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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Science Education for New Chapters of Arakan

We all know the bullet trains in Japan run very fast. We all have seen the tallest skyscrapers of America in Hollywood movies. We all have heard how Internet has been changing the cultures of human race. From Tokyo to Toronto, from Sydney to Seattle, more and more things are better understood scientifically and newer technology is being made everyday. Though technology advancements are being felt in Arakan such as an increasing number of internet users, the pace of change is extremely slow; let alone understanding how bullet train operates, how skyscrapers are built, and how computers are made. One thing we should keep in mind is that all of these technology achievements will not be possible unless solid understanding of scientific theories has been grasped. Therefore, Arakanese should learn science more vigorously if our Fatherland is to be seen as a prosperous land in near future.

Over the years, the meaning of the word ‘science’ has become broader and no simple all-encompassing definition of science is possible. (Originally, the word ‘Science’ comes from Latin word ‘Scientia’ meaning knowledge (1).) No matter how it is defined, it has at least two basic characteristics; explanatory and predictive (2). Science is able to explain why positively charged atom attracts to negatively charged one. Science is able to predict what the result will be after combining two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O = water). In other words, studying science will helps us explain about our nature, about the things we are using all the time, about land of Arakan on which we are walking on every single day.

Studying science is a continuing effort to discover and increase our knowledge and understanding through disciplined research. Classroom is usually the first place most of us learn about science. Middle school education is the most fundamental step of learning science. By the time the students are in high school, they are supposed to comprehend at least the major scientific theories before finally moving on to college. Science education is not just a few classes we take in school to go to next grade. In Arakan, classroom science covers some basic major theories but not thoroughly enough. The textbooks are so out of date and they do not include recent scientific discoveries and fail to support old theories with recent technology achievements. They also lack of supplementary materials such as good pictures, and figures. It is a common sense. If a science teacher is explaining electric field, having a diagram of electric field reacting to different charges will absolutely help the students understand. Otherwise, students will just memorize formulae and do plug-in-number work problems as it is currently the case in Arakan. Such practice might be simple enough for students to follow. However, it not only hurts the students in long term but also their personal and country’s future. Albert Einstein once said ‘Make things simple, but do not make simpler.’

Studying science is fun and interesting if we learn it right. For example, geography should not just be about memorizing states’ capitals. It can be studied scientifically to make it more fun and interesting by integrating Earth Science into it. We all have learned that Himalayas is home to the planet’s highest peaks. But few people know that it is formed as a result of Indian Plate hitting Eurasian Plate, a Plate of Europe and Asia, 20 million years ago. According to Plate Tectonics Theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth’s lithosphere, India was connected to the southeastern tip of Africa and it later broke free and began drifting north as part of the Indo-Australian Plate and collided with the Eurasian Plate and began to thrust upward (3). Such learning experience is amazing and can make us more curious about the world around us such as why earthquakes occur, why sources of oil and natural gas are also found offshore.

If we talk about science, we cannot skip the role of technology. From solid understanding of science and tireless research, new technology could be born. Technology can be defined as ‘Practical application of knowledge or ‘scientia’ to meet human needs or solve human problems’ (4). Nowadays, science and technology influences each other and they are in reality interwoven. For example, to invent new hybrid cars, the automakers have to apply a host of scientific theories. On the other hand, to test the physical properties of new materials, scientists have to use technical devices such as computers and data collection system to speed up their research.

Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII (5). United States have long been investing tens of billions of dollars every year in scientific research. The federal government is actively involving with both civil and defense research project. There are about 700 federal laboratories around the country. Though many labs are small, large labs like Los Alamos, Department of Energy lab employ about 12,000 people and the annual budget is around 2 billions dollar a year. The research fund is channeled through different agencies such as National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF). According to 2005 statistics, 16 billions dollars of research fund are awarded to NIH and 3 billions to NSF. Universities also play a huge role in doing research. Currently, there are about 200 Ph.D. granting universities where research is being carried out almost everyday in U.S. They enjoy both industry and federal government support. According to NSF data of 2004, John Hopkins University alone snatched 1.2 billion dollars of federal money (4).

To stay ahead in this global economy, scientific research has become extremely important. The overall relation between research and economy is obviously proportional. According to ScienceWatch.com, a website that tracks trends and performance in basic research, United States, the world largest economy is ranked the first among the countries that produce research papers on science related topics. It produced 2,959,661 papers in 2008. It is followed by Japan, the third largest economy with 796,807 papers (6).

It is out of question now for Arakan to compete with the most developed countries. But that does not necessarily mean that we should give up and stop studying. Arakan is in serious need of basic infrastructure. Like a human without spinal cord will be impossible to stand or sit up, the state without basic infrastructure will not be able to grow. The first bv transcontinental railroad, authorized by Pacific Railway Act signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, was one of the most important infrastructures in American history that had boosted American economy in later years(7). And science plays a vital role in building infrastructure. For example, the current highway between the North and South of Arakan is filled with rutting, raveling and potholes. A good highway system is extremely needed for prosperous Arakan. A good highway could not only provide economic boost but also make the relationship of sons and daughters of Arakan warmer and closer. A good highway system needs a good planning. A good planning should consider all the factors such as meteorology, topography, geology, material science. To consider these factors, some extent of scientific knowledge is required. Without understanding the underlying scientific knowledge and theories, it will be impossible to build the safest and most efficient highway. For example, if we fail to consider the high rain fall, the road will be washed away. Even if we take into account of high rain fall, but if we fail drainage system aside the roadway, the highway will fail and the public as well as the trade will be in danger.

Science is not just something related to technology and modernism. It also lets us appreciate facts from fiction. A few years ago, a small volcano in southern Arakan erupted and one news media reported that local people believe the dragon inside the mountain was angry at the local people. It is a totally ridiculous thing to say and it is sad to know that there are some people who still believe in such things in 21st century. That indicates that science education is extremely in need there.

While most of Arakanese are not fortunate enough to study in fairly developing or developed countries, Arakanese abroad are even more responsible to catch up with current science education. There are a lot science and technology majors that can benefit Arakan when they go back home. One of these majors could be Marine Biology as Arakan is blessed with rivers and sea. Other students could study emerging hot subjects such as nanotechnology. One nanometer is equal to one billionth of a meter that is 100,000 times thinner than a strand of a hair. Basically nanotechnology is a technology development that manipulates materials’ properties to construct things since materials tend to behave differently in nanoscale. Over the years, it has been one of the most interested fields and more and more disciplines became involved ranging from applied physics to biological engineering. During the last few years, it has been applied to make super-strong materials, super-battery and other appliances. Some scientists even claim that it has potential to save the planet of earth from global warming by solving current energy crisis. While catching up with the most fundamental science subjects, it is also important to study the fairly new ones that have potential to put Arakan ahead.

Science is an extremely broad area of study. It is not just a school class where formulae are memorized to pass an exam. Studying any area of science can greatly benefit Arakan. Using scientific knowledge, we can understand how the bullet trains are made, how skyscrapers are built, how computers are made. From that moment on, we can harness that knowledge to make things that can meet our needs and goals. Our beloved Fatherland is full with natural resources. With robust science education, we can exploit these resources and write new chapters of prosperous Arakan.


Reference

1. Wiktionary, Scientia, <>, accessed August 24, 2009.

2. Levine, Dr. Aaron D., Defining Science, Lecture of PST 3127, Georgia Institute of Technology, January 15, 2008.

3. Lutgens, Frederick K., Tarbuck, Edward J., Tasa, Dennis, Foundations of Earth Science, 5th Edition, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2008.

4. 2. Levine, Dr. Aaron D., Politics of Science, Lecture of PST 3127, Georgia Institute of Technology, February 26, 2008.

5. The Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America, Science Debate 2008, , accessed September 2, 2009.

6. Thomson Reuters, Top 20 Countries in All Fields: 1998 – August 31, 2008, , accessed September 5, 2009.

7. Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, Railroad History, , accessed September 5, 2009.

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