Changes in Chemistry Curriculum and the Role of Chemistry Olympiads - Dr D V Prabhu, Wilson College, Mumbai
To meet the challenges of globalization, it is necessary to continuously innovate our chemistry curriculum, teaching and evaluation methods. This calls for proper planning and reorganization of our educational setup to make it responsive to the changing needs of society. Chemistry curricula have to be regularly updated keeping in mind the recent developments in the subject and the needs of the chemical industry.
Chemistry education has undergone rapid transformation due to the changing face of chemical research which has become more and more interdisciplinary in nature. Chemistry has changed from structure driven to function driven and today is more about systems than just molecules. Today’s ‘Borderless Chemistry’ has broken the barriers of the traditionally disciplined chemistry. Hence it is imperative that modern chemistry education has to be driven by these emerging trends and our students should be given a flavor of research in their college/university days.
International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) has emerged as a major innovator of Chemistry Education especially in our country. The International Chemistry Olympiad, started in the erstwhile Czechoslovakia, has emerged as the most challenging Chemistry competition for pre-university students. It brings together the most gifted and motivated students of the world in a friendly competition of the highest level. It is probably the only competition which emphasizes both theory (60% weightage) and experimentation (40% weightage). The questions (multiple choice and theory) are non-conventional and of high calibre which test the students’ understanding and comprehension of the subject, reasoning and logical thinking and problem solving skills and is not based only on memory. The experiments are open ended and detailed protocols are provided which have to be followed meticulously. The IChO syllabus is regularly revised by the International Chemistry Olympiad Committee.
India has been participating in IChO since 1999 and has done remarkably well earning medals and ranks. India hosted the 33rd IChO in 2001 at Mumbai – an event which had a huge impact on Chemistry Education in our country. Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (TIFR) is the nodal agency of the Government of India for organizing Science Olympiads in the country and for selection and training of the Indian teams participating in the various International Science Olympiads. The Indian Olympiad programme
is fully funded by the Government of India through MHRD and its funding agencies like DAE, DST and BRNS. Association of Chemistry Teachers, the national registered body of chemistry educators is actively involved in the Indian National and International Chemistry Olympiads.
It is a matter of pride that India features among the top 5-8 teams and almost all students have won medals.
Some Offshoots of IChO
The International Chemistry Olympiad is the harbinger of innovation in Chemistry Education. The important offshoots of ICho are:
1. The innovative and focused nature of the Olympiad examination questions is being increasingly reflected in the competitive and college examinations held in the country.
2. Perceivable changes are seen in the teaching of
Chemistry especially experimentation.
3. National level research institutions and distinguished scientists are getting involved in Science education.
4. Resource generation camps (RGCs) are increasingly being organized for school and college teachers to generate good quality questions and to device new experiments.
The Indian National Olympiad programme follows a five stage process, which is detailed in the article.