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Integrated approaches to curriculum remain a contentious issue with ardent commentators presenting a number of arguments either supporting or opposing its implementation in schools (Hatch, 1998)11. These arguments have tended to be either epistemological, focused on the structure and utility of knowledge, or affective, focused on students’ attitudes and engagement with science. On the epistemological front, disciplines, it is argued, create a sense of order about the complex world and provide students with the specialized knowledge they need to solve complicated, discipline-based problems or create rigorous explanations of focused aspects of the world. Disciplines are considered important human achievements that have provided the best answers to fundamental questions about the world that human beings have generated. In contrast, supporters of curriculum integration argue that knowledge in the real world is holistic and the division of knowledge into subjects for teaching and learning in schools is an unnecessary historical tradition and simply a practical method to deliver a curriculum (Hatch, 1998)12.
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There is a common thread in many integrated programs in schools of connections with the environment (Wallace et al., 2007)23. A quick glance at the most recent National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST, 2009) annual international conference program reveals terms like socio-ecological systems; biodiversity curriculum; invasive species; diversity beliefs; renewable energy course; ecosystem relationships, environmental literacy; environmental decision-making; environmental behaviour change; global warming; climate change, environmental moral dilemmas; and, eco-justice24. For example, Zandvliet & Nelson (2009) found that in integrated, experientially-based courses in environmental education, students’ perceptions of their classroom learning environment were much closer to the classroom environment they preferred compared with traditional classrooms25. Real world scientific perplexities, including the issues of environmental sustainability, are clearly becoming part of the real world of science education.