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JAPAN

Address delivered during FORUM III

by Mr. Teiichi Sato,
Vice-Minister of Education, Science, Sports and Culture

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The present World Conference on Science jointly held by UNESCO and ICSU to debate on a ‘new commitment’ to science is a very important event. My country expects that the Conference will set forth the direction of science in the 21st century. With this expectation, I should like to admire the initiative of UNESCO and ICSU in organizing the conference. I should also like to respect the Government and people of Hungary who have kindly hosted this conference.

It is not too much to say that the 20th century has been a century of science. The present century should be highly evaluated because the progress of science during this century has made possible the dramatic improvement of the welfare of mankind. On the other hand, however, the application of science has often caused people's distrust of science and technology which have brought about, for example, global environmental problems and Bioethics issues led by the latest progress of cloning techniques.

It is the view of my Government that, while further promoting science as a whole, we should shift our emphasis from the 20th-century-type of science characterized by mass production, mass consumption and mass waste to the 21st-century- type of science, which is more relevant to the sustainable development involving harmony with nature and which is aimed at solving various problems facing mankind, including those of population, food, waste, energy, poverty and the environment.

Scientific research - in particular, basic research - represents an ‘unlimited resource’ of knowledge supporting both the economic and social development and the improvement of the welfare of mankind. Scientific research provides a foundation for the common welfare of mankind and international peace. I am convinced, therefore, that every country should deal with the positive promotion of scientific research as an important policy issue of each country. The recent global problems indicate the necessity for scientists in respective fragmented disciplines to co-operate with scientists from other disciplines so as to get broad and deep insights into various phenomena. In this perspective, we should co-operate with UNESCO and ICSU in promoting natural science in harmony with humanities and social sciences for the purpose of realizing world peace and the welfare of mankind.

Today science has ceased to be something for a few people only. The present Conference is going to clearly affirm this particular point. If science is to be developed adequately, it is important not only to train and supply excellent scientists but also to secure the understanding of, and the interest in, science by the general public. In addition, if a democratic decision-making regarding science is to be made possible, it would be crucial for the members of society to possess an adequate knowledge of science, to get familiar with scientific thinking, and to have a proper understanding not only of natural sciences but also of humanities and social sciences. The development of this foundation is the very key to the shaping of the sound relationship between science and society in the 21st century.

In many countries, however, the interest of the general public in science trends to deteriorate, and, in particular, many young people have lost their interest in science. The same trend can be observed in my country. All possible efforts are being made to increase the understanding of science by the general public, and to improve and enrich the teaching of mathematics and science in schools. At the level of elementary and secondary education, with a view to developing among children more flexible and creative capabilities, emphasis in science education is being shifted from the mere learning of knowledge to problem-solving learning based on children's real experiences. Various measures are now under way so as to increase the interest of people in science through lifelong learning.

As science is primarily of international nature, the enrichment of science education is not an issue which can be dealt with by a country alone. If all people in the world are to participate meaningfully in the future society, science education needs to be enriched at the global level. Experiences in respective countries for enriching science education should be shared and utilized most effectively by the international community. UNESCO has been playing a catalytic role in international co-operation in the fields of education and science. ICSU has been contributing to the development of international scientific activities. I expect that, with the co-operation of scientific organizations and researchers in member states, the two organizations will further enrich and strengthen their own activities, strengthen mutual co-operation with each other and thus further increase their contribution to the promotion of science education and to the deeper understanding of science by the general public.

Within the frameworks of both bilateral co-operation and multilateral co-operation through UNESCO and other international organizations, Japan has participated in a number of international joint research projects. It has also co-operated in the training of young researchers through the networking of institutions of higher education and research institutes. It also has carried out various forms of co-operation with developing countries on the basis of its own experiences in the past so that it may contribute to the improvement of the scientific capacities of these countries through the enrichment and improvement of science education and through other means. My Government is determined to continue its contribution to the international community more actively in both fields of scientific research and science education.

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