Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you here today to mark the 5th World Conference on Science and Technology on the exciting theme of Interdisciplinary Practices in Science and Technology Education.
I wish to first thank the International Council of Associations for Science Education (ICASE) for this initiative and the long-standing engagement in promoting Science and Technology Education worldwide.
Science education is important because it holds answers to questions every citizen must address today – questions about equitable and inclusive growth including access to science, about conserving natural resources and addressing climate change, about sustainable development, and about social resilience.
Indeed, STEM education is seminal to meet those challenges and ensure global prosperity. This is possible through instilling a culture of science from an early age, through a scientifically informed society, and through sharing of knowledge, experience and best scientific practices.
UNESCO has been a champion in promoting innovative science and technology education methods in teaching and learning processes. A perfect example is UNESCO’s PERFORM project aiming at developing transversal science competences through the performing arts, thus contributing to attracting young people into careers in STEM fields.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda tasks us with meeting the challenge of sustainable development – for the planet, for humanity.
That is why, we must create the conditions for a sound science education environment, for teachers and educators. We must raise the profile of STEM, to make science studies and careers more attractive and to broaden the base for innovation.
The UNESCO Sustainability Science initiative, for instance, is developing policy guidelines to promote interdisciplinary research and education. The initiative assists universities as traditional social institutions in knowledge production and distribution, in adapting their teaching and learning approaches towards a problemoriented balance of specialized expertise versus inter-and transdisciplinary.
UNESCO works to attract more brilliant minds, boys and girls, to STEM. We need to nurture their curiosity and creativity to educate the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.
In this context, UNESCO has implemented in more than 30 countries its Microscience teachers’ training programme, made of mini-laboratories for science teaching and learning in remote and rural areas.
Science and technology education is a key part of UNESCO’s support to national Science, Technology and Innovation policies. In Tanzania, Nigeria and Seychelles, for instance, we have supported Governments in building STEM education into overall STI reform plans in order to ensure better teacher training and sharper curricula.
Empowering girls and women is a breakthrough strategy for more inclusive, sustainable development.
The UNESCO Institute of Statistics informs us that the ratio of women researchers does not exceed 19% in Asia, and 35% in Europe and Africa. The recently issued UNESCO Science Report, also warns about the gender gap in research careers. In this context, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards programme is the perfect example of UNESCO’s engagement to change these trends.
To change course, we must act at many levels. We must act together.
We need system-wide action, to increase interdisciplinary practices in science teaching and learning, to be at the height of the stake of our world today.
UNESCO is guided by this idea that Science and Technology Education can become a motor for sustainable development, if it is tightly aligned with national development strategies, if it is fine-tuned and integrated into curricula, if it is inclusive.
This is our message for this 5th World Conference on Science and Technology.
I thank you for your attention.
Flavia Schlegel – UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences