Need of more science-based education to counter misinformation


Chennai (26 September 2021):- There is always a need for dedicated scientific platforms where young school students and teachers can learn basic process skills and attitudes towards science such as observing, classifying, communicating, measuring, inferring, and predicting.

This was the call made by the Hon’ble Minister for School Education, Government of Tamil Nadu, Shri Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, during the inauguration of the ‘Every Child A Scientist’ (ECAS) programme on 26 September 2021 at Sambasivan Hall of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) Chennai.

The Foundation and the Indian multinational Larsen and Toubro (L&T), Chennai, have come together to ignite young minds from marginalized sections of the society through the ECAS programme. L&T is supporting the ECAS programme as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.

“I urge L&T to support more schools under this programme as state has 45000 schools and request the Foundation to take up more schools under this project to help state students” says the minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi.

The Foundation initiated the ‘Every Child A Scientist’ (ECAS) programme to inculcate a scientific temper in students from underprivileged sections of the society since 2002.

“Children’s scientific temperament directly contributes to country’s progress,” says Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, who donated an initial endowment grant of Rs. 25.00 Lakhs associated with the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Development, and Disarmament. Prof. Swaminathan was the recipient of the prize in 1999.

“The earlier version of the ECAS program laid more emphasis on classroom teaching while the current version will have more interactive learning sessions and connect them with leading scientists and laboratories enabling them to get up-to-date information in the chosen research area” says Prof. Swaminathan. He emphasized over to teach students to how to differentiate facts from fiction.

“Mahatma Gandhi always stressed raising children in a culture of science which enables children to get scientific temperament,” says Prof. Swaminathan, founder of the MSSRF.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, WHO, has also emphasised inculcating scientific temper among children to counter misinformation.

“During the pandemic time, we also faced so many of challenges due to misinformation about the Virus and vaccines,” says Dr. Soumya. “At WHO, we call it as infodemic where lots of rumours and fictitious stories about pandemic spread through different messaging apps,” says Dr. Soumya.

She raised concern about how the pandemic affected school education and urged the government to think of remedial classes for those students who didn’t access online classes.

The Foundation started the ECAS programme to empower youths, particularly those belonging to tribal and farm families and urban economically underprivileged school children, to inculcate scientific temper and impart information and knowledge relating to the conservation and sustainable use of our bio-resources.

Young minds from underprivileged sections of society face several hindrances which affect their academic performance. They are deprived of access to quality learning aids and lack exposure to up-to-date exciting developments in science.

The ECAS programme will enable access to modern learning tools, well-equipped laboratories, and field visits to learn from nature and natural resources. It will focus on providing an enabling environment to the children studying in grades 6th - 8th of government schools in Tamil Nadu. It will strengthen their inquisitiveness towards science and understanding of scientific concepts.

Mr. Vinod Jacob Chacko, Head – Corp. Comm. & CSR, L&T Chennai, said that the COVID-19 pandemic showed how science is important in our daily life.

Mr. Chacko also informed about how L&T has been engaged in building social infrastructures in the field of health, education. Sanitation, drinking water, skilling, and greening the country landscape through their CSR programme.

The programme will help in enhancing self-esteem, instill confidence and enhance the creativity of the underprivileged students.

The event was attended by R Bharthidasan, Education officer, Greater Chennai Corporation, Government of Tamil Nadu; Dr K S Murali, Executive Director, MSSRF; Dr Madhura Swaminathan, Chairperson, MSSRF; Dr G N Hariharan, Director - Biotechnology, MSSRF and Dr N Parasuraman, Principal Scientist, MSSRF.