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Malmö University hosts international symposium on the future of science and tech education


Science and tech education is political. This was the take-home message from the 2018 International Organisation for Science and Technology Education (IOSTE) symposium which took place in Malmö. 

Co-hosted by Malmö University and Stockholm University, the week-long symposium explored future educational challenges and how science and technology can best combat social and environmental inequality.

Anna Jober, Chair of the Organising Committee and lecturer at Malmö University, praised IOSTE for its international outlook and progressive commitment to social justice.

“One of the reasons I was so excited about hosting this symposium was because it was the first time I had encountered an organisation that really wanted peace and for different cultures to come together,” she said.

IOSTE has members from more than eighty countries. Membership is open to those that subscribe to its mission statement, which includes “emphasising the cultural and human values of science and technology” and “contributing to the fight against poverty, discrimination and injustice.” 

During the week, the University campus was buzzing with researchers from all corners of the world. The symposium’s keynote speakers included: Radhika Gorur from Deakin University, Melbourne; Ralph Levinson from the University of London, UK; Kathryn Kirchgasler from the University of Kansas, USA; and Steve Alsop from York University, Canada.

Kathryn Kirchgasler, lecturer at the University of Kansas.

“What I think all the keynotes have in common is that we are each looking at the political aspects of science education from different perspectives,” said Kirchgasler.

Her own presentation was on how difference is seen in science education and how students are classified as certain types of learners.

“I’m interested in how these divisions carry racialised assumptions, even when the intention is to give students the best education possible. We often see science as this completely neutral space, but so much of the work at this symposium, including my research, highlights how science is actually very specific to our political and cultural histories,” she explained.

“We need to understand these dimensions in order to grapple with real-life challenges like climate change, material inequalities and violence.”

Facing pressing environmental and social issues was also an important topic at the regional meetings held throughout the week.

“These meetings are truly the backbone of IOSTE. Researchers from the same region come together to share their thoughts from the symposium and discuss opportunities for collaboration,” said Jober.

“I think IOSTE can help us think more positively about the future; it’s such an amazing global community with a focus on the caring and humane aspects of education. I hope that people come away from the conference feeling that although we share many problems, we also share the possibility of solving these problems.”

Text: Maya Acharya

Last updated by Maya Acharya