IAEA Invites Students to Learn Nuclear Science Through Play

Students in the Philippines measure natural radiation using the ‘Hakaru-Kun’ instrument, a handy‐type survey metre developed for education purposes. (T. Iimoto/The University of Tokyo)

Teachers have reached almost 10 000 students in four Asian countries through a guidebook designed to bring nuclear science and technology closer to young adults. The compendium, which is being tested by the IAEA and education experts from several countries, collects unique teaching strategies and materials to introduce science and technology in education systems.

Once final, the compendium will be available for interested policy makers and middle and secondary school teachers across the region. Before the end of the year, all resources will be accessible on the IAEA website for the public at large. The compendium was developed with technical inputs from Australia, Finland, India, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the USA, and has been tested in four pilot countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates. The IAEA is already planning on applying it to more countries, including Jordan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, at their request.

“We want to challenge students’ curiosity and show them the important role nuclear science and technology play in everyday life,” said Maria Violeta Tupas, Education Programme Supervisor at the Department of Education in the Philippines, who has used the compendium. “And we want to do this during the students’ formative years, so that they realize what it is that motivates them before they choose their career path.”

By generating interest in science among young generations, the compendium aims at contributing to the sustainability of the nuclear industry and related technologies in the future. With populations growing, applications of nuclear technology rapidly expanding, and active nuclear scientists ageing, a new generation of professionals will soon need to step up.

“Students cannot go into these fields unless they know they exist,” said Sunil Sabharwal, radiation processing specialist at the IAEA. “We are afraid of things we don’t understand. Science, technology and maths are not subject areas students usually feel close to. We need teachers who can show them that these aren’t difficult, but actually interesting.”

All activities and resources captured in the compendium are designed to generate enthusiasm in these fields, making the subjects approachable and fun. With this guidebook, teachers will have a palette of hands-on experiments and material they can adapt to their school syllabus. Experts are making sure that the curricula is adaptable to the tight academic schedules and learning plans of different countries.

Domino effect

When testing the compendium in the four pilot countries, the IAEA provided fellowships in the US, supported an exchange programme for teachers in the participating countries and arranged experts from the US, Japan, the UK and Australia through its technical cooperation programme. These teachers trained their peers back in their countries, who in turn trained other teachers and spread the word, eventually reaching a total of almost 10 000 secondary school students.

“It was good to visit other countries and be visited in return to benchmark and share best practices so as to academically nurture our younger generation into a direction where they will be globally competitive,” said Tupas.

In preparation for the curriculum, experts collected ideas from, for example, Japan, where teachers often organize field trips for students; India, where education centres convoke essay contests all across the country to create an interest in the student community; Israel, where the government has built a nuclear science park and museum; and Australia, where school children are invited to an exhibition centre in the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation already from an early age.

We are afraid of things we don’t understand. Science, technology and maths are not subject areas students usually feel close to. We need teachers who can show them that these aren’t difficult, but actually interesting.
Sunil Sabharwal, Radiation Processing Specialist, IAEA

Students from the Philippines participate in group discussions. (T. Iimoto/The University of Tokyo)