Disclaimer: This article is meant for students who have chosen to study Science but don't know why, who are clueless and have decided to just go with Science, and for those of you who have been forced to study Science by either peer pressure or parents and want some motivation.
Yesterday, I got a call from my cousin. He asked me if he should study Science now that he has passed the SEE examinations. I don't remember what I told him (at least nothing I would like to divulge here) but it did get me thinking. It reminded me of the time when I was confronted with the same great fork in the road; a time when I faced the same kind of societal pressure. I was mostly clueless. Looking back at those days, there are things I wish I had known that might have helped me calm my nerves or even helped me academically. So, as someone who did end up taking Science and who has been tutoring +2 students for the last three years, I thought I'd write this piece for those of you who are confused, for those of you who have decided to pursue Science but are scared, and for those of you who want to know what awaits you once you do choose Science.
In many ways, the decision for the SEE pass-outs this year is even more difficult. Faced with the current health crisis, most of you have neither had the opportunity to attend a proper bridge course to get a glimpse of what studying Science is like nor received an unbiased assessment of your academic skills. The pressure laid on the students at this time of their lives is substantial even without the horrors of the pandemic. In most families, Science is the holy grail of all subjects — a subject that opens up virtually every door later on in life regardless of whether you want to study medicine, engineering, pure science, business, banking, law, literature and the list goes on. And so, studying Science has also become about deferring your hard life choices to the future you. "You can always choose to switch to a different stream after two years," they say. People might even tell you that all the hard-working kids choose Science and you are likely to find "better" friends if you choose Science. Dear reader, if you are trying to find reasons to study Science, I can give you better ones.
Most students in the current day and age have come to fear Science. They say it is difficult, or just boring. What people need to understand is that Science is neither inherently difficult nor inherently boring. It is only difficult when compared to other streams and even that depends largely on your own proclivities. If you are interested exclusively in the subjective, if you relish in the intrinsic power of words regardless of what they are saying, if you believe that truth is subject to interpretation, then you will find that Arts will suit you best. If you are interested exclusively in man-made laws, the flow of capital, the foundations of our civilization, then you will find that Management will suit you best. And it is neither within my power nor my wish to convince them to study Science. This article is for the people who find themselves leaning in no particular direction and have chosen to drift into the arms of Science. It is important for these people to understand that more than just the sheer volume of the syllabus, what makes Science truly difficult is the failure to understand why one is studying these things in the first place.
And so, if you are going to pursue Science, it is important that you understand why you are studying it. In essence, the how of it matters little. What you are studying in and through Science is not just the specifics of the life cycle of a Fern, or how ammonia is manufactured, or how we came to discover the structure of the atom, or how to calculate the area under a curve. These, to me, are secondary. What Science is trying to teach you is the investigative skill required to make these observations about the nature for yourself or at the very least, to appreciate these discoveries. Humans, by nature, are curious beings and this curiosity for the nature is what lies at the heart of science. Along the way, you will have to work really hard and memorize a whole lot of things. It would be too unrealistic to say that you should not study anything by rote. Our education system is based upon your being able to recall things from memory. But when you make exams the only reason for you to study and memorize facts, you will not be able to derive much else from Science other than good grades (and the scorn of your friends and relatives for being too anti-social).
Think of Science as a process of solving a complicated mystery. The subject of this mystery is nature. Yes, you will have to know all the facts and commit them to memory in order to solve this mystery but you will also need logic and reason to glue the various puzzle-pieces together. And you are doing this not to appease somebody who is going to be grading your report but to unravel the mystery. This is something that international textbooks on Science do really well. They may weigh heavy on the mind and even heavier on the hand, but they provide context to Science — they devote as much time and space to the process of discovery as to the discovery itself. Sadly, the textbooks written by the authors in our country only retain the destination and not the journey within the story, and after two years of studying +2 Science, all the charm and awe of discovery is lost. So, if you are about to study Science, know that you are embarking on a journey of discovery and when you are pulling your hair out because you cannot memorize something or cannot understand something, remember to close your eyes and look at the bigger picture. It won't help you memorize or understand anything but it will motivate you to exert yourself harder.
There is, however, one other reason for you to study Science. I believe studying Science is worthwhile because it is part of your social responsibility. The world today is doused in buzz-words like AI, climate change, data privacy, genetic engineering and identity. So much of world politics hinges on these, and yet the general populace believes that a 10-minute YouTube video is sufficient for them to understand these, or even worse, make decisions of national and international importance regarding these. Science, I think, is the difference between believing in global warming and not believing in it, between an anti-vaxxer and a pro-vaxxer, between those with binary notions of identity and those who believe in the broader spectrum of genetic expression. You may still end up taking an anti-vaccine or flat-earther stand after you've studied Science but at least, after having studied it, the points you will make will be based upon cold hard facts and not the idle gossip of so-called scientists and pseudo-scientists on the internet. You will learn to trust the scientific method and not any particular blog post, article or video that contains the phrase "according to scientists". It might not teach you exactly how but it will set you on the right path to understanding why the COVID-19 is spreading exponentially, how dependent are social media revenues on your data and how anonymous that data really is, why it is wrong to treat doctors like all-curing Gods, and then, assault them for messing up. All of this so that the decisions you make will be your own and the sum total of these micro-decisions is what ensures that the future of humanity is carved by hands that are both responsible and informed.
The truth is that science controls our lives so much more than we would like to admit, and yet, we refuse to make a conscious effort to understand it. This is the reason why science does not pay well. For a society that is obsessed with instant gratification, science is dreadfully boring for it is slow and methodical. The society believes in science only so far as they are able to see results. These results are what drive the common tax-payer and so, the policy-makers to fund science. You may not come to love science after studying it for two years, but you will, at the very least, understand why it is important to fund science even if there are no immediate results, and why it is worth studying Science even if you might never use it directly.
These are uncertain times, and clarity is hard to come by. The decisions you end up making at this point in your life will likely determine your academic future. Once these decisions are made, you cannot go back in time and change them without sacrificing a significant portion of your time and money. It is, therefore, imperative that you understand the gravity of these decisions. In the spirit of fairness, you might also want to search for articles on studying management or arts. In the end, it might not even be you who gets to decide but it is always best to be informed than to be led on by inadequate or false information.
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