“In Italy we teach our children that mistakes are unacceptable. If you don’t know the right answer – don’t answer!” Such an attitude hardly helps students turn to science, points out Michela Mayer, from the National Institute for the Evaluation of the Education System. Teachers are the driving force towards increasing interest, she told an ESOF 2010 session on 4 July.
Indeed, a separate session at ESOF addressed the question: “Why the hell should I become an academic scientist?” Despite Europe’s policies and initiatives to attract young people to science careers, replete with visions of fascinating and rewarding lives, many scientists feel that their experiences do not match up to expectations. By the time they have finished grappling with short-term contracts, long periods of mobility and fierce competition for academic positions, the fascination for science begins to wane.
European education experts are trying to woo students back to science. Joachim Dengg, from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, Germany, says a sense of adventure draws the attention of school children.
“There should be a cross-over from academia to the school level where researchers can show students that their work can be fun.”
Dengg took students out with ocean scientists for a project on how much the ocean churned when the ferry turned. “This attracts future students and fosters natural science in general,” he says.
Dengg says there is no way to map whether the students eventually opt for a science degree, but they like to broadcast their experiences on You Tube. His co-panelists agreed that Twitter and blogs are increasingly used by teachers, students and scientists alike to communicate with each other.
More young tweeting Einsteins in the making?
Marianne de Nazareth, SciDev.Net contributor