After the Post Graduate Diploma course on Science Journalism in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, in the late 1980s, I was unhappy that none of the students took up science journalism as a career path.
There were quite a few courses on science and technology communication that started in the 1990’s, supported by the NCSTC. Given the number of students who came out of the courses, one should have expected a vibrant science reporting in Indian media. But that does not appear to be the case. By 2010s, such courses started closing down one by one. Something was evidently wrong.
So I was apprehensive when accepting to teach a paper on science communication for the Masters course in Mass Communication and Journalism in Amrita College of Arts and Sciences, Kochi. It was an optional paper and 8 students chose it, inspired by a workshop that I had conducted in the earlier year.
Like Jamia, Amrita too, gave me full freedom to define the syllabus and curriculum. But between the 1980s and now, I had grown up. I had studied the documents of the UNESCO concerning science journalism courses; I had helped the African University College of Communication to design their syllabus for a paper on science journalism and I had done a review of the courses on science and technology communication in India.
Moreover, I was a trainer and not a teacher anymore. So I threw out most of the theoretical stuff and focused on skill building and attitudes rather than knowledge.
Of course, I shared a large number of knowledge resources about science as well as about media and journalism. But never tried to teach the stuff.
I think it worked. Most of the students did not have a science background beyond 10 or +2 levels. Yet, there they were, reading scientific papers. The fear of scientific terminology and mathematical formalism had disappeared. And they seemed to be enjoying it. They were confident that they can report scientific advances by the end of the course.
Of course, I am concerned. Concerned that none wrote in Malayalam, their mother tongue. If budding journalists are not willing to use the language, media in Kerala will deteriorate further.
But now I have a course structure for science communication that works for Journalism students. It can be conducted as two one-week workshops, separated by two or three months.