Although the focus was on Europe and Africa (AEMASE stands for African European Mediterranean Academies for Science Education), participants also came from such countries as Argentina, Australia, Malaysia, Mexico and the United States.
A number of inquiry-based science education (IBSE) initiatives were presented, including the French initiative La Main á la Pâte (LAMAP), which has been operating for some 20 years and is now being replicated in such countries as Haiti and Senegal – both of which were represented at the meeting.
Among the other presenters, Jackie Olang, director of NASAC, reported how the network of science academies in Africa was promoting IBSE in such countries as Ethiopia, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Likewise, Norma Nudelman, IAP Science Education Programme representative for IANAS, based at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, reported on the efforts of the Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales República Argentina (ANCEFN) in promoting the HaCE (Hacieno Ciencia en la Escuela = Doing science at school) programme in Argentina – also based on LAMAP.
Among the guests at the conference where Her Excellency Souad Abdelrazzak, Minister of Education for Sudan, who confirmed that: “Education is the foundation on which our scientific progress is built – and science solves problems and creates opportunities for the future.” In Sudan, she continued, her ministry is working with UNESCO on a pilot project teacher-training that she hopes will be rolled out to cover 20,000 primary and 3,000 secondary schools.
Minister Abdelrazzak also showed her support to AEMASE by offering to host the next conference in Sudan in 2015.
Yolanda Valle-Neffe, director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, representing the UNESCO director general, also highlighted UNESCO’s key role in supporting education around the world, confirming that promoting science, technology and innovation in the interests of peace, security and well-being is central to UNESCO’s activities. She also gave her support to IBSE, adding that UNESCO is providing micro-science kits to schools in many countries. “These are real mini laboratories,” she confirmed. “They are affordable, safe, unbreakable and can be re-used many times.”
Summing up the on the final day of the meeting, Dato Yee-Cheong Lee, chair of the IAP Science Education Programme, concluded that there were still some roadblocks to a wider uptake of IBSE in school curricula around the world, but by working together with UNESCO and other organizations, and strengthening networks such as AEMASE with its academies of science able to bring together such stakeholder communities as teaching professionals and government officials, then there is hope for IBSE. “Only by promoting a culture of investigation and reasoning in the young minds of today,” concluded Lee, “can we hope to make better citizens for tomorrow able to tackle such issues as population growth and climate change.”
Presentations from the AEMASE conference are available from the Lincei website. Full proceedings are being prepared by ALLEA and will be available shortly.