THE IMPARTING of space science education at the primary, secondary and college levels can encourage the young generation to pursue space science and technology as a career in Pakistan.
The step holds unprecedented importance for the socio-economic uplift of this country. Space scientists at the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) say that lack of awareness among the youth about the huge potential of space science and technology is a major cause behind astronomy and planetary science not being a career choice among our young generation.
Career counselling seminars and workshops while highlighting space sciences and related topics can be conducted to plug this yawning knowledge gap and motivate the young to adopt this line as a career.
According to meteorology scientists, space technology today is not confined to just sending satellites into space for telecommunication. The purview of utility of space science and technology has expanded far beyond that.
“Space technology involving a network of gigantic satellites are now being exploited widely for environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, predicting natural disasters and their impact, water flow monitoring, glacier melting assessment, agricultural data collection, study of climate change impacts, discovering new energy sources, natural resources management, etc,” says Dr Ghulam Rasul, chief meteorologist at the Research and Development Division of the Pakistan Meteorological Department.
It is also true that space science and technology is not reserved for national, regional and international space agencies any more. It has gradually turned into a field of mounting interest to an array of industries, including small and medium-sized private firms. Given the reason, there is a rise in demand for candidates with strong space acumen, skills and qualifications within space technology.
Space science and technology education deals primarily with the design, development and application of space technology for national and regional development and studying environment management, weather forecasting, flood monitoring, etc. But, technologies such as weather forecasting, glacier monitoring, remote sensing, Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite television, and long distance communications systems are entirely dependent on space infrastructure.
However, there is a need to create awareness and impart education to the young generation for developing and training human resources in order to obtain benefits from space technology and motivate the youth to envision and create space applications for service to humanity.
“There is a pressing need to develop human resources to gain optimum benefits through the extended use of modern space science and technology, particularly in countries such as Pakistan. But this is not possible unless space science is promoted among the youth as a career of high repute,” believes Dr Muhammad Qaisar, vice chancellor of the Federal Urdu University of Arts and Sciences in Karachi.
A senior official at the Suparco Institute of Technical Training (SIIT) in Karachi, Zehra Ali, says that Suparco conducts different awareness raising and related programmes at all levels in collaboration with private and government educational institutions in order to sensitise the youth about the significance of space science and technology education so that they would pursue it as a career and play their part in the countrys overall socio-economic uplift.
“The Space Week event that runs from October 4 to 10 every year across the country is one such programme,” she says.
Attracting more and more young students to the annual event, which features different colourful activities including night skywatching and stargazing, painting, quiz competitions, activities and workshops can motivate them into adopting space science and technology as a career. Besides, incorporating lessons with practical exercises about space science and technology and the use of space applications through the incorporation of space science and technology into the curricula can also be of great help for encouraging more students to pursue graduate and post-graduate level education in space sciences.
To achieve this, short-term training courses can also be designed and implemented for primary, secondary and college science teachers.
These can be backed by practical exposure. Visits to space research and development institutes, facilities and remote sensing application facilities at Suparco would enhance their understanding of the significance and role of space science and technology for environmental monitoring, disaster management, natural resource management, glacier monitoring, flash flood predictions, etc.
Space-related educational programmes creating lessons for teaching space science can be designed in support with the space scientists and astronauts at Suparco and other higher educational institutes such as the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad. Space scientists and astronauts can also be invited to deliver space-themed standards-based lessons in private and government schools and colleges in order to interact with the young students and inspire them through their knowledge and expertise about the exploration of space.