Using science to foster global understanding and peace

November 10 is the World Science Day for Peace and Development

On World Science Day for Peace and Development, we highlight the key role that mathematics, science and technology education plays in making the world more peaceful and equal for all. 

A boy reads from a personal laptop in Rwanda<br>CREDIT: GPE/Dan Petrescu

This is the 15th blog post in a series of collaborations between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

Science is the key to a prosperous future. Since its proclamation by the UNESCO General Conference (Resolution 31C/ 20) in 2001, World Science Day for Peace and Development is celebrated all over the world to demonstrate why science is relevant to people’s daily lives and to engage them in debates on related issues.

This year's theme is 'Science for Global Understanding'. By linking science more closely with society, World Science Day for Peace and Development aims to ensure that citizens are kept informed of the latest developments in science. This day also offers the opportunity to mobilize all actors around the topic of science for peace and development – from governments to civil society organizations.

Securing peace through mathematics, science and technology

Children doing a science experiment | Credit: CEMASTEA 2017

Mathematics, science and technology (MST) impact society thereby determining the extent of development. Society on the other hand can influence MST development towards peaceful communities. Contemporary societies are becoming more and more complex, uncertain, diverse and, regrettably there are increased levels of inequality and violence.

We should focus on providing education that recognizes the relevance and understanding of global issues in their social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental dimensions. Therefore a learner’s knowledge and skills should be developed with a view to secure a world that is more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable.

MST education also needs to respond to the scale of change and rapid advances in information and communication technology (ICT), the shift to a knowledge-based economy, and skills requirement to thrive. Rethinking education provision and, especially the teaching of MST, can open up possibilities for securing peace, human co-existence and development at the same time.

Why is MST education key to our society and our youth?

MST education is important to all of us. It is the application of human intelligence to figuring how the world works. MST education in the 21st century should prepare children to be: confident, self-directed learners, concerned citizens, collaborators, and active players able to thrive in and contribute to the dynamic world.

Once equipped with such skills, each can endeavor to innovatively meet their own and societal needs, thereby ensuring self-sustaining communities. MST has helped man discover useful inventions such as technologies for farming, transport, building, and medicines, which have contributed to more peaceful societies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, MST inventions such as nuclear warfare and uninhibited industrial development leading to over exploitation of natural resources and pollution continue to harm and worry our society.  

The importance of teaching mathematics, science and technology to children cannot be overemphasized. The question is how to teach them in order to help them acquire knowledge and skills to respond to the needs of our societies today. MST education enables children to explain processes (i.e. mechanical, chemical, physiological and biological) and reasons behind functioning and malfunctioning of things. MST helps to provide physical or visible evidence of facts that children encounter, read about in books and on the internet; this helps to increase understanding and helps them to retain that information.

MST lessons should bring real life scenarios that provide learners with opportunities to practice science in their respective communities. A strong foundation in scientific knowledge and methodologies can teach children important skills such as thinking clearly and in a logical way; possess an open and inquiring mind, decision and problem solving skills. Indeed, learners are also able to use this knowledge to understand new concepts, make well-informed decisions and pursue new interests.

MST education, skills and attitudes can change our world for the better

MST education need not only to involve teaching basic concepts and facts, but also to equip learners with other skills, including ethics and attitudes, to be able to use scientific knowledge as well as be aware of how science influences their lives and shapes their environments. This in turn will equip them with requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to solve problems and ensure peace and development at local, regional and international levels.

To this end, teachers should outline instructional activities that equally enable learners to appreciate and value what is being learnt and how to apply what is learnt in real life contexts. As they learn, the opportunity should be there for them to learn other key skills important for making the world more peaceful and equal for all.

Quoting Flavia Schlegel, Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences, UNESCO: “The dialogue among science, policy, and everyday lives should be constant and multidirectional”.