Even though Sri Lanka has been considered a country which has a higher literacy rate than many other developing countries, rare are the instances where people actually apply what they’ve learned to their day-to-day activities. Particularly the knowledge of science that people have gained in their secondary education has been merely limited to paperwork because of lack of practical application. This has eventually led to the state of ‘Science and Technology’ taught in schools being considered a difficult subject which can only be grasped by a limited group of “bright” students. The attitudes of the students towards science, has put not only their literacy in science but also their willingness to learn science at stake.
Hence it is important to improve scientific knowledge as well as to develop an inquiring mind. The enthusiasm about science amongst students, teachers and the general public should be improved, thereby improving the science literacy and scientific temperament of Sri Lankans.
Since the majority of the population of Sri Lanka are equipped with mobile phones and have access to the internet, electronic media seemed to be the most efficient and effective way in which solutions could be provided for the above mentioned issues.
Therefore, In January 2012, the project “Open Science Circle in Electronic Media” (OSCEM)/”Vidu Nena Hawula” was implemented.
OSCEM provides a combination of services to its members. It provides a daily science message service via text messages (SMS), e-mail and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, a science blog in Sinhala and also a question and answer section.
As the name itself explains, it is an open forum for the subscribers to discuss their problems related to the science behind day-to-day activities with the scientific community. The questions asked by our members are published on our official website, but the information of the particular member who asked the question is not published due to privacy concerns. Members can also submit their questions via Facebook, Twitter or Google+ by using the hashtag #AskVNH. These questions are answered by out resource panel consisted of Doctors, Engineers, Pharmacists and Professors, Research Scientists and Research Assistants who are employed at NIFS.
The free text message service is provided on all weekdays except on government holidays, in the language (Sinhala/English) that they prefer. Interesting information on Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Astronomy related matters are sent to members on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays while a question based on a scientific concept behind an everyday incident is sent to all members on Fridays, giving all of them the opportunity to provide answers for it on or before Monday of the following week. In order to encourage and appreciate interactive participation, the members who provide correct answers to the question are selected as “winners of the week” and are rated according to the accuracy of their answers. The member who has scored the highest rating is selected as the “winner of the year” and is awarded a gold medal.
The official website of OSCEM consists of all the Science information that has been sent through the service so far. Messages are sent to members via Twitter Notifications,Emails and also using Text Messages.The information sent daily is also published on Twitter,Google Plus and a number of Facebook pages and groups that create a science forum and bring forth logical scientific arguments.
Following the current trend of online blogging, OSCEM also maintains a Sinhala science blog which contains many articles related to a number of branches of science. Members are also invited to send their own scientific articles to be published. This blog has been highly appreciated since there aren’t many online articles published in Sinhala open for reference.
This service being provided free of charge has enabled many individuals to benefit regardless of their economic status. The highly positive feedback that OSCEM has received from its members also proves that it has indeed been successful in its mission.
“The messages sent by your service are published on the notice board of our school, Kothamale Maawela Viduhala by the students. Our students also hope to present a booklet that contains a collection of these facts at the end of the year. ” – RDDM Kumari.
OSCEM, with a circle of more than 2000 registered members, has travelled a long way towards its goal during the past two and half years; nurturing their interests in science and motivating them to seek knowledge. One of the greatest of our achievements throughout these years is receiving a National Award under the category of e-Learning and Education at the e-Swabhimani National Best e-content Awards 2014.
Anyone can register for this service by completing the registration form found on the website and anyone who does not have access to the internet can also register by sending their details to 0777600845.