Enhancing the quality of chemistry education in Ethiopia: A study of the use and impact of small-scale chemistry experimentation
Author(s)Tesfamariam, Gebrekidan Mebrahtu
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AbstractDespite the policy recommendations for active and practical oriented teaching, the current situation in Ethiopian science classrooms can be described as teacher-centred, where teaching styles such as practical work are rarely used. Budget and time constraints, lack of technical assistance, inadequate teacher preparations are among the frequently cited reasons. The teacher-centred teaching has been shown to lead to a decline in student interest to study science and to the acquisition of low-level scientific knowledge. The current study was aimed at exploring the possible use of low-cost experimentation techniques in order to support an active learning environment, the ultimate goal being to improve the quality of chemistry education in Ethiopia. Specifically, the study was conducted to introduce and evaluate a small-scale chemistry (SSC) experimentation technique (which employs drastically reduced quantities of chemicals and small apparatus, mostly plastic) that could support the implementation of chemistry practical work in Ethiopian secondary schools and teacher education institutions. A quasi-experimental research design involving both quantitative and qualitative methods was used to evaluate the impact of the SSC on classroom practices. Comparisons were made between an experimental group (taught using the SSC approach) and a control group (taught using regular teaching methods) Findings have shown that the SSC technique has the potential to address some of the barriers to practical work and to change the way chemistry is taught and learned in Ethiopian classrooms. The findings indicated that the SSC experimentation is not only convenient (easy, safe, quick, etc.) for both teachers and students but also promotes active learning (hands-on and minds-on) by making chemistry classes more interactive, enjoyable and interesting; allowing students to perform experiments for themselves and to collaborate with their peers. This in turn has led to enhanced student learning. The study has systematically explored the possible use of SSC experimentation in resource constrained Ethiopian classrooms in terms of how it benefit students’ learning and how it is perceived by teachers; thus, it contributes both to the knowledge base in science education and to concrete classroom practices. It has the potential to support and guide educational reforms that are undergoing in Ethiopia and inspire similar development elsewhere.