|Popularization of Science and Technology - What Informal and Non-formal Education Can Do? (Faculty of Education,University of Hong Kong - UNESCO, 1989, 210 p.)|
Science and technology have never played such an essential and influential role in our lives.
On the one hand, rapid changes in science and technology, and the introduction of new technology in particular, have changed the development prospects of many nations. The introduction of new technology has been identified as one of the critical factors which has contributed to the emergence of the NICs (Newly Industrialized Countries). The differential speed of technological development between countries has also created discrepancies in the rates and patterns of national development. It has also affected the relationships within and between countries. The adoption of new technologies has given some developing nations new hope, while others have fallen further behind in economic terms.
On the other hand, adaptation to new developments in science and technology has become an important part of peoples life. In urban and rural areas alike, people now compete to adopt new technologies, before they can compete in the marketplace. One can soon become functionally illiterate in one way or another if one cannot keep pace with modern science and new technology. Development in science and technology is also likely to create new class divisions in society: the have know-how and the have-not-know-how. A knowledge of science and technology has become a new form of human capital which can allow those who possess it to achieve quick returns.
However, in this respect, it is not clear what the role of formal education is in this process. Despite continuous efforts to revise the curricula and teaching strategies in formal schools in order to achieve greater relevance, there is little evidence that modern curricula and teaching strategies are coping with the dramatic scientific and technological changes which are occurring throughout society. The way schools are operated makes them more readily suitable to impart knowledge which is relatively more static and stable in nature, and it could even be argued that schools are not the right place to equip the population with an understanding of the new science and technology.
Meanwhile, the technological advancement in many NICs are not necessarily attributable to dramatic changes in school teaching. On the contrary, one may see on-the-job training and in-service learning, especially among adults, as more effective modes for disseminating new technologies. Meanwhile, there are arguments that schools in such countries, despite the lack of direct relevance of their curricula, may have served to help individuals to adapt towards new science and technology.
It would be inappropriate to deny that formal education has a role in the popularization of science and technology, but it needs close examination to identify how education has contributed to the advancement of science and technology in newly developed countries. It is therefore essential to study how education - either formal, nonformal or informal - plays its role, and the context in which such role is significant.
The recent literature on technological transfer, technological development and informal/nonformal education does not seem to 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 little analysis is provided 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 on empirical evidence.
With this in mind, the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong, inspired and supported by UNESCO through its Division of Adult Education and Literacy Programmes, hosted the international conference on the theme of
Popularisation of Science and Technology:
What Informal and Nonformal Education Can Do
Hong Kong is identified by UNESCO as an ideal venue for such a meeting, as it provides a kind of social laboratory in respect of both the absorption and localisation of modern technologies for economic development and enhancement of the quality of life.
The Conference was held in the University of Hong Kong on September 4-9, 1989, with intensive sessions aiming at producing some useful conclusions at the end of the Conference. The Conference was attended by experts from all parts of the world, perhaps with the exception of Latin America. They represent the diverse aspects of nonformal and informal education, as can be seen from the list of participants at the end of this collection. A number of colleagues from the Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong, also contributed to the success of the Conference.
This volume is a collection of all the papers presented during the Conference, with the exception of Professor A. Krajnz of Yugoslavia and Professor S. Kaczor, both were not able to attend the Conference due to visa problem. We have decided to publish the paper with the least editing possible. A number of participants, e.g. Mr. H. Akl from Lebanon and Professor Y. Maehira from Japan, made valuable remarks which we are not able to include in this volume. The guest, speech from Professor Edward K.Y. Chen, Director of the Centre for Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong, proved very inspiring, but was not presented in writing and hence is not included in this collection.
It is fair to say that the success of the Conference is due to co-operative and collegial endeavours. The idea was initiated by Mr. J.G. Kim of UNESCO, Paris. UNESCO sponsored most of the expenses for the Conference. The organizing committee virtually comprises only three persons: Paul Morris, K.M. Cheng and K.F. Leung. The participation of K.F. is particularly vital to the success of the conference. The smooth running of the Conference is also attributable to the generous help rendered by Margaret To of Old Halls, University of Hong Kong, and Elizabeth Krautheim of UNESCO.