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IP/07/797

Brussels, 12 June 2007

New approach to science teaching needed in Europe, say experts

In a report delivered today to Janez Potočnik the Commissioner for Research, and his colleague Ján Figel', Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, an expert group calls for the introduction of a new approach to science education that breaks radically with traditional pedagogical methods. Michel Rocard, former French Prime minister, member of the European Parliament, and chairman of the expert group presented the final report and recommendations of the expert group created six months ago, Its tasks were to look at actions for combating the declining interest in science studies among young people. Europe's capacity to innovate and the quality of its research depend on the choices being made now at schools across Europe and too few pupils are selecting key science subjects.

Commissioner Potočnik said: “Following the publication of the Gago report which identified the problems of human resources in science and technology, the Rocard report makes very clear recommendations about the direction needed to revive science teaching in Europe. These recommendations need to be taken seriously – stimulating interest among Europe’s young for science and technology is crucial if Europe is to have a future based on the best use of knowledge.”

Commissioner Figel' said: "Declining interest and recruitment into S&T studies must be a cause for concern for all. Attracting more young people to scientific and technological fields of study – and especially girls, who are underrepresented in most European countries – has become an objective that is shared at European level. But much remains to be done"

The diagnosis established by the group is based on an analysis of on-going initiatives. Elements of know-how and good practice that could bring about a radical change in young people’s interest in science studies have been drawn from this analysis and presented in the report.

The group asserts that a reversal of school science-teaching pedagogy from mainly deductive to inquiry-based methods provides the means to increase interest in science. Indeed, the "learning by doing method" in which the teacher accompanies the pupil and leads him to discover science for him/herself stimulates the child's observation skills, imagination and reasoning capacity.

The report calls on policy makers across Europe to implement change and sets out what this change should be – the adoption of inquiry-based science education. The wider benefits of this technique for a broad range of pupils, their teachers and the society as a whole are identified. The report also observes that effective collaboration at the European level is being translated into actions at the local level, but the scale is insufficient, and articulation with national programmes should be greatly improved.

Scaling-up to a European level would not only allow a significant expansion of the approach itself, it would also permit a large number of pupils and teachers to profit from the experience and the building up of knowledge within a wide network.

The group is chaired by Michel Rocard MEP and is composed of:

  • Peter CSERMELY of "Semmelweis University", Budapest, a Molecular Biologist and Winner of the 2005 Descartes Prize for Communication;
  • Doris JORDE of the University of Oslo, President of the European Science Education Research Association;
  • Dieter LENZEN, President of the "Freie Universität Berlin" and former Chairman of the German Society for Science Education;
  • Harriet WALLBERG-HENRIKSSON, President of "Karolinska Institutet", Stockholm and former member of the Government's expert panels at the Swedish Ministry of Education and Science.

Its rapporteur is Valérie HEMMO, who has authored several studies on this issue.
The full report can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/research/science-society/index.cfm?fuseaction=public.topic&id=1100&lang=1


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