Editorial

The missing link

The articles in this special issue discuss various European views and original experiences of science education. These are of interest because they are, educationally and geographically speaking, both far removed from, and complementary to, so-called ‘classical’ methods. In parallel with the education provided by schools,, these initiatives are taking place in informal contexts, providing every individual with the opportunity to express his or herself, experiment and "get it wrong".

But we will be very careful here to avoid painting a black and white picture of the proponents. Although this issue is primarily devoted to these new approaches, don’t see it as an implicit criticism of education, or of its rigorous, even austere approach, to the sciences. See it rather as a celebration of the organisations that practise them in the most attractive and entertaining ways. We should not be sidetracked by pitting one teaching method against another, finding one out-of-date and obsolete, and regarding the other as the ”right” way to do things. Instead we should strengthen how they complement one another. In science, thoroughness and inconsequentiality, calculations and emotions, knowledge and interactivity, tekhnē and logos, can and must go hand-in-hand. This can be encouraged by accentuating the links between classical and innovative approaches to science. How many children visit a museum or a science centre at least once a year? One encouraging sign is the increase in the number of visits recorded by the 2005 Eurobarometer study.

It is perhaps scientists who should be the first to speak out and show the way. By reminding us of, and reinforcing the fact, that communication is also a science. The position taken by high-energy physicist Michel Crozon is exemplary in this regard, and unfortunately far too rare: ‘I popularise what I do in order to understand it better.’ If young people reject scientific and technical opportunities, it is undoubtedly less because of school programmes than because of the image of science, which is generally conveyed as being laborious and mechanised, or even dehumanised.

Michel Claessens
Michel ClaessensEditor in chief
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