Background of study Essay

The science of today is the technology of tomorrow. Now, science is gathering strength in the world for dramatic changes and developments in human lives. Consequently, Bhutan has stepped into the world of Science for 32 years. It was the endeavor of our insightful monarchs taking us into brighter humanity today. Our country took the long way to get into the Western-style education system. The Bhutanese education journey has scaled many milestones through periodic efforts in the form of policy changes and adaptations to modernistic approaches (Ministry of Education (MoE), 2011a). The modern education journey began with a few hundred students in the early 1960s (Ministry of Education (MoE), 2014). Accordingly, science education in Bhutan, in the proper sense, started with the introduction of modern education in Bhutan. In 1986, the ‘New Approach to Primary Education’ (NAPE) was launched, seeking to orient the primary science curriculum for Classes IV to VI more confidently to take account of the Bhutanese context and to uphold the teaching of science based on Bhutan’s natural and social environment(MoE, 2014). The framework has been designed to bring in key concepts, at a developmentally appropriate level, for each key stage.

In Bhutan, the voyage of science is not very far-off. The basic elements of science and technology education are included in environmental studies (ES) are taught in Dzongkha in classes PP to III (Key Stage I) since 1994 and General Science in class IV to VIII. Before, science is taught as an integrated subject from classes IV to VI, which then splits into Physics, Chemistry and Biology subjects for upstream classes. However, in 1999 and 2000, the teaching of science in Classes VII and VIII was bifurcated into three distinctive science disciplines. Later, a single integrated replaced it “Science for Class VII and VIII. The science for Key Stages 2 (IV-VI) and 3 (VII-VIII) is taught as General Science through the integration of concepts of Physics, Biology, and Chemistry (Ministry of Education (MoE), 2011b). The integrated curriculum is adopted because it allows ideas and concepts in science to be treated more holistically and bring unity to the three sciences. The idea that integrated science provides unity among the sciences is a recurrent theme in the science education literature as a reason for adopting an integrated science curriculum. Nonetheless, in Key Stages 4 (IX-X) and 5 (XI-XII), science education is delivered through a single discipline approach: physics, chemistry, and biology. While, at class XI and XII, science studies are offered in physics and chemistry as elective subjects and Biology as an optional. This is because, at higher levels, the three disciplines are very different in their methods. As a result, unity in the form of integrated science is very problematic (MoE, 2011). For example, Black (1986), argues that the nature and focus of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology are different.

Science is a human activity, which builds up our understanding of the tangible and biotic world. In addition, science not only offers very powerful ideas that help us make sense of the natural world, but also offers students the opportunity to develop a wide range of scientific skills through engagement in meaningful scientific investigations like hypothesis generation, forecast investigation, observation, measure¬ment, analysis, synthesis, data interpretation and communication of the findings (MoE, 2011). The skills learned are transfer¬able in their everyday lives and will equip them to be lifelong learners to choose the right career. Further, during their engagement with scientific ideas, concepts, and investigations, learners will widen their ability to be critical thinkers and apply their knowledge to new situations, which is very vital in currently changing the world (MoE, 2011). Subsequently, as a society, Bhutan needs to train and educate the generations of scientists, technologists, doctors, and teach¬ers with a scientific personality so that they can develop new and better ways to meet the needs of a rapidly changing society and to solve new problems (MoE, 2011). The school science curriculum should furnish to the needs of learners who want to pursue higher studies in the field of Science and Technology, the course should enable students to understand the basic scientific principles used in their lives and technology (CAPSD, 2009). For those who do not pursue higher studies or training in Science and Technology, this course should enable them to understand the fundamental scientific principles and develop skills useful in their lives, principally in the field of agriculture, livestock farm¬ing, forestry, and other industrial environments. It also helps in the development of critical and analytical thinking skills that allow learners to make judgments about the moral and ethical issues of science and technology that directly affect the social, cultural and the natural environment around them. Therefore, the science curriculum is the spine in the 21st-century world.

This monograph is a study of the effectiveness of the 5E learning cycle to investigate grade twelve students' conceptual understanding of gene expression in higher secondary schools in Bhutan. The higher secondary schools selected for the study is located in Mongar Dzongkhag, one among the 20 districts of Bhutan and one of the member institutes within the 62 (government 42 & 20 private) constituent higher secondary schools. The main focus of the monograph is to study and investigate the effectiveness of the use of the 5E learning model in teaching and learning biology concept through an intervention. More than the period of 10 years, there has been a growing concern both in the Ministry of Education and among international agencies about the quality of education in Bhutan. According to the study conducted by the World Bank (2009) reported low learning levels and lack of critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills among Bhutanese students. Moreover, the study conducted by the Royal Education Council (2010) revealed that students perform below expectations of their grade level on both basic and advanced academic skills lack communication and critical skills. However, the major factors, which recognized to students’ low level of learning is teacher’s ineffective teaching practices (REC, 2009). Teacher fronted teaching method is the prevailing teaching approach used in the schools. Whereby, classroom teachings were facilitated in traditional ways where teachers take central and dominant roles, and transmission of knowledge is assumed (REC, 2009). Teachers hardly use innovative teaching strategies and instructional practices, which are not characterized by constructivist approaches. Accordingly, students hardly get opportunities to take, share ideas or ask questions and the students’ innovations are not stimulated (Rabgay, 2018). Such learning has to lead to poor conceptual understanding and a low level of academic achievement (REC, 2009). It was found that students become passive learners relying on teachers to decide what, when and how to learn (Rabgay, 2018). Therefore, with the current need to improve the quality of education in the country, it has become necessary for us to gear towards shifting the pedagogical trend from teacher-centered teaching to learner-centered teaching. It is very important for teachers to use various innovative and interactive teaching techniques to replace the conventional teaching approach.

According to Rutherford and Ahlgren (1990), young people should see, hand, contact, operate and change situations that approval to them to investigate what is happening in science. Since the students need the process skills when doing a scientific investigation and during their learning, instructional strategies have been developing in which learner become an active contributor to their learning. Students are generally expected to learn biology meaningfully and have a positive attitude toward biology in order to acquire the various biological skills need to handle the problems they encounter in their real life. Gaining these skills and making them life-long requires a modern education but not an education that includes memorizing. In biology education literature, some instructional methods have been used in teaching/learning biology.

Biology is the science of the 21st-century world. Current biology is as vital as it is thrilling. Biological knowledge has played a very important role in society in term of medicine and health issues. According to Campbell (2002), genetics and cell biology are revolutionizing medicine and agriculture, genetic engineering has become one of the most important molecular tools in the modern molecular breeding of crops. The significant progress has been made in the advancement of new and capable transformation processes in plants bringing enormous benefit to people over the last decade. In this regard, genetic is the cornerstone in this contemporary developing world for living beings (especially people and animals) to survive by expressing innate or acquire gene. Gene expression is an important building block in genetics. For living beings to live, cells must be able to respond to changes in their environment. Therefore, to regulate gene expression, it has two main steps for protein production—transcription and translation, which are key to this adaptability. Moreover, the expression of different types of genes is critical to the organisms’ survival. Besides, genetic can be applied in the study of all living systems to improve crop plants and animals. Genes encode proteins and proteins dictate cell function, and the thousands of genes expressed in a particular cell determine what that cell can do (Campbell & Reece, 2002).

Mostly biology concepts are taught in most schools as an abstract subject without much emphasis on learning strategies. This has resulted in students' low acquisition of biology processing skills. Most students tried to memorize and repeat the terms and concepts until the exam pass and then forget most of them. Specifically, genetics and the related concepts in biology curriculum have counted between the most difficult concepts in biology to learn by students ( Kindfield, 1994; Bahar, Johnstone, & Hanseli, 1999; Bahar, 2002). However, for the last century, researchers offer alternative strategies to support meaningful learning in biological concepts in different countries and there has been a different arrangement to the active participation of students in biology instruction. Therefore, in the present study, the 5E learning cycle is used as one of the teaching strategies based on inquiry is the learning cycle. The learning cycle can be defined as an activity-based teaching method and promote students meaningful understanding of the scientific concept, explore and deepen that understanding, then apply the concept to new situations (Walbert, 1997). Over the last decade, the 5E learning cycle model has emerged as a leading teaching approach to classroom teaching. It has its roots in the constructivist learning theories and represents a shift in educational paradigm from teacher-centered to student-centered teaching. 5E leaning is something that improves students' enthusiasm for investigation, meet their expectations and encourages them to focus on action research. Further, it is a model that utilizes skills and activities.

Today, the 5E learning cycle instruction continues to be an integral component of many teaching practices and research attempts to enhance students’ outcome (Marek, Laubach, & Pedersen, 2003). In the literature, the results of the studies on the significant effect of 5E learning cycle instruction reported, such as; the improvement of reasoning skills (Schnieder & Renner, 1980), conceptual achievement (Balci, 2009; Sadi & Çakiroǧlu, 2010), scientific attitudes (Oren & Tezcan, 2009), and bringing about conceptual change (Bybee et al., 2006) compare to conventional instruction. Similarly, in science education literature, several teaching strategies are proposed to provide a meaningful understanding of genetics concepts, mitosis and meiosis process (Farrar & Barnhart, 2011; Williams, Linn, & Hollowell, 2008; Yue & Torres, 2004; Kindfield, 1999). However, the researches on the effectiveness of the 5E learning cycle approach on genetic concepts in Bhutan are limited.

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