Recently, in a Facebook group 'Ei post e Biggan Koi,' the admins approved a popular meme of Lionel Messi holding hands with two referees to show how a water molecule is formed. This post reached more than a thousand people.
One of the unique ways used by this STEM-based organisation called Science Bee to promote and popularise science among youth and teens is to share facts through memes.
Science Bee started its journey in 2018 on Facebook. Now, it has nearly 2 lakh followers on its Facebook page; and 1,87,000 and 4,27,000 members in its two Facebook groups named 'Science Bee' and 'Ei post e Biggan Koi,' respectively.
They promote basic science queries and facts on social platforms with memes, riddles and quizzes. Also they opt to keep the comment section open for all to discuss and debate, which helps them to easily bring science to people's screens.
Last month, their website was frequented by more than 5,00,000 visitors - undoubtedly reflecting Science Bee's effectiveness.
Recently, the Science Bee team consecutively won YSSE Global Education Award and BYLC Volunteer Awards in 2021. The Business Standard sat down with the team to speak about their journey as an Ed-tech education organisation and the systemic changes in our overall education.
"I used to think tertiary level education would be more diverse and practical than high school and college-level education. But as soon as I entered university, I realised the teaching method was not quite different.
We have to memorise theories more than apply them. Even the Science Club was not an ideal platform to practise science. So, I wanted to create an open platform where people can discuss the practical side of science," said Mobin Sikder, who initiated this platform in March 2018. At the time, he was just a second-year student of Chemistry at Jahangirnagar University.
In 2018, Mobin and his few friends also launched a monthly magazine, Orbital. But after the first edition, they realised a magazine is much more costly and less engaging than social platforms. So, they shifted to social media and launched a Facebook page named Science Bee.
"I liked the concept of Spelling Bee. So, the name Science Bee came to my mind. We desired to run our platform as disciplined as bees," Mobin explained.
"Nowadays, people don't have the attention span to read a long post online. That is why we keep our posts very short and precise so that followers can grab the concept within 10 seconds. Yet if they need any help with the topic, they can ask in our Facebook group," said Mobin.
Science Bee launched its website in March 2019.
With 60,000 registered members and around 2,00,000 regular visitors, it is the largest science-based website in Bangladesh.
The website has a daily science section. Here, one can find the latest and trending news of science and technology and various updates regarding health, tech, space, and many other issues in the Bengali Language. Already 550+ scientific news has been published there.
In addition, the blog section has opened a platform for young science enthusiasts to post their thoughts and ideas. More than 300 blogs have been written on various exciting and science-based topics. It does not require any mail or deadline; rather, the Science Bee team approves any blog, immediately after monitoring.
Another unique feature of the website is the Q&A section or 'Bee Q&A'. It is the largest science-based question-answer archive in Bangladesh, with a collection of over 6,000 scientific questions and answers. Students from any class can ask and answer here.
Other than digital content, Science Bee launched an online event, 'Call It Out: Fight Depression' for students of all levels in July this year. This event was categorised into two sections: quiz and problem-solving. With the initial success, Science Bee is now planning to organise more similar events frequently, given the academic institutions are opened.
"Since rural schools and colleges are deprived of many basic commodities and facilities, there is an unwanted gap between urban and rural level science education. We want to visit all over the country and run campaigns with our resources and experiences to promote science education," Mobin added.
But the main obstruction behind Science Bee's progress is the absence of adequate funding. After two years on board and such mass engagements, Science Bee is yet to establish a sustainable model.
"We want to expand our activities through sponsorships and organised events. So we are planning a premium model, which will introduce exclusive ebooks, courses on research and higher studies.
We have already launched two ebooks on our website. Apparently, our latest ebook has been downloaded 8,000 times. Honestly, if we at least get 300 subscribers in our premium version, it will be a big booster for our sustainability," Mobin further added.
Science Bee is yet to design their course model and interest areas, let alone offer one. "We indeed have our goals and plans, but we need more resources and funding to enter the commercial arena of course packages," said Mobin.
The mechanics and message behind Science Bee
Like many early level start-ups, Science Bee is running on voluntary services. In the meantime, their engagements and recent awards are sources of key inspiration for them to move ahead.
With a dedicated core team of 10 members, Science Bee has around 90 campus ambassadors all over the country working under nine team leads. They recruit core members from dedicated campus ambassadors.
Although there are a number of organisations running this course model, Science Bee is focused more on providing practical knowledge than academic syllabus.
"It's unfortunate that there is no one-to-one communication in our education system. We are used to hearing this term 'Course complete within a thousand taka' most often. Science Bee wants to change this system.
So for our courses, we will use unique materials like engaging videos, features and books to make science interesting for people. Unfortunately, there is a scarcity of quality science content in Bangladesh. So we are working on accessing the market," said Annoy Debnath, Content production Head at Science Bee added.
Ed-tech platforms and start-ups are increasingly growing in Bangladesh despite ranking 135th out of 137 countries in mobile internet speed. This phenomenon is undoubtedly a grave concern for those like Mobin Sikder, who are ushering such start-ups.
Samsun Nahar Priya, the Program Coordinator at Science Bee, said, "initially, it was difficult for all such start-ups to motivate students and parents for online education. But the pandemic has changed the scenario drastically. Students are more dependent on technology now for pursuing education.
As an outcome, Ed-tech start-ups are also taking over the education market. Apparently, the market value of education in our country is over $6 billion. So, amid all the difficulties there is also a bright prospect for platforms like us to attain a sustainable revenue."
In the long run, Science Bee wants to lessen the gap between urban and rural level facilities in studying science. It envisions a future where science and technology is at the heart of culture and society.
The platform has organised science-based meme contests, content writing contests, quiz competitions and live sessions with prominent science influencers like Wahid Ibn Reza, Jhankar Mahbub and Team Olik.
Within just three years, Science Bee has secured a significant place among the online education platforms in Bangladesh. Their unique methods of spreading knowledge with memes, graphics, story-based riddles and videos have engaged thousands of students. And All these feats are nothing but the projection of dedication and efforts from a few aspiring students.
"We don't want to create graduates here. We tend to generate a thrust for science among school level students. If our efforts help the country create talented scientists and technicians, our service will be successful," concluded Mobin.