Sunday, March 20, 2005


I am no Hollywood filmmaker nor do have any such ambitions but the sequel is necessary to complete the story. This time I recall my experiences in the Botany and the Zoology practicals.

I shall with the zoology practical. There was no long lecturing on the do’s and the don’ts a la the Chemistry laboratory. There was a small discourse on the need to maintain discipline inside the laboratory. The entry into the laboratory was not dramatic as is the case with the entry of a hero in a typical Indian movie but not dull. The stench of chloroform overpowered every other thing. The jars and the bottles containing the specimens-dead animals made a really eerie setting. The first experiment related to the study of ‘scoliodon’- a shark species-commonly called the dog fish. It was a culture shock for a pure vegetarian like me (then)to have a fishy matter in the hands. This was followed by experiments on frogs, cockroach and the earthworm. Of course, there were experiments related to the study of the bones and he slides of various body parts of the organisms. The bones and the slides made for a good laugh. It was very difficult to distinguish the tibia-fibula from the radio-ulna as the wear and tear had made them look the same. Of course, we didn’t dare to question for the teacher always threatened to throw our records (experiment books) to Neptune and Pluto! The slides-most of them looked the same. It was nearly impossible to distinguish the transverse sections from the longitudinal or the lateral sections. We just copied the diagrams from the books. I am happy that none of us went on to become doctors. The patients would surely have suffered after having being treated by us.

Now it is the turn of Botany. The first experiment is the one that still continues to fascinate me after many years. The teacher a rookie like us was showing us the different parts of a compound microscope. He pointed to a particular part and told it to be the ‘body tuba’. There is no need to think of it as musical instrument; it was meant to be the body tube. In later experiments we came across roota for root, stema for stem and so on. Even today he continues with that kind of accent which he feels proud of. As most of us were from vernacular schools, we were not accustomed to such accents or for that matter English of any kind except in the English class. Of course, my parents being teachers and my mother an English teacher never told me about such an accent. The same teacher is now engaged in a research programme sponsored by the UGC (the top body for higher education in India). In a couple of years he will append the title ‘Dr.’ to his name and continue his merry ways of making life difficult for the students.

The practicals are meant to inculcate scientific thinking in the students. In reality, however, they only further the interests of the science teachers. The very mediocre teachers are transformed into supermen inside the laboratory. There should be an end to this practical stuff.


Blogger Sasi said...

Good posts. I can remember and relate to many of your observations, having gone through the same educational system.

2:09 PM


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