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Building Interest in STEM: IAEA Helps Secondary Schools in Asia and the Pacific Improve Nuclear Science Education

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Workshop participants observed as students were taught about nuclear reactions in a chemistry class. (Photo: H. Dantes/Philippine Nuclear Research Institute)

More than 40 curriculum developers, educators, and nuclear and education sector officials from 18 Member States have participated in the IAEA Regional Workshop on Curriculum Development and Launching of Nuclear Science and Technology for Secondary Schools. The workshop took place from 5 to 9 February 2018, hosted by the Philippines.

Held within the framework of a new technical cooperation (TC) regional project[1] for which the Philippines is the designated lead country, the workshop aimed to develop regional and national strategies to increase nuclear science and technology education and communication among secondary school students and teachers, and to spark student interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Over the course of five days, IAEA experts trained science teachers in the use of novel tools and instruments such as cloud chamber kits and radiation survey meters to capture students’ attention and demonstrate the daily applications of nuclear and radiation sciences. Participants and experts also shared experiences and strategies to assist the Member States who have yet to include nuclear science in their secondary education programmes, and to sustain the progress of countries where the process of integration in their respective curriculums has already begun. 

 

IAEA officials and nuclear and education experts from 18 Member States during the Regional Workshop on Curriculum Development and Launching of Science and Technology for Secondary Schools. (Photo: H. Dantes/Philippine Nuclear Research Institute)

During the workshop, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Philippines’ Department of Education and the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute. The MoU provides a framework for cooperation in implementing project activities nationwide. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, who previously visited two schools participating in the pilot phase of the project, attended the signing ceremony as guest of honour. In his remarks he noted “I am a great believer in the vital importance of science and technology for development. I very much welcome the commitment of the Philippines to increasing the role of nuclear science and technology in the academic curriculum as reflected in the MoU.”

Teachers and students who participated in the pilot phase delivered testimonials at the MoU ceremony. A number of these teachers are now themselves trainers, and are helping to promote better understanding of nuclear science in their home countries and throughout the region. Reflecting on his experience working with schools involved in the pilot projects, Dr Takeshi Iimoto (Associate Professor, University of Tokyo), was impressed by how pilot countries adapted the IAEA Compendium activities from their original Japanese context to suit the needs of different cultures: “I am proud that Japanese knowledge and experiences accumulated over a long period of time, and tools developed in Japan, are effectively used in their activities.”

Scheduled for implementation between 2018 and 2022, the project will include focused training for science teachers and the development of educational and learning resources in a variety of formats. This builds on the success of an earlier TC regional outreach project[2] in which Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates pilot tested various strategies.

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

[2] RAS0065 ‘Supporting Sustainability and Networking of National Nuclear Institutions in Asia and the Pacific Region’

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