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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Link science to more fun subjects to shake off 'boring' image, teachers urged

Speakers at the World Science Forum wrestled with the question of how to foster enthusiasm among young people, Daniel Bardsley writes from Jordan

Participants attend at the opening session of the eighth World Science Forum 2017 in Jordan. On Tuesday, panelists discussed how to foster enthusiasm among young people about science. Amel Pain / EPA
Participants attend at the opening session of the eighth World Science Forum 2017 in Jordan. On Tuesday, panelists discussed how to foster enthusiasm among young people about science. Amel Pain / EPA

To engage young people in science, educators must foster a collaborative learning environment which links science with other school subjects, the World Science Forum in Jordan has heard.

Speakers on the inaugural day of the WSF, which is being held in the Middle East for the first time, wrestled with the question of how to foster enthusiasm among young people, and society at large, with science education and scientific research.

Gloria Bonder, regional chair on women, science and technology at Unesco, said it was important that schools did not teach science subjects in isolation and instead fostered an interdisciplinary approach. Otherwise, she said there was a risk that it “becomes boring” to children, adding that there were some “extraordinary programmes” in schools that even linked together subjects as apparently disparate as mathematics and sport.

Tying in with this, Jordan's minister of education, Omar Al Razzaz, cited research that indicated that the most important factor in terms of a child's attainment in science was not factors such as their parents' level of education or income, or the numbers of students in the classroom. Instead, he said the key issues were the teaching environment and the extent to which that child's interest for science had been sparked by the education process and the institution they attended.

Read more: Science key to solving regional and global threats, Jordan science forum hears

“The number one factor is how they see the school. Is it a place they feel they belong to?” he said.

“We often ignore the dynamics that make it a [good] working environment.”

Science organisations have a role to play in ensuring that young people take an interest in science, according to Gordon McBean, president of the International Council for Science.

“We have caravans to promote science to school kids. We must train the adult scientists to communicate with the kids.” he said.

He said scientists must encourage the wider public to take an interest in science and prevent the creation of a sharp divide between science and society at large.

“Scientists are very seldom trained how to communicate. We need to help scientists communicate their knowledge, their wisdom,” he said.

He said this was especially critical because it fed back into decisions by politicians.

“The politicians more often listen to the public,” he said, indicating that a public that was better informed resulted in public policy that had a stronger link to evidence-based research.

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