Science education for girls not to be eclipsed in Africa

11 May 2001 - An African Conference in Lusaka (Zambia) next month has set itself the long-term goal of changing both the way in which science and technology are presented to children and the way they are illustrated. The Conference will coincide with an exceptional event – the first total eclipse of the sun of the new Millennium, which will be visible from the Conference site on 21 June.

This African Conference on Scientific Education for Girls aims to get across the message that the design of curricula and any reform of teaching methods must take into account the cultural context of boy and girl pupils, and the differences between the sexes.

The Conference will be a first step. From 18 to 22 June 2001, participants will examine progress in both the professional and vocational science and engineering training of girls and young women over the period 1996-2001. They will propose strategies for action and prepare an African Plan of Action for 2001-2005.

Among these strategies will be a pedagogical package enriched with activities and experiments which reflect the interests of girls and boys and which can be conducted at a low cost by teachers in the last year of primary school or first year of secondary school. Science clinics for girls will also be proposed (see also WCS Newsletter, 28 September 2000), as well as teacher training and media campaigns to raise public awareness.

Half of the six working groups will be devoted to formal education and the remainder to informal education.

The sessions on formal education will look at basic science as a pedagogical package, astronomy as a means of access to physics and mathematics, and lastly at educational practice, methodology and teacher training.

The themes in non-formal education will centre around the organization of science clinics for girls; the conduct of public awareness-building campaigns on the role women play in scientific and technological development, and the setting up of associations and networks.

The Conference is a joint endeavour of UNESCO’s Education and Science Sectors, in conjunction with UNESCO’s office in Lusaka and with the collaboration of the UNESCO offices in Dakar, Dar-es-Salaam and Harare.

The list of participants reflects this collaboration. Convinced that science education can only advance when educationalists and scientists join forces, the organizers have organized a cross-section from both worlds: staff responsible for science and technology education within Ministries of Education and representatives of associations of women scientists and engineers from the region, among them the Association of Women Engineers (FEMSA) and Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE).

For further information, contact: Anna-Maria Hoffman-Barthes (Education):

am.barthes@unesco.org; Brigitte Delahousse (Education): b.delahousse@unesco.org; Renée Clair (Science): r.clair@unesco.org