[BOGOTÁ] The Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe, declared 2005 as the year of developing science skills, in a 28 April meeting with the academic and scientific community at the Casa de Nariño, the Colombian equivalent of the US White House.
The initiative comes from the Ministry of Education. Cecilia María Vélez, minister of education, said that by declaring 2005 as the year of science skills, the government will promote the evaluation of methods for teaching natural and social sciences, and stimulate activities such as workshops at science museums and science centres, science newspapers created by children, science fairs and conferences.
The aim, said Vélez, is to enable teachers of social and natural sciences to build knowledge and stimulate creativity in their students.
Vélez added that another aim is to identify and share people's useful experiences of communicating science to schoolchildren.
The proposal to make 2005 the year of scientific skills is a response to the 2003 evaluation of natural science skills in 629,000 ten-year old students and 400,000 14-year olds.
The evaluation showed that the children had difficulty in analysing science problems with more than one variable. Children also found it hard to understand graphics and tables, or to propose solutions from their own analyses.
The ministry has already set some standards of social and natural science skills. The first step will be to introduce these to teachers and students.
Rodolfo Llinás, a Colombian neuroscientist working at the New York University Medical Center, welcomed the idea. "Knowing is important," he told the meeting. "But understanding is what matters."
During the meeting, Uribe suggested choosing 20 experiences of best methods of teaching science to schoolchildren, from across the country. These would then be broadcast and discussed during the National Educative Forum on 11-12 October in Bogotá.