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Beyond One Million: Technical Cooperation Programme Expands its Efforts to Engage Students, Targeting Tertiary Institutions


Professor Iimoto Takashi, Division for Environment, Health and Safety at The University of Tokyo describes the state of nuclear education at his institute. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

In January 2018, under the umbrella of an ongoing technical cooperation (TC) project[1], the IAEA mobilized the efforts of hundreds of teachers and scholastic experts in support of an initiative to develop tools and resources for nuclear education that will reach at least 1,000,000 secondary school students in the Asia and Pacific region. As part of that ongoing initiative, eight experts from seven countries in the region gathered at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters from 25 to 27 November to devise new strategies to expand, enhance and promote nuclear science and technology in tertiary education.

For an illustration of the impact of the original high school project, see this photo essay.  

The contribution of nuclear science to development, improved health and economic prosperity relies on the availability of committed professionals. By encouraging students to recognize the potential of nuclear technologies to transform and enrich the lives of millions, the benefits of the nuclear sector can be maximized. The aim of this initiative is to inspire students at a formative age.   

The three-day meeting was organized to develop new strategies that could be deployed to streamline nuclear-focused modules within existing science education programmes.

In her opening remarks, Jane Gerardo-Abaya, Director of the Technical Cooperation Division for Asia and the Pacific, highlighted the importance of continuously engaging with both students and teachers—at all levels of education—in order to enhance the potential contribution of nuclear science in the region. “The young generation of today will become the future scientists and experts of tomorrow,” Gerardo-Abaya said. “As such, it is essential to continue supporting Member States and meeting the requirements of their scholastic programmes in order to prepare would-be nuclear professionals for their future work and responsibilities.”

The meeting’s opening remarks were followed by a presentation on the history of the project by Sunil Sabharwal, an IAEA Radiation Processing Expert, who highlighted how the project has exceeded expectations in reaching students and spurring their interest in nuclear science. “I am confident that the project will not only reach one million students by 2021, but will go far beyond that number. Now, having laid the groundwork at the secondary level, it is important to expand the IAEA’s outreach to students at the tertiary level. This will ensure that the momentum created by the project has lasting results,” he said.

Subsequently, experts from universities in the Asia and the Pacific Region delivered presentations which clarified the current state and future ambitions of nuclear education programmes at universities in their countries.

Following their presentations, the attending experts engaged in a comprehensive discussion which  identified commonalities in Member State approaches to post-secondary nuclear education, highlighting potential opportunities for cooperation between academic institutions. On the basis of their discussions, the experts agreed to compile a list of the relevant best practices, experiences and lessons learned in their respective Member States, in order to develop and disseminate a compendium which may act as a reference document for tertiary school teachers throughout the region. This new resource for third level educators will complement the Compendium of Resources on Nuclear Science and Technology for Secondary School Teachers and Students, which was launched in 2016 to help teachers organize new classroom and after-school activities which can be used to teach science in a more thought-provoking and easy-to-understand manner.

Participants agreed to a comprehensive roadmap that establishes the most appropriate strategies for the introduction and enhancement of nuclear science and technology at the tertiary level, along with an action plan for an upcoming international workshop in April 2020 at Tsinghua University, which will focus on regional collaboration to improve and enhance the coverage of nuclear subjects in tertiary education.

[1] RAS0079, ‘Educating Secondary Students and Science Teachers on Nuclear Science and Technology’

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