‘Science can be fun for everyone’

PLAN: Alom
Shaha; and
(inset) his
new book
LESSON PLAN: Alom Shaha; and (inset) his new book



A TEACHER is on a mission to show that science is not just for “smart people”.

Alom Shaha, a former BBC filmmaker, has released a book this month on sci­ence activities parents can do with their children using household items.

Shaha is giving a talk on his latest pro­ject at University College London on Thursday (22).

He said one of the reasons he wrote Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder, which is based on videos he created, was research that showed the subject was taught poor­ly in primary schools.

Shaha, 45, told Eastern Eye: “Research says that science is valued and respected by the public: however, it shows that it’s taught quite poorly at primary level.

“It proves overwhelmingly that parents who read with their children give them a massive educational headstart.

“My hypothesis is if parents also do sci­ence, they will give their children a bigger advantage. I would like science literacy to be seen as just as important to parents as literacy and numeracy.”

He added: “The problem is the major­ity of primary school teachers don’t have science qualifications, a science degree and or possibly even a science A-level.

“They [schools] don’t have specialist teachers. What’s interesting, though, is children seem to have more fun doing science at primary school – and science should be fun.

“You don’t need to know that much science to help your children. My book tries to encourage scientific thinking and looking at the world scientifically, asking the right kinds of questions rather than having the answers.”

The British Bangladeshi also paid trib­ute to Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist who died at his home in Cam­bridge aged 76 last Wednesday (14).

“He was an inspirational sci­entist. The kind of sci­ence Stephen Hawk­ing did was very complicated and difficult to understand. That complexity can be off-putting to some peo­ple. You think only smart people can do science. My message is that science belongs to all of us, not just smart people.

“Stephen Hawking was fantastic and hugely accom­plished. I believe science is ac­cessible to all. Even if you don’t know any science, you can help your child to think scientifically.”

Shaha has been in teaching for more than 20 years, having worked at a comprehensive school in London and a college in Watford, Hertfordshire. He has also done TV presenting, performed live science shows and made videos for teachers showing them how to teach sub­jects like physics. He said the biggest issue for people working in his profession is the workload.

“The evidence is clear. That’s why lots of people leave the profession. The best solution is to reduce teacher contact time, spend less time in the class­room and more time preparing.

“Also less time doing needless admin­istration. We have a culture of filling in spreadsheets and collecting data.

“This obsession with numbers really damages the profession. You are expect­ed to do so much in the working week.”

A report for the Department for Educa­tion in 2014 said Year nine pupils who spent two-three hours on homework on an average week night were almost 10 times more likely to achieve five good GCSEs (A*-C) than students who did none.

Shaha said he found parents showing care and attention to their children can also make a huge difference.

“I am a parent myself and hope I don’t become a tiger parent or a pushy parent.

“The thing I see that makes the biggest difference is having parents who care and love their children. That sounds really cheesy, but you would be surprised at how many children don’t have that.

“You really notice children who are deprived of that care and attention.

“Taking the time to read with your child is a simple act which is tremen­dously powerful.”