Science ministers stress importance of basic sciences and science educationThe round table on “The Basic Sciences: The Science Lever for Development”, held during the 33rd session of UNESCO’s General Conference, gathered some 50 ministers responsible for science policy from about 50 countries.
In his opening speech, the Director-General of the Organization, Koïchiro Matsuura, underlined the need for governments to “re-evaluate the priority they give to science education and scientific research and their impact on overall development policies.” He added that “science leads to technological advances and economic benefits that offer unique opportunities to meet basic human needs, reduce poverty, protect the environment and improve the quality of life.”
The round table participants reached a consensus on a wide range of conclusions. They agreed, for example, to stress the need for education “that inspires students at all levels – pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary – as well as in the informal and non-formal environments”. Innovative means must be developed in order to stimulate the creativity of young people and to allow them to appreciate the value of science, they said.
Participants emphasised the need in Member States for capacity building in the basic sciences “as the platform for knowledge-based development”. Capacity building is also required in information and communication technology (ICT) in the developing countries in order to reduce the “digital divide”. In addition, they noted that “investment in research areas of the basic sciences should be driven by national and regional priorities”.
Member States’ delegations expressed concern over the brain drain, which must be stopped. They reiterated the need to strive for gender parity in order to guarantee equal participation of women and men in determining science policies.
The pursuit of these goals should be based on increased South-South as well as North-South cooperation. Furthermore, they said, regional centres and networks of excellence have an essential role to play, as do partnerships between the public and private sectors.
The round table participants called on UNESCO to increase its efforts to promote the basic sciences and science education, to strengthen the UNESCO Chairs and the centres of excellence and to support the implementation of science and technical policies in developing countries. This effort must be combined, particularly in the developing countries, with promoting equitable access for scientists and researchers to information and scientific literature, as well as reinforcing the ethical dimension of the practice of science.