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Teaching the Sciences and Quality of Education*
Throughout diverse areas of the world, including Latin America, the positive impact of teaching regarding the sciences and quality of education has been diversely experienced. Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba and Uruguay all have the best educational indicators in the region and they are examples of countries that perceive that teaching in the sciences can be very important and productive.
The impact of teaching the sciences on quality of education is due to the fact that this involves an extremely important exercise in reasoning that, especially in children, stirs creative spirits and interest, improving learning in all the disciplines. Because of this, if children familiarize themselves with the sciences from an early age, it is more probable that they will end up being better developed in their education than others less fortunate.
This motive on its own should justify that those responsible for the formulation of public policies in the field of education should give greater attention to the teaching of sciences, but there are other reasons too. A second argument is that only with a strong teaching in the sciences for all children is it possible to develop talents needed for scientific careers.
The third and final reason, at least for the purposes of this article, is the fact that scientific knowledge and new technologies are of fundamental importance for populations to be able to position themselves securely in the face of processes and transformations that may prove to have negative impacts on our world. This is the case, for example, with the use of genetically modified foods, biological cloning and the use of nuclear energy. In this way, the domain of scientific knowledge forms an important part of basic responsibilities of citizenship, within the context of democracy.
It should be mentioned here that in the contemporary world the most important type of capital a country has is its knowledge, or intellectual capital. Nevertheless, knowledge depends on the development of people capable of producing it. Moreover, in a region with the characteristics of Latin America, with a large contingent of school-age children and youths, it is not an exaggeration to say that knowledge is the most valuable good at the region’s disposal, something that could turn into a competitive advantage if potential is well used by means of education at an improved quality.
When seeking quality in education, especially in the science, the following fundamental aspect must be kept in mind: teaching of sciences does not consist solely of including disciplines in the curriculum. It requires the observation of that which occurs even at the lowest levels of basic education, where education for sciences, principally in the public system, is extremely deficient due to a lack of training among teachers, among other things.
Thus, the inclusion of the sciences from the level of basic education onwards should be necessarily associated with a policy of teacher-training in a way that allows teachers to feel secure in their knowledge and will relay to students significant knowledge.
You don’t need to use magic to get children excited about the sciences. It is only necessary to transmit elementary knowledge and to generate interest in children to experiment. Students become enthusiastic, they seek opportunities to put knowledge into practice, and they start to undertake collaborative work and build foundations for teamwork. In some Latin American countries, this occurs only in some private schools. It is not possible to maintain a situation in which this kind of training and understanding stays restricted to a small number of the most privileged children and youths, because this will only increase the risk of a continued reproduction of the social inequalities that are troubling the region.
Special Assistant to the Secretary General
Organization of Ibero-American States
*The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.