Scientists and Their Social Responsibility

Article excerpt

Byline: Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza, Ph.D.

SCIENTISTS have a major responsibility to the youth a" to help young people enjoy, appreciate, and be excited by science. Enrolment in science and engineering courses in universities is decreasing. The downward trend may have been caused by the system of education itself, particularly in science; the low quality training of science teachers; and the low salary, social status, and recognition of science teaching.

Cognizant of this problem, the scientific community has realized that strategic change in education must start at the primary school level. This strategy involves a discoverybased primary school science and mathematics education.

In the early 1990s, Nobel Laureate Professor Leon Lederman led the formation of the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science (TAMS) in Chicago. In 1995, after a visit to Chicago, the French Academy of Sciences led by Nobel Laureate Professor Georges Charpak initiated a similar program called La Main A la PAcentste (LAMAP). Many academies of science in China, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Vietnam, and Malaysia have since adopted primary school science education programs similar to the TAMS or the French programs.

The La Main A la PAcentste (Hands-on) Program (LAMAP) is a science education program in primary schools in France, which involves hands-on experimentation by school children. The teachers challenge, guide, and encourage students to think, analyze, discuss, verbalize and write their thoughts. In the process, teachers and scientists interact via the Internet on scientific problems and teachers interact with fellow teachers on classroom experiences and problems.

In the five years that LAMAP has been practiced in about 20 percent of the schools in France, it has been observed that 6- to12-year old children are open to and enjoy science and that students not only learn science but also speak and write better. Teachers who do not have a degree in science can be very good science teachers. While the partners of the program (researchers, engineers) are necessary, their role should be well defined and they are not allowed to teach or have direct interaction with the school children. Also, the use of Internet for teachers to interact with other teachers and partners has great potential. Nevertheless, this requires heavy investment and regular updating. However, it was also found that support from society and government institutions has rather been slow.

In the Philippines, there are several similar ongoing science-education programs that are hands-on and discovery-based. NAST is now looking at how scientists can further help improve the science education program of the country, especially at the primary school level, to help children discover nature on their own. The Committee on Science and Technology and Sub-Committee on Education of Science and Technology of the House of Representatives is also looking into the adoption of a program like the LAMAP for science education in the country. …