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NatureInterface > No.05 > P086-087 [Japanese]

Symposium: Communication between Technology and the Wildlife -- The Foundation for Earth Environment

Toward Enriched Science Education: An Interview with YOJI TAKIGAWAYoji


Mr. Takigawa was born in 1949. He graduated from International Christian University's graduate school in 1984. He currently holds a position as a teacher of physics at ICU High School, where he has worked since 1979. He studied at the University of Leeds and Cambridge University from September of 1999 to July of 2000 to conduct research on science curricula. His report on British science education, which developed dramatically in the 1990s, was well received in Japan.

The Galileo Workshop has offered amazing experiments in physics to students of many regions since its foundation in 1986.

Many young Japanese are moving away from science —†this has been one of the primary obstacles in education in this country. Japan has many significant difficulties to overcome in the future of education, such as how to enhance the initiative of Japanese scientists and how to cope with the deterioration of academic performance among university students. Nevertheless, it is true that after the Second World War, Japan has grown and developed to become one of the main economic powers in the world with its goal of becoming a leading country in the areas of science and technology.

On these topics, we interviewed Yoji Takigawa, a teacher at International Christian University High School and the deputy of the Galileo Workshop , a group formed primarily of junior high and high school teachers whose purpose is to interest children in science. Mr. Takigawa talked about various campaigns in the field of science education as well as about the future of science.

Conveying the Pleasure of Science

--I heard that there were conferences on science held in different places all over Japan during this summer vacation, as in recent years. What activities did you take part in?

Takigawa: I took part not only in domestic conferences but also in a conference on experiments in Korea and in an international conference on physics education. The first event I participated in this year was the " Refreshing Science Class" held at the Fukuoka Branch of the Japan Society of Applied Physics. The first day was for teachers, and on the second day, the teachers introduced the experiments they had learned on the previous day to children. About 200 children participated in this event.

I also expended a lot of time and energy as the director of the Executive Committee of the Tenth National Convention of the Youngster' s Science Festival held at the Science Museum in Tokyo. The convention was quite successful with 60 thousand attendants in five days. We changed exhibitions at the midpoint of this event, so the content was so rich that no one ever got bored. Teachers and students presented experiments in booths, of which we had about 200. Additionally, explanations were provided in a way that made them appropriate to the interests of both children and adults.

-- If you had to choose one booth out of the 200 that had particular social appeal, which would you select?

Takigawa: There were many exceptional booths, but a particularly outstanding one was "Pattering Magnets," exhibited by Ms. Sachiko Tosa, a lecturer at the Museum of Science of Boston. Ms. Tosa had a rubber magnet with north and south poles attached like vertical stripes. If you have a pair of rubber magnets and you move one of them from side to side, the other magnet will vibrate because of being both repelled and attracted. The participants made various toys using this mechanism. Ms. Tosa drew out many interesting ideas from children and let them design and realize their suggestions. I think eliciting ideas from children is an important aspect of education in the future.

-- Can you explain the future directions that the Youngsters' Science will take?

Takigawa: The Youngsters' Science Festival? Youth Science Fair? was launched in 1992, when it was held in only three places. This year, the festival was held in over 80 places and more than 70 of them were grass-roots events held independently by the local Executive Committee who raised funds itself.

This year, which is the tenth anniversary of the Festival?, Fair? We decided to establish new projects. The first is to spread the Festival? from point to surface, that is, to change the Festival? from one of many events hosted by a city to an intense project of the whole city.

The second plan is to introduce new conceptions to make meeting chances where children who gathered in the annual Festival can participate in their daily lives. It is important not only to introduce newly developed experiments but also to encourage programs that allow children to devise their own experiments. It is also necessary to enhance communication between teachers.

Finally, the most important challenge is to improve cooperation with the school system. I hope the Festival will trigger a new era in which the school system changes significantly, because school is where children have the greatest exposure to science through their science classes.

--Mr. Takigawa, you are also the deputy of the Galileo Workshop , which aims at helping children to learn the importance of science through interesting and impressive experiments. Can you tell me something more about this group?

Takigawa: The Galileo Workshop was founded in 1986, and its membership primarily consists of junior high and high school teachers. At first, we devised experiments for use in class. At that time, we already felt that children who liked science when they were in elementary school came to dislike it as they moved on to junior high and high school. We initiated activities off school grounds, rather than remaining at school all the time, and strove to convey the pleasure of science under the leadership of Mr. Michio Goto, one of our members.

In 1991, the Physics Education Society of Japan held a " Science Festival for Junior High and High School Students," in which the prototype of the "Experiments Portable-Stall Village," where teachers present and explain experiments for children, was established. Then, beginning in 1992, the Youngsters' Science was launched, hosted by the Japan Science Foundation. The fact that 60 thousand people attended the 1) Festival 2) Fair in only five days clearly shows that interesting experiments enjoy a greater and greater reach in society.

Meanwhile, Tokorozawa Junior Chamber Inc. consulted us because they wanted to recreate Tokorozawa City as a "City of Science and the Environment" to counteract its negative image as a place of industrial waste and dioxin scandals. We were therefore able to hold a big conference using the entire Seibu Dome, one of the biggest baseball stadiums in Japan, on August 24, 2001.

Hopes for Realizing Diverse Curricula in Japan

--By the way, what ideas did you discuss at the Meeting for the Science Curriculum Development which you and your associates launched?

Takigawa: People who had presented data showing the general decline in academic standards and who had raised objections to the reduction of the content of education gathered and debated. We reached basic agreement about our activities and new movements have already started in several areas: people are starting to create their own original curricula for science education. In developed countries, the decentralization of education is quite common. We want to initiate decentralization of education in Japan starting with science education.

The case of the U.K. is a good example of how decentralization works across regions. Scotland is critical of England's national curriculum. Consequently, even the number of years of compulsory education differs between Scotland and England. Competition in and between these regions improves education in the U.K.

As far as I'm concerned, I hope that competition for better curricula may also occur in Japan through decentralization. I would propose a system of education in which each region creates its own curriculum including textbooks and teaching materials based on the respective regional culture.

Moreover, it is important that the curricula presented by highly motivated people be considered. In the Meeting for the Science Curriculum Development, active discussion was enjoyed not only by teachers in the field of education but also by researchers and engineers from universities and business. It is desirable that good research also be evaluated in society and be reflected in the policies of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. This requires cooperation between teachers in the field of education who have the capability to create good curricula and university professionals who have a theoretical view of education, as well as support from scientists and citizens. I hope that such movements will be helpful not only in creating and expanding science curricula but also in raising children in Japanese society.

--What would you like to see in school education, which is the actual field of learning?

Takigawa: I would like to start with the biggest difference in school education between the U.K. and Japan. That is, in the U.K., a research study called coursework is obligatory in each subject starting at the junior high school level. This is done so that the students may learn basic knowledge systematically and discover how to apply this knowledge. Coursework reports are evaluated as one subject of entrance exams, and the research report is judged by the teachers of the school whose entrance exam the student takes. The evaluation of the report is also evaluated objectively by teachers of the region. The result accounts for 30% of the exam score. If such a system in which students' experiments and inventions are evaluated is established in Japan, it will not only improve studies in junior high and high school but also eliminate many of the ma ladies of university entrance exams.

Nourishing Scientific Capability in Daily Life

Takigawa: By the way, some people are skeptical about the achievements in science and mathematics of Japanese students. The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) indicated improved achievement by Japanese students in both science and math. Nevertheless, British participants in the TIMSS suggest that the high scores obtained by Japanese students in the multiple choice test given by the TIMSS were achieved only because Japanese junior high school students are trained with questions of this type; the British believe that the TIMSS test does little to measure actual achievement. It should be noted that students from the U.K. also test in the upper level in the experiment test, in which Japan didn't participate.

I also have adopted research in my physics class at high school. I let students start their research in May and they present the results in November. I n addition, starting in 1999, I began short-term development of original experiments in which only materials are specified. We aim at learning the methodology of creating original ideas.

Students come up with many interesting ideas. For example, a student who tried to devise an experiment with handkerchiefs discovered that when we wet a handkerchief and hang it on the edge of a bathtub, we can suspend things of over six kilograms from the handkerchief. For an experiment with newspapers, a student found that when a newspaper partly wet with oil is dipped into water, the part of the paper that absorbed the oil can easily be cut out by hand because it no longer absorbs water.

For a long-term project in developing experiment s, a group which tried to devise a miniature boomerang created a boomerang with three wings, and found that the boomerang would return even if the length of a wing was only 3 mm.

It is clearly important that each student makes the best possible use of his or her idea and aim at originality thought. If these students estimate others' ideas after they themselves have created and conducted an experiment, they are better able to provide evaluation and constructive comments. I want to train students who will become ordinary citizens to confront difficulties in the future by devising simple things and using skills that they learned in high school. I certainly don't expect that all my students will become scientists.

--Lastly, can you describe what we can expect from science education in the future?

Takigawa: I think people will become more aware that they need to have some knowledge either of science or of other fields of study. Information inundates society today. There are great amounts of information related to our daily lives such as foods and the environments and their dangers. We need to choose relevant information and incorporate it into our body of knowledge in order to look ahead to the future.

Furthermore, we must not only receive information but also make every effort to be creative and inventive. We need to make our thoughts flexible in the fields of research, business and daily life, and rise to meet difficult challenges. Talking about it like this, you may think this is something natural, but many people today can't do this.

I think universities also cause this inflexibility. I mean, Japanese universities don't urge students to do scientific research in area l sense from their first year, even if they are in the area of physics, for example. I know that even high school students have the capability to do basic research. Social level or power has no meaning in science.

--But why don't universities let students research?

Takigawa: It' s because of the university system in Japan. In conventional university education in Japan, students in physics do not read research papers until they reach the graduate level, nor do they carry out their own research before they reach the doctorate level. Such a system doesn't produce active young people. I think students need to start research in their first year of study and should begin systematic studies so that they may improve their originality. This is done in the U.K. from junior high school on, and it significantly motivates students. A course of synthetic studies will soon be started in Japan, but one difference between Japanese and British education is that Japanese students tend to forget the connection between such synthetic studies and the systematic knowledge that they learn in each class.

Clearly, we require both general school education and science education to help people develop their lives vigorously in various senses. Such education will create an energetic society. I'm sure that the discovery of the pleasure of science will help to create a society based on the new science, while improving humane communication through science in families and offices, and between parents and children.

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