade is only based on how you answer questions, the scores depend on how to use words like describe and interpret. You can pass that exam without knowing any biological facts as long as you write what the corrector wants to read.
The tremendous lack of labs is another issue in school systems. If you take any jobs in scientific fields, at least half of your work will be in labs. Going into university, students would generally not know how to handle basic materials like microscopes. Since the official exams do not test any practical knowledge, most schools tend to overlook them.
The science curriculum in Lebanon is essentially dumping facts on students and overwhelming them with quiz after quiz. This method is not only useless, but also exhausting and discouraging. The reason many students hate science is the fact that they’re not taught properly.
Moreover, scientific events such as science fairs, the Mathematics and Science Olympiads, etc.. are virtually nonexistent, our government does little to encourage students to excel in their field of studies. Instead of motivating learners to grow scientific curiosity, schools are driving them away. But how do we fix that?
Research shows that communication skills are extremely important in scientific fields. Teachers need to interact with their students and appreciate the benefits of argumentation. They need to stop avoiding conflict when students can benefit from them in the classroom. They have to foster their pupils’ ability to reason for them to engage with information in a critical fashion. Finally, science teachers should undergo training and preparation both pre-service and in-service.
Our educational system is in dire need of a reform. Many turn away from STEM-related fields because of bad experiences in science class. These negative experiences can be avoided if adolescents’ cognitive abilities are acknowledged by educators. We need to take action to ensure that students meet their full academic potential. Most importantly, we need to encourage teenagers to consider careers in science.
*: The Challenges of Teaching and Learning about Science in the 21st Century: Exploring the Abilities and Constraints of Adolescent Learners. Eric M. Anderman, Ph.D. The Ohio State University. Gale M. Sinatra, Ph.D. University of Nevada, Las Vegas