Micro-Science System Development: Workshop Concluded [Archives:2000/15/Science & Technology]

April 10 2000

Tawfeek Al-Shara’abi,
Yemen Times

Under the motto “The Development of Micro-Science System” the Yemeni National Commission for Education, Culture and Sciences, in coordination with UNESCO organized a workshop during April 5-6 2000. The workshop was attended by about 32 participants from different institutions affiliated to the Ministry of Education as well as Universities. The central focus of the workshop was to discuss the new ways of simplifying science, commonly referred to as “Micro-Science System” and to see whether such techniques could be applied here in Yemen. Yemen Times attended the seminar and met with the workshop’s organizers as well as with some of the participants and filed the following:
Professor John Pradly, Director Radmaste Center Co Department of Chemistry, University of West Watersrand, Johannesburg, said “The Micro-Science kits are one of the things we have developed over the last four years. Therefore, I came here in cooperation with UNESCO to show this concept to local teachers and university lecturers.
The main benefit of the system is to enable all school children to do practical science activities for themselves. At present students in most schools in South Africa and in Yemen, as I think, do not have any practical science experiences in class rooms. These kits will make this possible. I believe that this system will motivate students towards the study of science, mainly because these kits are low in cost compared to the traditional science equipment. Secondly, they are easily used and usable over a long period of time. There are no special difficulties.”

Professor Shem O. Wandiga, chairman of Kenya National Academy of Sciences who is also Professor of Chemistry at the University of Nairobi and the Director of UNESCO Associated Center known as the “Center of Science and Technology Innovation” said “Teaching science has become almost a challenge not only to developing countries but to developed countries as well. Most students are running away from reading science either because they don’t like it, they can’t understand it or the teaching is bad. This system is an innovation to bring back the students’ interest to science. In Kenya we face many problems in teaching science. Cost of chemicals and science equipment and building laboratories for students, for instance, is just beyond the reach of the parents and the government. So most students study science theoretically. By the time they reach the university, they have not seen any simple equipment in physics or chemistry laboratories. Thus, most students tend to dislike such subjects. We want to bring back students’ and teachers’ interest to science by exploiting simple, less expensive but not ineffective methods of teaching science.

As regards the application of micro kits methods, we are convinced that students and teachers are very interested. Therefore, we would like to apply this system here as well.
I believe that it was time my colleagues in Yemen really started thinking of how to improve science education in Yemen because it is a challenge for all of us. No body is going to do it except us.”
Alexandre Pokrovsky, from UNESCO Science Sector in Paris, said “Basically, before my joining the UNESCO, I worked in Moscow State University. Now I am responsible for the Department of Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Chemistry in UNESCO. This workshop is to show how we can improve the state of science teaching in many developing as well as developed countries. We have conducted so many workshops in different countries to show how we can develop and improve the practical science terminology. Our meeting today with senior staff teachers and university professors aims at discussing the methodology and the context.

This is the first demonstration workshop to introduce these concepts to the Yemeni staff and to throw light on how it can be developed in the future. It rests upon the local expertise to decide how long this should continue. From the UNESCO side, we can tell that UNESCO will finance part of this project.”
Mrs. Khadijah Radman, Assistant Secretary General of the Yemeni National Commission for Education, Culture, and Science, said “This workshop held during April 5-6 2000 aims at simplifying sciences using simplified modern technology and less expensive equipment. These new concepts can be better applied in developing countries which face some difficulties in providing school labs with all the necessary equipment. In many schools of our country, for example, science subjects are taught theoretically rather than practically, either because of lack of these equipment, their high cost or their short supply.

The UNESCO is planning to promote these techniques here and make Sana’a the training center for the project. Contacts between the center in Sana’a and in Nairobi, East of Africa will also be enhanced.
There are a number of international as well as Yemeni experts participating in this workshop and are exchanging ideas to get the maximum benefit out of this workshop.
The participants are supposed to study and evaluate all these new approaches and techniques to say which techniques can match our national curricula. On our part, we will look for some international donor organizations such as the Human Resources Development Organization and the Embassy of Japan and the UNDP that can finance this project.”

Professor Mohammed Ahmad Al-Khader, Chairman of the Chemistry Department, Faculty of Science, Sana’a University, said “The workshop’s main objective is to simplify science so as to maintain students’ interest in science subjects. A number of workshops, seminars, video exhibitions and practical demonstrations are to be conducted on how experiments can be conducted in science on a small scale so as to minimize cost, time and risks. This is actually a way to revive students’ and teachers’ interests in science.
The question which pops up right now is “Is these new concepts practical and can we apply them here?” This is what we are going to discuss with different academic personalities. After considering all these aspects, one will be able to make an appropriate conclusion.”

Dr. Abdullah Ba Essa, Faculty of Science, Sana’a University, said “The workshop is to simplify science through using “micro science” methods which requires very small quantities of chemicals and small plastic materials. The first time this new approach was applied was in South Africa and in Kenya.
We have conducted some experiments for the inspectors of the Ministry of Education to show them how effective these techniques are. By the end of the workshops a number of recommendations are to be presented and later on will be examined. On our part, we are going to write reports about the workshop pointing its efficiency, merits and demerits.
I believe that these techniques are relatively more successful, especially if we consider applying them in rural schools where there are few students. We may also study and make use of the two year experience of Kenya.

In fact these techniques can help a lot in making theoretical ideas more clear and better understood by students.”
Mohammed Ali Saleh Al-Maktari, Chairman of the Labs Department, Sana’a University, said “This is a training workshop for simplifying science. My general point of view is that this workshop has provided us with new concepts which can drastically change the attitude towards science, for one can easily apply what he learns in school in practical life. This workshop can be considered as a training course for the participants who will, later on, train others. The concepts and techniques are not that new but are rather simplified so that they are easily used and handled. These new techniques are more workable than the old ones.”

Abdul Karim Mohammed Abdullah Al-Kadasi, chemical assistant in the Faculty of Science, Sana’a University, said “As a matter of fact, the workshop has not presented absolutely new concepts except the small number of lab apparatuses. I believe that this equipment can only be applied in private schools where there is a limited number of students and where the teacher finds time to supervise and monitor each and every student doing his experiment. However, it seems impossible in big public schools for the large number of students in the class and the constraints on time.”