Written by: Zhang Galen, reporter of this newspaper

Planner: Liu Li

On May 5, the Ministry of Education and other 29 departments jointly issued a document to systematically deploy the addition of science education in the "double reduction" of education. The document stresses that it is necessary to ensure that "no one can be left behind" in science education in weak areas and schools. To improve the scientific literacy of young people, no one should be left behind. In the Midwest, in rural areas, front-line teachers are weaving children's scientific dreams through various methods.

Liu Jinbin, a special teacher in Zhejiang Province and the former principal of Hangzhou Qianjiang Wai Chinese Experimental School, often tells a story.

In Cangyuan Wa Autonomous County, Lincang City, Yunnan Province, a science teacher took away his three-year-old son's toy remote-controlled car in order to let students know about the "magic little electric motor." In class, she took a small screwdriver and worked with students to disassemble it little by little, showing the batteries, magnets, and coils inside.

Her child, crying and making trouble at home because her beloved toy was taken away, tears clouded her face.

This is the real experience of a science teacher in the western county of our country two years ago.

On May 5, the Ministry of Education and other 29 departments officially issued the "Opinions on Strengthening Science Education in Primary and Secondary Schools in the New Era" (hereinafter referred to as the "Opinions"), systematically deploying the addition of science education in the "double reduction" of education, and supporting the integration of services to promote the high-quality development of education, science and technology, and talents.

Liu Jinbin noted that the "Opinions" clearly states that it is necessary to ensure that "no one can be left behind" in science education in weak areas and schools.

"There are definitely regional differences in the development of education, but fortunately people have not ignored and denied this difference, and have been trying to bridge the gap." Devoted to education and poverty alleviation for many years, Liu Jinbin knows that in economically underdeveloped areas, doing a good job in science education needs to break through more difficulties.

To improve the scientific literacy of young people, no one should be left behind. In the Midwest, in rural areas, front-line teachers are weaving children's scientific dreams through various methods.

There is a shortage of teachers, equipment, and substantive attention

Primary science education is at the forefront of basic science education. The Science Teaching Special Committee of the Basic Education Teaching Steering Committee of the Ministry of Education organized a national survey of primary school science teachers in the second half of 2021. In this survey, a total of 131134 valid questionnaires were collected, covering 31 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

The survey results show that, on the whole, the imbalance of full-time and part-time science teachers in primary schools is more prominent, with less than three full-time teachers. Specifically, the proportion of part-time teachers in village primary schools (including teaching points) was the highest, reaching 84.66%.

In counties and rural areas in the central and western regions, full-time teachers are even more stretched.

A science teacher and researcher in a county in Hubei Province once conducted a thorough survey of the situation of science teachers in the county - there are 10 full-time teachers, 90 part-time teachers, and the average age of science teachers is 46 years old. Some schools also have an unwritten convention: out of "care" for teachers who are about to retire, let them teach science that is not stressful.

"There is still a big shortage of full-time science teachers. Science classes are now offered from the first grade of primary school, and there is an even greater shortage of manpower. Sun Jiangbo, a science teacher and researcher at Hetang District Primary School in Zhuzhou City, Hunan Province, and the former principal of Wenhua Road Primary School in Hetang District, is still in the field of science classes. In his class, there are always several young teachers who sit in and learn how this special teacher lectures.

Even though there are already colleges and universities that have opened science education majors, looking at the entire primary school science teacher team in Zhuzhou, there are very few students from science classes; Even, there are not many people with a science background. There is no way but to adjust the stock structure and let teachers "leave home halfway" and transfer to teach science. "But to really grow, it definitely takes three or five years of grinding." Sun Jiangbo said, "Without excellent teachers, there can be no excellent science education. We need teachers to professionalize gradually. ”

Part-time teachers have limited energy to science lessons. However, even if you are a full-time teacher, you are not motivated enough to figure out how to teach well.

Some science teachers and researchers frankly described the status of different courses: Chinese, mathematics, and foreign languages do not need to be emphasized because they need to be "tested"; Sports, art, and music will also be valued, because there are special departments for "sports and art" from the Ministry of Education to provincial and municipal education administrative agencies; Science is different, it is important to say, and it is still "yes or no" to do. "By importance, I just emphasize its importance in the curriculum standards." "Primary school science instruction is in an unsupervised vacuum in our county," he said. Science classes are considered stress-free, but science teachers have far fewer opportunities for promotion and evaluation than non-language teachers. ”

In fact, primary school science is a multi-disciplinary, multi-content comprehensive course, and it takes a lot of effort to do it well. Liu Jinbin observes more than 100 classroom teaching sessions every year, often conducts classroom teaching reviews for young teachers, and also does public teaching. He described to reporters what a good lesson looks like - it is interesting, vivid, layered and stripped away; It should be in line with the cognitive characteristics of the student's age group, and also pay attention to the development of students' thinking in the classroom; It should allow students to observe, ask questions, explore, do hands, discuss, mobilize and satisfy their curiosity; The course of the whole class must be winding and quiet, and in the end, it must be bright.

Therefore, there is also a saying that elementary school science classes are the most difficult subjects to take. "There is now an emphasis on inquiry-based learning, emphasizing not only the imparting of scientific knowledge in the classroom, but also the cultivation of scientific literacy." Liu Jinbin said, but how to do it, areas with weak teachers need more guidance.

Limited by professional skills, and because they do more and do less, some teachers simply "lie flat" and "teach what is like", and have no motivation to innovate and study.

In addition to the deviation of teaching philosophy, the lack of experimental materials is also a practical hindrance.

This is Sun Jiangbo's personal experience. The experimental materials existing in schools basically do not match the new teaching materials under the new science curriculum standards, coupled with the lack of professional science teachers, in rural areas, many school science courses are basically lecture-based, there is no talk of science experiments, demonstrations instead of group experiments, courseware playback instead of demonstration experiments.

Beijing Guixin Charity Foundation has been committed to improving science education in rural areas in central and western China for more than ten years. Fan Ying, secretary general of the foundation, told the Science and Technology Daily reporter that from what she learned, schools in economically developed areas in the east, in addition to the science experiment toolbox supporting teaching materials, students themselves also have science experiment kits for after-school use. But in 8 counties in eight Midwestern provinces where the Foundation runs science teacher training programs, most schools don't even have science toolboxes to accompany textbooks.

Just like the western female teacher who impressed Liu Jinbin, she took her son's toys to toss out experimental materials for her students.

There is enthusiasm, there is consensus, and there is also status promotion

In fact, no matter where children are, they have a thirst and love for science in their hearts.

As early as April, six or seven primary schools had asked Wei Minggui - when will the city's science summer camp be held this year?

Wei Minggui is a primary school science researcher at the Mianzhu Teacher Training Center in Sichuan Province. The science summer camp that everyone cares about is a long-term cooperation project between Mianzhu and Beijing Guixin Charity Foundation, and has been held for nine consecutive sessions.

Due to the epidemic, the summer camp was once turned online; Held in-person last year, it is expected to enroll 100 students in grades three to six. "Half a day after the registration notice was sent, more than 200 people signed up. We hurriedly closed the registration channel. Wei Minggui said that in the end, the camp expanded to more than 230 students.

Participating in science summer camps does not get any utilitarian benefits, and it is not linked to further education. What Wei Minggui saw was a child's pure passion for science.

Although there are still various problems, since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China's primary and secondary school science education work has been comprehensively strengthened on the original basis. The latest national monitoring of the quality of compulsory education shows that primary and secondary school students have performed well in science studies overall, with about eighty percent of students reaching the middle level or above.

With the advancement of high-quality and balanced education, the scientific academic level of students in the central and western regions and rural areas is also accelerating.

Now, Wei Minggui's most common question is how to drive Mianzhu teachers to teach science well, and how to make Mianzhu's children fall in love with science. "Science education is crucial to the development of students, and in the grand scheme of things, science education at the basic education stage can play a fundamental role in the improvement of the quality of our country's citizens."

Compared with Wei Minggui, Hunan girl Peng Xiaohui is a recruit in science education. However, she has also felt the charm of science classes.

Born in 1996, Peng Xiaohui attended a secondary normal school and returned to her hometown to teach at Macha Complete Primary School (hereinafter referred to as Macha Primary School), a village-level primary school in Shidi Town, Yongshun County, Xiangxi.

At first, Peng Xiaohui taught Chinese. Later, there was a shortage of science teachers in the school, so a few young people changed careers and became the backbone of the science class in this village-level primary school.

The construction of a dedicated team of science teachers stems from the insistence of the principal and the improvement of the status of science courses.

In 2017, the Science Curriculum Standards for Compulsory Education Primary Schools were released, requiring science classes to be offered from the first grade; In 2019, the "Opinions on Strengthening and Improving Experimental Teaching in Primary and Secondary Schools" was released, encouraging science classes to strengthen inquiry-based experimental teaching; In 2022, the Compulsory Education Curriculum Plan and Curriculum Standards (2022 Edition) was released, which made an overall layout of science classes for grades <> to <> and increased the number of hours for science courses.

"It's no longer the age of 'dead reading', even if you take the exam, you can't rely on rote memorization. Cultivating hands-on skills and inquiry skills is of great help to children in society. Cai Yimeng, the principal of Macha Primary School, said that in the past, teachers of science, morality and rule of law were often concurrently served by class teachers. But both the education authorities and us felt that these classes should be taken seriously, so we arranged for someone to teach them. He was very resolute, "I often tell teachers at the conference that there is no distinction between major subjects and sub-subjects, at least in our school, science teachers have the same opportunities for title evaluation and promotion as non-language teachers." ”

The village school has a multi-purpose building and a science laboratory. It may not be enough, and some of the equipment may not be as bright, but at least it will support the science class.

For Peng, the challenge of teaching science is obvious—she didn't go to high school, and the experiments that needed to be demonstrated to children were not taught to do at the student level. Peng Xiaohui should first study by herself, do it two or three times after class, have a bottom in her heart, and then teach it to her children.

To Peng's delight, the children enjoyed science lessons, and one lesson was about designing and building "roller coasters" to understand the movement of objects. The teaching materials require that the track length of the "roller coaster" be more than 2 meters, but the time in the class is limited, so Peng Xiaohui asked the students to make an 80-centimeter track first. During the lunch break, the children still want to challenge the 2-meter track, so they spontaneously go to the science laboratory to tinker. "Usually those children who think we are more 'skin' are doing very beautifully this time!" In science class, Peng Xiaohui also saw a different shining point in children.

Sometimes, Peng Xiaohui asks students if they want to be scientists when they grow up. They replied loudly: yes! "At this time, I feel that I am a happy science teacher."

She sent the reporter a "scientific ledger" made by the child. The semester is over, and the children hand-draw the knowledge points they have summarized. They drew the laws of the moon phases, wrote down the conditions under which shadows arose, and elaborately designed the cover of the ledger, drawing planets, trees, the sun... One child also wrote "love science" and "happiness" on the cover.

Work together to lift up children's scientific dreams

"Moss flowers are as small as rice, and they also learn to bloom peonies." Having had face-to-face contact with many science teachers, Fan Ying can always think of this poem. What often strikes her is their determination and desire to bring high-quality science education to students.

Despite the objective constraints, teachers who are willing to take good science classes will seize various opportunities to ask experts for advice: how to mobilize students' enthusiasm in the classroom, how to translate ideas into practical practice...

"The training of teachers should quench their thirst and talk to them about practical things. Let them see how the class is taught and discuss why the class is taught the way it is. Teacher training is not new, but it is important to implement it. Liu Jinbin suggested that teaching and research staff and teachers should build a database of typical examples of science education in practice and research, and promote everyone to form a consensus on "what is a good teaching method for science courses".

In addition to seeking outside help, Midwest science teachers are also exploring a development model that suits the local area.

If there are too few teachers in a school, then unites people who are interested in scientific education in districts, counties and even cities. In 2014, a key scientific teacher in Hetang District, Zhuzhou City, Hunan Province, founded the "Scientific Squirrel Club". Sun Jiangbo said that with such an organization, science teachers have a team and backing.

In Mianzhu City, Sichuan Province, a similar story is playing out. "We need to break down barriers between schools. The science teachers in the entire city belong to the big family of Mianzhu science education. Wei Minggui said that which school wants to hold a science and technology festival, science teachers from other schools will go to "support"; Which teacher does not know how to teach the class, everyone will come up with a plan and study it thoroughly.

As a science teacher, Wei Minggui plans to bring more systematic and professional training to Mianzhu's teachers, especially scientific knowledge training. Experts should be involved to organize systematic learning, and scientists in the best fields and the developers of curriculum standards can also participate. He also wants to carry out a normalized science and technology innovation competition at the municipal level in Mianzhu, if nothing else, that is, he wants to promote learning with competition, promote teaching with competition, and push teachers to study teaching materials.

Sun Jiangbo combined the characteristics of the region and put forward the "three pluses" of science education.

The first "plus" is "science class plus other subjects". Science education does not have to be limited to science classrooms, there are science in Chinese and mathematics, and teachers combine course content with science, which is a good interdisciplinary theme teaching. The second "plus" is "science class plus club". After the "double reduction", the content of after-school services is becoming richer, and schools with conditions can encourage students to participate in various interest clubs, do robots, and do scientific experiments. The third "plus" is "science classes plus off-campus resources". If the resources of the large classroom in the city can be mobilized, it can also make a lot of progress in improving children's scientific literacy.

Social resources are also what Liu Jinbin is concerned about. To do a good job in science education, it is not enough for the education system to fight alone.

"I hope that more science and technology workers who are interested in promoting science education in China can come to schools and classrooms to help students and teachers." Liu Jinbin called for researchers to establish regular contacts with local primary and secondary schools. They can bring the most advanced things to supplement the lack of teachers to a certain extent; More importantly, "they allow students to have objects of worship."

The "Opinions on Strengthening Science Education in Primary and Secondary Schools in the New Era" was launched by 18 departments, each performing its own duties, and will form a pattern of "big science education". The document also emphasizes that it is necessary to broaden the resources of extramural science education, fully mobilize relevant units, strengthen the docking of supply and demand, and realize the "two-way rush" between off-campus science education and schools.

The person in charge of the Department of Supervision of Off-campus Education and Training of the Ministry of Education stressed that the "Opinions" attaches great importance to the support of science education, and tilts various projects and tangible resources to the central and western regions, rural areas, old revolutionary areas, ethnic areas, border areas and key counties for national rural revitalization, and provides care and assistance guidance to weak schools and special children's groups.

Children's scientific dreams will fly higher and farther under the support of many parties.

Images in this edition are provided by interviewees unless noted

(Science and Technology Daily)