Why And How To Teach Science Today? – Danièle Perruchon

The current sanitary crisis forces us to confront reality, to put science back into everyday life, to develop curiosity for the world around us. 

Science is making progress, but the use of these discoveries can also lead to new risks.

It raises questions which are relevant to society, but which are filled with controversy and uncertainty. 

Doubt is the driving force in science : doubting one’s certainties in order to try to resolve these controversies, while also distrusting one’s intuitions as shown in the cognitive sciences. It is necessary to “Learn to resist” (Olivier Houdé *1), think against one’s brain, one’s own intuitions, to reason justly.

The necessary confrontation and cooperation with peers, children or adults, fosters a reflection both personal and collective. It can be questioned or refuted at any time.

Studying science requires creativity, perseverance, critical thinking and risk culture with the possibility to make mistakes. When the mistake is mastered, emotions, which are initially negative, will be transformed into a joy of discovery and pleasure to learn. Recognising and sharing mistakes helps knowledge progress.

This is why the implementation of active teaching starting at an early age with an investigative pedagogy is essential.

The recommended approach is based on different stages of questioning, observation, experimentation, modelling, documentary research, interviewing experts, among others, which allow to validate or reject proposals to solve the problem posed. Their synthesis allows to structure the knowledge built in response to these questions, to confront it with the established knowledge and then reuse it in a new situation. 

Language and reasoning are paramount and enable the acquisition of knowledge and skills to see the world from an objective and clear viewpoint.

Complex issues arise the need for interdisciplinarity and, for this, to relate knowledge and skills specific to each discipline. The various surveys and research on Education for Sustainable Development conducted by OMEP (*2) since 2009 are proof of this. Another example of a common tool in all disciplines is mathematical language. It is through the observation of concrete situations related to daily life that the usefulness of this tool will make sense for children.

These complex questions do not have a single answer. Debate is necessary for decision-making. It therefore calls for an education that encourages choice, critical thinking, and the organisation of philosophical and ethical discussions, as recommended particularly by AGSAS (*3).

An approach to the history of science with stories of scientific adventures can attract students, opening doors to great possibilities for the jobs of the future. Girls should be encouraged to develop an interest for math, physics and new technologies. 

The scientific methods are different from the learning methods. Children are learners, not researchers. They will not make scientific discoveries, but they must learn to use the method for questioning and doing research. It is a reflexive approach that calls for multiple intelligences and collective intelligence. It is also the pleasure of learning, reasoning, experimenting together, sharing values and attitudes.

For teachers, the implementation of this method requires adequate training, teamwork with a dedicated consultation time after class, a possible break-up between classes. Having support from trainers or the scientific community of researchers and engineers from laboratories and local companies would show a living and shared science. Teachers would know better the plurality of actors, their teamwork and confrontations of ideas, their exchanges and regulations, their failures and successes.

It is necessary to develop science education for all from an early age, with the essential basis of scientific knowledge and rigorous reasoning, which our students will need tomorrow, combining both reason and imagination. This depends on the directions and decisions of the educational policies implemented by the States.  

“Science enables the establishment of Humanity” (Yves Quéré *4)

Let’s think of scientific learnings to have an enlightened scientific citizenship and pacific social bonds for the future eco-citizens of the world!

References:

*1 Olivier HOUDE: Professor at the University of Paris, member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences at the Institut de France, author of  many books, including L’Esprit piagétien (PUF, 2000), L’Inhibition au service de l’intelligence (PUF, 2020) and Apprendre à résister (Pommier, 2014).

*2 OMEP Education for Sustainable Development : https://omepworld.org/fr/education-pour-le-developpement-durable-edd/ 

*3 AGSAS (Association des Groupes de Soutien Au Soutien), created in 1993 in Paris, based on the initiative of psychoanalyst Jacques LEVINE; AGSAS philo workshops: https://www.agsas.fr/ateliers-arch/atelier-philo/*4 Yves QUERE, French physicist, member of the Academy of Sciences, one of the founders with science academics Georges CHARPAK and Pierre LENA of La main à la pâte in 1995, founded for the renovation of science education in schools and its international dissemination: https://www.fondation-lamap.org/

Danièle Perruchon – She has been President of the OMEP France Committee since 2012 and representative of OMEP at UNESCO since 2016.

She has university training in science. She is a teacher in kindergarten and trainer in science and education for sustainable development at the Paris Academy and La main à la pâte foundation, always involved in volunteer cooperation. She is very committed to the cause of all the children of the world through actions carried out by OMEP at local, national and world levels. She sponsors the defense of children’s rights, their socialization and development, as well as their access to quality education and care for all since early childhood.

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