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I.7 Science Education


We face a changing world, appropriately symbolized by the advent of the year 2000, in which science literacy and confident access to the knowledge base will determine the fate of communities and nations. Ignorance of science, formerly hazardous, alienating and foolish, will in the future become imprisoning and suicidal.

The WCS Draft Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge sets forth the issues of science and the use of scientific knowledge at the end of the century. It serves to challenge those of us devoted to science education by the passage:

"Stressing that access to scientific knowledge is part of the right to education and the right to information belonging to all people; and that science education is essential for human development and for creating endogenous scientific capacity, …"

Universal science education is a key to any hopes for a "new commitment of science for human welfare," which is the central theme of the WCS declaration. As democratic governance spreads throughout the world, there is a need for wider understanding of the forces that are shaping global society. Twentieth century science that gave us understanding and control of the structure of matter, the history and workings of the universe, the structure and function of biological molecules, the beginnings of a cognition science based upon brain research and the still evolving power of the digital computer and the internet.

Whereas the importance of science and technological literacy has been articulated in many contexts, there is, in general, insufficient awareness of just how revolutionary the future will be. If education is designed to produce graduates who can cope with and help manage the world into which they will emerge, then any reasonable projection into the 21st century must have profound effects on all education and especially on science education. These projections include:

  • Population growth, climate research, modeling and the many disciplines that go into global climate change and other ecological threats make the notion of sustainable development one of the overriding concepts for the preservation of civilization in the next century. This too cannot prevail without a strong popular consensus derived from scientifically aware populations.
  • The revolutions in communications and information technology as illustrated by the internet has projections which are almost beyond belief: however the benefits to society vary. We can have the ability, at home, to read any book ever written in any language, to see any movie ever made or listen to any piece of music ever recorded. However, there is the possibility of stultification of intellect, the dominance of commercialism, low-grade entertainment and the menace of mind control. The choices will depend on the literacy of populations.
  • 21st century genetics and neurosciences offer unimaginable opportunities for human health, freedom from disease, greater longevity and even improvements in human attributes, but these raise awesome issues of public policy which require understanding on the part of a technologically and scientifically literate citizenry.

Since the development of knowledge creates these many choices, it is the obligation of the scientific and technologic community to accept a major responsibility for the advancement of science education. We call upon the WCS to accept the moral obligation to fully participate in radical improvement of science education at all levels for all students. Scientists must contribute some of their time to collaborate with educators.

Priorities for the involvement of scientists are:

  • Helping primary school teachers to teach mathematics and science. Exemplary programs are available on the internet. Developing nations are most in need of this assistance.
  • Collaborate with educators to critically examine the science, mathematics and technology curricula of pre-college schools and the science education of students of liberal arts, business, law, journalists, etc.
  • Join with colleagues to give popular lectures, write for newspapers and magazines, use TV and radio and especially the internet to educate the population in the importance, the excitement and the societal implications of science and technology.

Leon M. Lederman

Chair: Shirley Malcom AAAS, USA

Session co-ordinator: Leon Lederman Chair, ICSU/PCBS; USA


Theme I:
Science education for development

Sam Bajah Institute of Education, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

It is now a truism that the world has approximated to what scientifically literate people call a global village. In discussing the theme, Science Education for Development in this World Conference on Science, that notion of globalization must be brought to the fore. While this audience would not want to be bored with the long argument about science education as an academic discipline, there is need however to draw attention to a global view of development, which oftentimes is confused with growth. While growth is a pure economic term simply meaning ‘more output of goods and services in a nation’, development on the other hand is a socio-economic term. It is a kind of socio-cultural change in which new ideas are introduced into a social system in order to produce higher per capita incomes and ‘higher standard of living through modern science and technology’. With the involvement of science and science education world-wide, development could therefore be perceived as progress in desired directions which includes improvements in material welfare of a people as well as the eradication of mass poverty, illiteracy and diseases. Who then determines development?

In the much talked about twenty-first century, scientific and technological innovations (along) with the risks involved will definitely take a gigantic stride. The role of science education, a vehicle with which scientific information is communicated to any society will become most prominent in the global village. With well-coordinated science education as a powerful tool,

selectivity of scientific information to suit different levels and classes of people in societies can be achieved. Unless scientific information is well dispersed, the development in one part of the global village can be lopsided and this can constitute the lack of development (underdevelopment) of another part of the same global village. Through science education, therefore the strong link between Science, Technology and Society (STS) can be demonstrated in order for them to bear on personal, institutional, community, national and world development. Particularly in the developing countries, specific audiences must be targeted through proper science education programmes. Children of this century, who will constitute the better part of the twenty-first century population, must be exposed to innovative, challenging and pragmatic science education programmes. As part of this discourse, we would therefore like to showcase a project 2000+ science education programme, ELSSA, in a developing country which aspires tomarch into the twenty-first century with a cohort of scientifically literate population.



Jajah Koswara Jakarta, Indonesia
Lauritz Holm-Nielsen World Bank, USA
Molly Teas Director, ICSU/PCBS; AAAS, USA


Theme II:
Science education in schools

Colin Power Deputy Director-General, UNESCO, France

As the world prepares for the twenty-first century, this workshop provides a precious opportunity for scientists and science educators to reflect on science and its future role as well as the international action needed to make full use of all opportunities offered by science and technology (S&T) for development and to identify future trends and resources in this field.

The declining interest of the youth for sciences and the dissatisfaction of scientists with formal science and technology education is widely known. The causes for this can be attribued notably to:

  1. Absence of a socio-cultural and economic dimension in the teaching of S&T;
  2. S&T education for scientists and technologists instead of S&T for all;
  3. Lack of ownership in S&T educators;
  4. Teaching for exams;
  5. Passive/inactive teaching methods, inhibiting creativity, active participation and decision making in students.

Serious attention needs be paid to the scientific and technological needs of society in the 21st century and the way intentions in education are to be implemented. To achieve these goals governmental support is crucial, notably in reviewing existing provisions for science and technology education at all levels, with the aim of giving appropriate attention to development and maintainance of teaching and learning programmes responsive to the needs of individuals and communities.

Following on the need to promote a world community of scientifically and technologically literate citizens stressed at the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990), Project 2000: enhancing scientific and technological literacy for all, based on a partnership between a group of major intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, was launched by UNESCO in 1993 to promote and guide measures for a greater infusion of scientific and technological culture into society.

Project 2000+ is based on the philosophy that as S&T increasingly affects our everyday life scientific and technological literacy (STL) plays a crucial role in ensuring an economically and environmentally sound development of countries. It is based on the rationale that science education is seen as "relevant in the eyes of the learner". This should be the underlying basis for the learning of science and technology at all levels, which differs in perception (although not necessarily in content/context) from the current emphasis on science education as "science learning considered important by scientists".

The goal of science education is thus to enable students to reach a high degree of literacy with respect to the goals of education within a country or a system, through science. The literacy component of STL is the society focus; the structures: science education. The aim is to motivate the students for greater relevance. For relevance in the eyes of the students, we need to consider the science curricula, teaching, and assessment. Two ways to operationalise this would be teaching for greater student relevance and a change in teaching approach. In this connection, through the Project 2000+ UNESCO is promoting actions in Training and Capacity Building, Renewal of Curricula and Programmes, Materials Development, Exchange of Information and Experiences and Popularizing Science and Technology for All.

In conclusion, S&T education as imparted through the Project 2000+ philosophy, has the potential to promote in the youth the critical thinking abilities and sense of civic responsibility necessary for them to participate productively in society now and throughout life.


Jack Holbrook Executive Secretary, ICASE, Cyprus
Caroline MacGrath Association for Science Education, UK
Winston King University of the West Indies, Barbados


Theme III:
Science education for future scientists

Wei Yu Vice-Minister for Education, China

Many government leaders, scholars and entrepreneurs from most countries have realized that the human society is once again experiencing a great revolution, like the industrial revolution 250 years ago. Since information technology is the core or the symbol technology causing the coming revolution, we may call this era ‘the information era’. An information society entails learning, and lifelong learning for survival and development. While fundamental changes are under way in our society, education will also inevitably experience a revolution. The precursor of this revolution is the intensive application of information technology (IT) in education.

The Ministry of Education of PRC has decided in "Action Plan for Invigorating Education towards the 21st Century" that the modern distance education program should be put into effect. In the next three years the central government will contribute a considerable amount of capital for this purpose, and will draw capital and effort from regions, enterprises and individuals so as to complete the construction of modern distance education.

In order to carry out the tasks of an intensive application of IT and developing modern distance education, China Education and Research Network (CERNET) will be continuously to growth. Considering the high cost and low coverage of computer network, China Education TV Station has set up the VBI Center. It began its distance educational satellite broadcast by using digital compression technology. VBI Center combining with using the equipment developed by Xian Jiao Tong University can form a "green information high way", especially for the remote ethnic minority residential areas and the poverty-stridden areas. China modern distance education is still at its beginning stage, but it has already achieved some short- term success.

Developing countries like China, with a large population and an unbalanced economic and cultural growth; distance education has become a strategic choice for developing education.



Flavio Fava de Moraes Vice-President, IAU; Brazil
Berit Olsson Director SAREC, Sweden
Munthir Salah Minister of Higher Education, Palestinian National Authority, Palestine


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