EXPO for Young Scientists has been in existence for twenty years in South Africa.   Over the  years  the  movement  has  grown  substantially  from  198  participants  at  the  first exhibition  in  Pretoria,  to  engaging  roughly  20  000  young  people  in  science  and technology activities around the country.   At the beginning of 2000, the organisation was awarded the National Science and Technology Forum’s “most outstanding contribution to science and technology” prize. 

Formal science (as taught in schools) has achieved very limited success in South Africa, and this was once again confirmed by the results 1 of the most recent Third International Mathematics and Science Study Repeat (TIMSS-R), where South Africa featured last on the rating list.   In addition, the more local picture reflects bleak statistics of pass rates of final  year  school  students  in  mathematics  and  science;  and  there  is  little  confidence  in seeing  an  improvement  in  the  immediate  future.   What  is  worse,  is  that  apart  from  an overall  deficit  in  student  numbers  in  the  sciences,  the  country  is  also  facing  a  serious shortfall of black and women scientists and engineers, and so is trailing behind in terms of national transformation.   In response to this national crisis, the Department of Education is  developing  a  targetted  strategy  to  improve  the  learning  of  mathematics,  science  and technology.

EXPO for Young Scientists on the other hand, using an informal approach to science via investigative project work, has achieved remarkably in terms of raising interest (learners and the public) in science, engaging young people in science and technology activities, and producing excellence in the field.   Several roleplayers may be linked to the process of  a  learner  preparing  a  project  for  EXPO,  and  in  this  way  have  the  science communicated  to  them.   This  paper  examines  the  reach  of  EXPO  in  terms  of  both  the EXPO  participants  and  its  roleplayers,  attempts  to  resolve  the  role  and  profile  of  these groups and discusses whether the reach is appropriate or adequate. 

The  information  presented  is  drawn  from  a  survey  of  student  perceptions  conducted  in 1999, as well as the experience of the author in science fairs and the policy environment in  South  Africa.   The  paper  examines  the  different  roleplayers  and  their  profiles.  The analysis  is  framed  within  the  science  and  technology  (and  other)  policy  of  the  country.  Further  research  is  proposed  which  will  provide  the  science  community  of  South  Africa with empirical evidence in some of the following areas:   the value of science fairs (and how  they  can  complement  formal  science),  their  impact  on  the  development  of  science and technology awareness and capacity in this country, and tangible approaches to the public communication of science and technology.
 




 

 

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Who are we reaching via science fairs in south africa examining the “people impact”

Colleen Hughes   EXPO

EXPO for Young Scientists has been in existence for twenty years in South Africa.   Over the  years  the  movement  has  grown  substantially  from  198  participants  at  the  first exhibition  in  Pretoria,  to  engaging  roughly  20  000  young  people  in  science  and technology activities around the country.   At the beginning of 2000, the organisation was awarded the National Science and Technology Forum’s “most outstanding contribution to science and technology” prize. 

Formal science (as taught in schools) has achieved very limited success in South Africa, and this was once again confirmed by the results 1 of the most recent Third International Mathematics and Science Study Repeat (TIMSS-R), where South Africa featured last on the rating list.   In addition, the more local picture reflects bleak statistics of pass rates of final  year  school  students  in  mathematics  and  science;  and  there  is  little  confidence  in seeing  an  improvement  in  the  immediate  future.   What  is  worse,  is  that  apart  from  an overall  deficit  in  student  numbers  in  the  sciences,  the  country  is  also  facing  a  serious shortfall of black and women scientists and engineers, and so is trailing behind in terms of national transformation.   In response to this national crisis, the Department of Education is  developing  a  targetted  strategy  to  improve  the  learning  of  mathematics,  science  and technology.

EXPO for Young Scientists on the other hand, using an informal approach to science via investigative project work, has achieved remarkably in terms of raising interest (learners and the public) in science, engaging young people in science and technology activities, and producing excellence in the field.   Several roleplayers may be linked to the process of  a  learner  preparing  a  project  for  EXPO,  and  in  this  way  have  the  science communicated  to  them.   This  paper  examines  the  reach  of  EXPO  in  terms  of  both  the EXPO  participants  and  its  roleplayers,  attempts  to  resolve  the  role  and  profile  of  these groups and discusses whether the reach is appropriate or adequate. 

The  information  presented  is  drawn  from  a  survey  of  student  perceptions  conducted  in 1999, as well as the experience of the author in science fairs and the policy environment in  South  Africa.   The  paper  examines  the  different  roleplayers  and  their  profiles.  The analysis  is  framed  within  the  science  and  technology  (and  other)  policy  of  the  country.  Further  research  is  proposed  which  will  provide  the  science  community  of  South  Africa with empirical evidence in some of the following areas:   the value of science fairs (and how  they  can  complement  formal  science),  their  impact  on  the  development  of  science and technology awareness and capacity in this country, and tangible approaches to the public communication of science and technology.
 




 

 

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