Necessity of Transcendental learning: Difficulty to Teach Science Curriculum in Bangladesh School Context


Pamèlia Rivière

 Regarding the necessity of transcendental learning in Bangladesh education, here I am discussing about one science book and a recent discovery of NASA.  The Grand Design is a popular-science book written by physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in 2010. The Grand Designexplores the history of scientific knowledge about the universe. It discusses 11 dimension M-theory. Stephen Hawking pointed out that a Unified Field Theory (UFT) that may not exist. Unified Field theory is an early design of the universe. The model was made by Albert Einstein and other scientists, the physicists. The field theory assume that the fundamental forces and elementary particles to be written in terms of a single field.
The bookalso argues that invoking God is not important to explain the origins of the universe. And that the ‘Big Bang’ is a consequence of the laws of physics alone. About the God issue, Hawking responded and mentioned that; “One cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.About his religious views,he clarified that he does not believe in a personal God.

The other ground breaking story is,in search for habitable worlds and life a giant leap is made by NASA recently. I was so happy to learn that NASA just found a Solar System with 7 Earth-Like Planets and three of the planets lie in the star’s habitable zone. The habitable zone is also known as the “Goldilocks zone”. This region is surrounding a star in which liquid water could theoretically exist. I can remember the story of Goldilocks that my kids learned while they were studying in Green Herald School. Reading the news I was so excited to tell my children that Goldilocks has many sisters. I was waiting for this discovery and wish to see that human races are roaming across the planets in this stunningly beautiful Universe!

I wonder how thesetwo ground breaking scientific knowledge can be discussed and taught in secular and religious classroom. How the conservative segment, who believe in revealed science only, would act. As we know religious stream believes in revealed science. I wonder how they are going to teach a secular science book or about a new discovery as text in classroom. While religious stream could not accept non- Muslim writer’s poem and prose in Bengali literature. Playing politics with religion and science education is equal to the task of playing with fire. We must remember preserving “equal religious rights for each community”, is one of the key condition of a democratic state. Is Bangladesh going to ensure once more that it is an undemocratic and less progressive country?

These days whoever delivering scientific knowledge about Universe they are facing challenges such as death threats or death sentence in Bangladesh. Seems that one segment of Bangladeshi society living in ancient or medieval time, Hypatia and Galileo’s time.

The mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria was the only daughter of the mathematician Theon of Alexandria (c. 335–c. 405). Shemade a great attainments in literature and science, she surpassed all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors.She never feltshame going to an assembly of men, which was not common in her time. For her extraordinary knowledge in math and science she was admired by the intellectuals. But she was murdered by the religious sect for her knowledge distribution among the people. Her murder marked the end of Classical antiquity. It was a huge downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life.

Similarly Galileo was convicted by the religious sect for his new discovery. Galileo Galilei was an Italian polymath,  astronomerphysicistengineerphilosopher, and mathematician. He played a major role in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean moons in his honour), and the observation and analysis of sunspots.

He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the inquisition. On the following day this was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life. His offending dialogue was banned.And in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.  According to popular legend, after revoking his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly muttered the rebellious phrase And yet it moves.

Both mathematicians Hypatia and Galileo were the victims of religious sect.

It is surprising in this modern day, 21st century when knowledge is out there, the large number of peoplein Bangladesh are not ready to accept a new knowledge with their open arms, or they may not have strength to debate on the critical scientific issue logically. For students it is important to learn two very basic concepts, the meaning of “Science” and “Science Learning”. These two terms may sound very simple terms. But teaching the science education literature in classroomis not as easy to envisage as we think.The science educators even each learner may hold an individual perspective while they teach and learn science; teaching may be focused on scientific literacy or revealed science. Here we need to be careful, which views educators are teaching in science classroom.

The current decision about text books reform and difficulty to teach a rationalist discipline ‘science’in classroom will jeopardize the quality of science education in Bangladesh. It will not only risk the status of other religious groups, it will put in risk secular group also. It will change country’s political identity and hamper the maintenance of social equilibrium. Establishing peace through secularism and democracy under a particular state religion is an impractical idea. Trying to justify it, the government may have to engage with trickery of politics, which will put her in a counterfeit position. Furthermore, this may create an undesirable power in South Asia.

Bangladeshi secular/ religious group both has different morals and values and they are ready to shed bloods to hold up their own value that is disturbing. For them, and for the youth, the current generation, I proposefor transcendental learning. Everyone can argue regarding any new knowledge if they have enough scholarship on the concept, but they should not lose control. People must believe in logical argument and also at the same time they must consider how to keep up respect if someone believe on revealed or unrevealed religion.It can be Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or tribal faith.  Who believe in science solely they should consider to let people be happy with their own faith.

There is a solution, it may take time to introduce a new approach but it is necessary for Bangladesh education. It requires transcendentalist approach to teach. Therefore, Bangladesh should include transcendental learning to teach tolerance, and non- violence change through curriculum.

A central point of transcendental learning is principally holistic in nature. It provides rich educational image that is in many ways important for today’s Bangladesh’s social and political context. Currently in Bangladesh a narrow vision of education, regarding text book and science education, is promoted by government supporting madrassa.

Miller thinks that the “Transcendentalists offer a redemptive vision of education that includes: -educating the whole child-body, mind, and soul, -happiness as a goal of education. -educating students so they see the interconnectedness of nature, -recognizing the inner wisdom of the child as something to be honored and nurtured”.  Thus I consider an experimental approach to curriculum and pedagogy that persistently pursues for more effective ways of educating children.

Teacher must be aware of her/his role in the classroom and conscious of their own behavior. They must carry a vision of multicultural education and environmental movement as well as for non-violent change (such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.) in the society. The Transcendentalists’ vision of education has becoming important given the dissatisfaction with the current educational scene in Bangladesh.

“We shall one day learn to supersede politics by education. What we call our root-and-branch reforms of slavery, war, gambling, intemperance, is only medicating the symptoms. We must begin higher up, namely, in Education”.

The writer is the Founder President of Education Worldwide and Volunteers Association for Bangladesh Canada (VABC); she is an Anthropologist, Sociologist and Environmentalist. Currently she is conducting her PhD research in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto. She has deep interest, skills and research experience in social science such as Sociology, Anthropology and Environmental Studies and Education, particularly, knowledge of education in South Asia.As a freelancer columnist, she writes in several English newspapers in Bangladesh and local Bangladeshi newspapers in Canada. She has extensive experience working with primary and secondary schools, including national and international NGOs in Bangladesh and Canada, and has worked closely with BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) on its primary education programme. To support Bangladesh primary and secondary education programmes (working with the existing rural madrassa and secular schools), currently she is spear-heading a non –profit /charity organization Volunteers Association for Bangladesh Canada (VABC). Her passion in education motivated her support for secondary students’ access to higher education




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