Dr. N. Rathankar Rao – Faculty in Physics – Asia Pacific World School, Bangalore
Equipped with two postgraduate degrees (one in physics and other in bioinformatics) and a doctoral degree in computational physics, Dr. N. Rathankar Rao is the Physics and ICT teacher at Asia Pacific World School, Bangalore teaching 9th – 12th grades (O, A and AS levels of IGCSE curriculum).
IGCSE is a balanced curriculum and offers flexibility in learning. When a student is in 9th grade, he/she doesn’t know as to what depth he has to study the core subjects to attempt his final exam. The transition from 8th to 9th grade is a quantum jump, since he has to study all the subjects in a much higher level with applications using mathematics. IGCSE gives the flexibility of choosing the core or extended form in his studies and accordingly he can tailor make his courses in future. The national and state boards do not offer this freedom to a student in India.
Learning in IGCSE is more of practical orientation, rather than exploring knowledge through books. The experiments in IGCSE curriculum focuses on design of experiments, rather than just making the students learn what is present in their lab manual. Thus, IGCSE students can solve any problem practically as compared to their state /CBSE counterparts.
I teach my students only based on experiments. My classes are always handled in the lab, rather than in a classroom. This has two advantages: (a) it prevents the echoes in the classroom intervening my class, thereby reducing noise levels (b) in a lab, since i am teaching between experimental setups, I can take up experimental kits on the fly to show a demonstration of a given concept.
We plan syllabus coverage, keeping in mind our holidays and time taken to teach a concept, but we forget, that teaching is an art and not a science. There are schools, who use microteaching methods, but students are made to learn only what is required. Learning should not have any boundaries. A teacher should only be a facilitator for learning and not an USB stick to transfer the syllabus to him.
Teaching under IGCSE versus other boards
Every concept in an IGCSE classroom is being taught using experiments, which is different from the regular chalk and talk in a classroom teaching. Apart from this, student interaction in these classes is friendlier than in a CBSE classes. Discussions in these classes are not just restricted to syllabus, but application of the taught concepts to various field of science and technology are also explored.
An Ideal Physics Department
An ideal physics department is one, in which:
• Teachers are given enough freedom to teach their syllabus using interactive methods AND are not focussed on completing their syllabus alone
• Concepts are taught using experiments rather than on the blackboard
• Teaching-Learning process is made effective by sharing each other thoughts in the department.
• Encouragement for research activity is given emphasis
• Promoting physics teachers to work along with the placement cell, so as to know the industry demand and how physics teaching can be tuned to this demand
• Treating physics teachers (especially humanities department) at par with the faculties in the other engineering departments like computer science or electronics. This is a discrimination seen in many engineering colleges and humanities are always looked as downtrodden faculties, since they have only a M.Sc or a Ph.D degree and not an M.Tech degree
• Allowing a Physics teacher to teach physics and not compelling him to teach other subjects, which he is not comfortable with. In many schools, a teacher is considered as a subject specialist and also as a human resource, who can engage any subject for an hour, whatever is the subject.
Professional development of teachers
I always believe in the quote, “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards”. In order to move forward, one should be updated. Today information is available to a student through many sources, with internet being the major source. A student doesn’t rely only on the textbooks for knowledge. I teach the basic coding of HTML for Grade 6 and a few of my student’s already are aware of the strengths of CSS and embedding of flash in their web pages. Hence professional upgradation from technology point of view is very essential for teachers.