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Time does not make science obsolete, rote learning does

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“How shameful is it that the world has reached the moon and we’re still teaching the same 300-year-old physics to our children in schools!”

The gentleman on the phone – a learned and well-known educationist of Pakistan – was hoping that I would agree with his standpoint. He believed that we are teaching obsolete science to our children. But my answer, surely, disappointed him as he ran long arguments in favour of what he was already convinced about.

My counter-arguments – though equally long and simple – weren’t satisfactory for him either.

The 300-year-old physics of Sir Isaac Newton – better known as Newtonian or Classical Physics – is, of course, very old, but is certainly not obsolete. Every student who has undertaken a Masters (MSc) in Physics knows these concepts very well. Newtonian physics remains with a student from high school till their higher education is completed be it a master’s degree or in some cases, even beyond. Over a period of six years or so, its details, complexity of equations and depth of ideas do increase, but the basics remain the same.

The case of engineering students, especially the students of mechanical engineering, is no different. To make moving machines – large and small ones – they have to learn the laws and principles of the same “300-year-old” classical mechanics with the finest details and apply them to make something that........

© The Express Tribune Blog