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close this bookPopularization of Science and Technology - What Informal and Non-formal Education Can Do? (Faculty of Education,University of Hong Kong - UNESCO, 1989, 210 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction - Cheng Kai Ming
View the documentOpen Speech - Yeung Kai-yin, Secretary for Education and Manpower, Hong Kong Government
View the documentKey-note Speech: Educational challenges in the age of science and technology - Philip H. Coombs
View the documentConference Report
Open this folder and view contentsPapers presented at the Conference:
Open this folder and view contentsCountry Papers
View the documentAppendix: List of participants

Conference Report

The final version of this Report is due to
C. Roberts, H. Bhola, K. Pehl and K.M. Cheng

1. Introduction

Science and technology have never played such an influential role in our lives. Rapid changes in science and technology have significantly changed the development prospects of all nations. Science and technology has affected food production, health care, industrial development, rural development, family planning, to name a few. The introduction of new technology has been identified as one of the critical factors which contribute to the emergence of the NIC’s (Newly Industrialized Countries), but the rapid technological changes have created new gaps within and between countries in their developments.

Meanwhile, adaptation to new developments in science and technology has become an important part of individual lives. In urban and rural areas alike, one can soon become dysfunctional in one way or another if one cannot keep pace with the modern science and new “class” divisions in society: the “have-know-hows” and the “have-not-know-hows.”

There is no assumption that technological development is good for individuals and the society by itself. Technological development must be directed towards peaceful applications, compatibility with human needs, the quality of life, and environmental needs. Popularization of S & T should be directed towards enabling people to play not only a passive, but an active role in the process of development.

It is natural that education is instrumental in the acquisition of modern science and new technologies. In this connection, it is obvious that formal education has an important role to play. However, despite continuous efforts to revise the curricula and teaching strategies in formal schools in order to achieve greater relevance, it is yet to be technological changes which take place outside schools. Moreover, formal education even at its best is not in a position to develop an outreach to people who have already joined the economy but are facing new needs of science and technologies.

Therefore, while it is inappropriate to deny that formal education has a role to play in the popularisation of science and technology, it is essential to explore the roles of other modes of education, viz. nonformal and informal education, and the context in which such roles are significant.

The recent literature on technological transfer, technological development and informal/nonformal education does not help in this exercise. Much is said about the development of technologies in education and the importance of science and technology in national development, but few analyses are made to show how such developments in science and technology are related to or transmitted by education. What little is said is based more on theoretical assumptions rather than empirical evidence. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that there is never a shortage of practitioners in the field who are instrumental in the popularisation of science and technology, although their efforts are seldom regarded as priority areas in policy considerations.

2. The Conference

It is this context that the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong, inspired and supported by UNESCO through its Division of Primary Education, Adult Education and Literacy Programmes, and also supported locally by the Hon Dr Q.W. Lee through the Wideland Foundation, hosted this Conference with the theme of

“Popularisation of Science and Technology:
What Informal and Nonformal Education Can Do”

Hong Kong was selected by UNESCO as the venue for such a meeting, because it is seen as a social laboratory in respect of both the acquisition and adaptation of modern technologies for economic development and enhancement of quality of life. However, the conference was meant to address all types of countries.

The Conference took place on September 4-9,1989 in the University of Hong Kong. Participants were invited experts in various aspects of nonformal and informal education, as well as formal education. They include adult educators, worker educators, vocational trainers, developers of nonformal programmes, suppliers and promoters of technologies, science educators, teacher trainers, administrators of popular science institutions, educational planners, as well as scholars and researchers coming from both developed and developing countries. The list of participants is attached as Appendix A of this report.

The diverse background of the participants may have created some difficulties in arriving at consensal objectives, but the diversity has also provided unusually rich ground for a rather comprehensive review of this relaively unexplored yet important dimension of education. Because of the general lack of co-ordination of nonformal and informal education, the conference also proved an almost unique educative opportunity for practitioners in particular fields to interact with fellow practitioners in other fields and to draw their attention to the larger context in which they work and which affects their work.

The Conference started with an opening speech from the Secretary for Education and Manpower of Hong Kong Government, the Hon Yeung Kai-yin, and a keynote Paper by Professor Philip Coombs.

The Secretary’s speech went beyond a mere welcoming gesture and provided a detailed analysis of the general situation in Hong Kong of the acquisition of new technologies. Its relationship to economic development, and its relations with training and education in general.

Professor Philip Coombs’ key-note paper provided a general framework for discussions with special emphasis on the policy issues involved in the provision and co-ordination of nonformal and informal educational activities. It also provided a general orientation of the conference.

The discussions started with country reports and case studies which helped the participants in visualizing a vivid picture which covered the major issues and problems in nonformal and informal education with respect to the popularization of science and technology. At the same time, a framework was shaped with the input from other paper which were more theoretical in nature. A list of the papers presented at the conference is attached as Appendix B of this report. The conference then moved into group discussions to discern the viable strategies and solutions in tackling the problems thus identified, and the policy implications of such strategies and solutions. The summary of these discussions forms the main body of this report.

During the course of the conference, participants took advantage of the conference venue and spent time studying the Hong Kong case. Professor Edward K.Y. Chen, Director of Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong, was invited to deliver a speech where he made an insightful yet provocative analysis of the role of science and technology in the development of an export-oriented economy such as Hong Kong and the role of formal y nonformal as well as informal education in such a development. Brief visits were also paid to Chai Wan Technical Institute, the Kowloon Bay Training Centre Complex and the industrial estates in the New Towns.

3. Basic Concepts

3.1 The meaning of “Popularisation”

“Popularisation” carries one of two meanings. It means the spread of knowledge in science and technology to the masses, but it may also mean the acquisition of new science and technology for improving one’s social and economic life. Examples of the former are knowledge about clean water and environmental sanitation, or about astronauts and space ships usually provided in science museums. Example of the latter are the understanding of new fertilisers in the rural area or the ability to master a computer in an urban setting.

3.2 Definitions

The conference did not spend time defining nonformal and informal education, but there was a tacit consensus which was very much in line with the concepts used by Philip Coombs in his key-note paper:

Formal education refers to the highly organized, hierarchically and chronologically structured “education system”, ranging from kindergarten to the upper reaches of the university.

Nonformal education is a convenient generic label for a variety of educational activities, but are (a) consciously organised, (b) operated outside the formal structure of the formal education system and (c) designed to serve particular subgroups in the population.

Informal education is learning from exposure to one’s environment and day-to-day experience.

4. Observations

The following is a summary of the observations made during the conference. They form the foundation of the recommendations that follow.

4.1 The Cultural Context

First and foremost, it was observed that issues of PST anywhere were to be raised and resolutions developed in the context of a particular culture and a set of economic conditions. Under one set of economic conditions (of a subsistance economy, for example), the problem of PST may be defined as creating a general scientific culture. In an NIC like H.K. or other developed countries, the problem of PST may be formulated as the continuous upgrading of manpower to cope with the ever changing technologies of production of both goods and services.

4.2 The Importance of NFE and IE in the Popularisation of S & T

There was a basic assumption that acquisition of science and technology was essential to sound economic development, discussions during the conference confirmed this assumption, although it was also believed that the concept of S & T should be broadened to include indigenous and evolutionary sciences and technologies. In this context, formal education may play a very different role from NFE and WE.

Professor Chen in his paper elaborated on the notion of evolutionary technologies which were different from frontier technologies which were most sophisticated by world standards. This means that different nations should start with different technological levels appropriate to their respective traditions and cultures, Many of the country cases and papers echoed this point, in displaying experiences in the development of traditional and indigenous S & T which contribute significantly to economic development.

There is therefore a need to distinguish evolutionary S & T from frontier technologies, and modern technologies from modernisation.

For any economy to take off, Professor Chen, based on the Hong Kong experience, argued for the need of a trainable workforce, the precondition for which is basic literacy. This demonstrates the vital role of formal and nonformal education.

Country cases seem to suggest that basic formal education should aim at preparing the population for a readiness in acquiring new S & T, rather than the actual learning of modern S & T. The latter is in all cases a lifelong, recurring process which takes place mostly in nonformal educational activities.

On the other hand, the country cases also suggest that the adaptiveness and flexibility, which are essential to real popularisation of S&T, rather than the actual learning of modern S & T, would require a science culture which is appropriate to the traditional culture of the society. Such a science culture is mostly inculcated through informal education.

Hence, it should be an over-arching educational policy issue in every country of how best to strengthen all three modes of education - formal, informal and nonformal - and to harmonize them within the framework of a nationwide “lifelong learning network”.

4.3 Ethical and Negative Problems

Although the conference recognized the importance of S & T to individual lives as well as national development, participants urged educators to include in their responsibilities the need to inform people of the ethical as well as environmental problems caused by modern S & T.

4.4 Clienteles

While nonformal and informal education should be of concern to everyone, there is a need to adapt the modes for the delivery of education the particular needs of the receiving group. For example, the requirements of small farmers, young mothers, rural women, redundant workers and the handicapped are all very different and educational activities need to be individually tailored.

4.5 Necessity for Integrated Effort

Seen in this light, the lack of integrated effort between providers of NFE and IE in most countries is most undesirable. Although the state of affairs is intrinsic in the nonformal and informal nature of the activities, it may mean low priority or even invisibility on the policy agenda, shortage of resources and the negligence of some important target areas.

These unfortunately are reflections of the reality in most countries. There is often an imbalance in terms of attention and resources between formal and nonformal/informal education. NFE and IE are not given the policy priority which matches their importance in national development. In most cases, they are left to voluntary agencies who struggle with minimal resources.

Effective poularization of S & T therefore should entail national co-ordination effort which can guarantee (a) that necessary NFE and IE activities are adequately supported and (b) that all target groups are being taken care of.

Such co-ordination effort can possibly start with a national commission to oversee but not direct various activities, so that it is seen as a supporter rather than a controller of NFE and IE. Such a co-ordination can also be desirably supplemented by a “service centre” which, equipped with a competent staff, may provide strong technical assistance to MFE and IE programmes.

4.6 Communication and Dissemination

Apart from the organisational efforts mentioned above, the conference expressed unanimous concern to the effectiveness and efficiency of communications and dissemination.

Powerful tools, including the media and other modern communication instruments, need to be harnessed. The conference explored the great variety of means that can used for NFE and IE and found that both commercial and public media instruments can contribute to the popularisation of S & T’. The conference also recognised that much could be drawn from the experience in the development of distance education which, in the past decades, can be regarded as one of the few break-throughs in education.

In many cases nonformal educators are given only limited access to the media. This has to be changed. There is no argument for government intervention of the media, but education considerations in the planning and policy of media has become necessary, if the media are viewed as an important instrument for nonformal education and the most influential element in informal education.

5. Recommendations

5.1 Urgent Message to UNESCO

The participants of the conference, despite the small member, have come from various areas of nonformal and informal education pertaining to science and technology. It was a rare opportunity where the issues pertinent to nonformal and informal education were singled out and exclusively put under the microscope. Although the interests of the participants are primarily different, they all came to the consensus that the issues identified and the recommendations made should be disseminated to policy-markers and fellow educators in other counties. There is some urgency in the matter, because it was realized during the conference that resources for nonformal and informal education are likely to futher diminish if policy-makers are not alerted to the danger. In this respect, UNESCO is seen as the most appropriate vehicle to convey the message to its member countries, to their relevant Ministers as well as the relevant non-governmental agencies.

In view of these, the following recommendations are addressed to UNESCO:

(1) UNESCO is asked to convey the conclusions and recommendations of the conference on PST to the relevant organizations and bodies. A suggested starting point is the International Literacy year 1990 and the coming conference of “Education for All”

(2) UNESCO is urged to remedy the serious imbalance of emphasis in its educational programmes by allocating proportionately adequate funds for NFE and IFE. Although UNESCO has published many statements and proclamations about the importance of adult education and literacy (both being important forms of NFE) its actual budget allocations and programme activities have been mostly directed towards formal education.

(3) UNESCO is asked to support research in the general area of NFE. Areas of particular interest include the study of status of NFE in all countries: and the impact to TV, video programmes and mass media on children and the youth. The lack of attention on NFE and IFE in PST has resulted in the absence of useful research in this area. Little systematic study has been done on the actual activities of countries engaged in the NFE with the view of extracting pertinent lesson (both positive and negative) from this experience that could throw very useful light on the difficult issues of how best to handle the whole subject of NFE within a national government.

There is no lack of strong opinion for or against TV and video programmes. Unfortunately, the supply of strong opinions on these matters substantially exceed the supply of reliable facts. It would be of great interest to parents, educators and broadcasters to get more reliable facts about the actual utilisation and impact of both the “bade and the “good” TV programs on the attitudes, interests, motivations and behaviours of young viewers. It would be an exceedingly worthwhile investment, we believe, to undertake exceedingly research in this area. As a major undertaking it would require competent planning, management and monitoring, as well as sizable funding. We would encourage UNESCO to play key role in promoting such an effort, though clearly the actual work would have to be farmed out to other organisations and the funds would have to be solicited from a variety of interested sources. If well done, the results could be of great value.

(4) UNESCO is recommended to undertake strong efforts to involve all relevant affiliated organization of US family (international NFE associations accredited to or recognized by the UN agencies) and national UNESCO commissions in member states in PST as part of NFE and IFE programmes in their respective countries.

(5) To get PST started on the level of curriculum development and programme design, UNESCO should support the creation of an inventory of promising and successful programmes and facilities in NFE and IE for PST all over the world.

This “data” bank has to be made accessible for designers from all countries by using all possible technologies. A computer network should be established to facilitate communication among programme designers.

(6) Due to the visible lack of research and information about the role of NFE and IFE in PST, we recommend that an International Commission comprising research and technical experts be established and be enpowered to conduct research and to disseminate research information in this field.

(7) We recommend that UNESCO should actively encourage NGOs such as the ICUA, ICAE and the IFWEA to popularise S & T as following:

- through the exchange of scientific information among their members

- through the organising of training of trainers, research and publications to promote S & T

- through the organising of a network among their members in S & T

- through programmes of application of S & T to improve the quality of life in the communities.

(8) It is strongly recommended that UNESCO should re-create interest in and refocus attention to the still valid insights, observations and recommendations of the remarkable report of that UNESCO International Commission on Education (The E. Faure Commission) Learning to Be, published in 1972. The Commission emphasized the need to expand and strengthen out-of-school forms of education. A brief summary of the more significant and still valid insights, observations and recommendations can be distributed to practitioners of NFE.

5.2 Recommendation at National Levels

(1) We recommend that in view of the crucial role of S & T in our contemporary world, governments should consider ways and means of creating special financial resources for the promotion of S & T through NFE and IE. More specially, we recommend

- that they consider contributing a sufficient percentage of their educational budgets to PST through NFE and IE programmes,

- that private institution which are in a position to contribute to such a special fund for S & T be given a tax concession.

(2) We suggest that educational planners should view formal, NFE and IE as indispensable components of the national educational system. The NFE/IE sector, typically in relative neglect, should receive greater support from the formal education structures in terms of preparation of teachers and facilitators whom in turn, can prepare youth for productive adult careers in manufacturing, agriculture and service industries etc. Adults already in the world of work should be provided with adequate orientation, information and educational programmes to assist in their adaptation to new technologies. More effective interfaces should be created between the formal education sector and the nonformal/informal sectors of education. On the one hand, the formal education system should adapt itself to coping with scientific and technological changes. On the other hand, private and voluntary institutions should be given guidance and subsidies without affecting their autonomy and freedom.

We recommend that the NFE/IE activities for PST should not be restricted to new achievements of research and developments in the West. PST should also accommodate those scientific dimensions which exist in the cultural and traditional patrimony of various social groups, in developed and developing countries alike. Efforts have to be made to elicit such scientific dimensions.

(4) Governments and NGOs should approach and encourage commercial and private bodies to assist and sponsor NFE and IE programmes for PST, while prohibiting such assistance and sponsorship to become mere advertising or profiteering.

(5) We recommend that governments should establish networks of regional and local resource centres to support nonformal education programmes in general and programmes for PST in particular. Such resource centres should promote and assist locally planned and initiated S & T projects by

- making inventories of local S & T activities

- assisting local groups to plan individual and cooperative activities - training of field staff to handle PST projects

- making surveys to assess needs for vocational qualifications and counselling learners in lifelong learning

- conducting model S & T projects where necessary to fill gaps and to stimulate quality programmes for diverse groups of clients.

(6) The mass media, e.g. newspaper, TV, radio, are widely accepted as effective means for disseminating science & technology. The mass media should share the obligatory responsibility for PST. It is suggested that a certain proportion of the prominent air-time/section of the media be mandatorily allocated to the promotion of S & T. Such programmes/softwares/publications should be made widely available and free of copyrights. Governments should make these possible by placing them as a condition for offering contracts/licences to the media.

5.3 Recommendations to Practitioners in the Field

(1) We see that there is a need for professionals in educational management

- to give top priority to learners’ needs;

- to find out the spectrum of needs for education in S & T in a local community. This must be done by the teachers alone;

- to plan different forms of courses for different groups of clients at different levels;

- to allow these professionals to do quality control as well as to be responsible for adapting the programmes to new requirements;

- to launch teacher training and to supply course materials for education in PST (hardware, software, teachware, learnware).

(2) There is an urgent need for training of community development workers motivate for adoption of innovations. Such workers should be equipped with knowledge and skills in science and technology.

(3) Recognizing the lack of non-formal and adult teaching methods in teacher training, we strongly urge the inclusion of these methods in curricula development for teacher education. The nonformal methods include andragogy as opposed to pedagogical methods and these are essential for PST.

(4) There should be research on the methodologies for effective delivery of NFE and IE in PST.

While there are a lot of publications on teaching methodology for the formal education system, those on nonformal and informal education are just minimal. For subjects in science & technology where the contents are relatively culture-free, the methodologies are worth disseminating more than others. Meanwhile, the relative effectiveness of the various methods should be explored. The results of such work should be published and made widely known for consideration and adoption by practitioners of NFE and IE.

(5) Having carefully considered the importance of quick transmission of Science & Technology information to the greatest numbers of people nationally and internationally, we urge that distance teaching methods be extensively employed and co-operation from distance education institutions and associations be solicited. These methods include the use of radio, audio cassettes, audio visuals, TVs, satellite transmissions and printed science and technological materials.

(6) In general, there should be a greater attention to the availability of learning materials science and technology for use in NFE and IE. There will greatly facilitate and support the NFE and IE going on in the field.