Background to the programme
The Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences of Venezuela has been leading the project to renew science education in Venezuelan primary schools. With the support of the Foundation Empresas Polar, a first project was launched in 5 primary schools in Caracas. A trainer, who was an active or retired scientist, was assigned to each classroom to assist the teacher for two hours each week for the duration of a given topic.
In 2008, the Service of Cooperation and Cultural Action (SCAC) from the French Embassy invited a trainer from the Foundation “La main à la pâte” (Lamap) to lead a professional development course for about 50 primary school teachers and trainers in Caracas, with a view to finding bridges between the work of Lamap and the existing programme. The French and Venezuelan Academies of Sciences signed an agreement in 2009 to launch “Ciencia en la Escuela. Educación en Ciencia Basada en la Indagación”. The two projects are fairly similar since both of them implement Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE), but the Lamap programme is more flexible.
Objectives of the programme
- Develop a model of teaching and learning of sciences, based on inquiry and experimentation, which equips teachers with appropriate teaching strategies
- Enable students to participate in the development of experiences built on their previous knowledge, and develop their capacities to make observations, questions, and also to communicate and argue about their views and results.
- Develop children’s ability to explain the world around them through inquiry-based methodology
- Translation of Lamap materials into Spanish and adaptation to the primary education curriculum.
- Creation of new pedagogical resources, following Lamap guidelines and experiences from the working group.
- Organisation of trainer groups composed of university teachers and scientists to design the training sessions and to write teaching modules for natural sciences in primary schools.
- Creation of a pilot centre that gathers the material and resources for the teachers and training. It is a place where teachers and students from different schools can exchange their ideas and experiences.
- The teachers are trained during three years: nine workshops of 8 hours each and are supported by a trainer or a scientist to implement the new method (20 to 50 hours per school year). After the three years of training, teachers can still call trainers or scientists for help according to their needs.
- Partnership with a school in France in order to improve foreign languages and science classes, and to create a relationship between the students by videoconferences.
Quantitative and qualitative results from the implemented actions
- 14 trainers and 2,500 teachers trained since the beginning of the programme
- 55,000 students aged between 6 and 12, from the first to the sixth grade, have gone through the programme
- The program is more implemented in urban areas because transport is more developed. But efforts are made to reach rural teachers too.
- One evaluation of the pilot centre was conducted in 2012, and concluded:
• The success of the program depends on the involvement of the management team
• After the first training, it would be good to support the teachers to plan their lessons according to IBSE
• With IBSE, students are more active in class, and can experiment scientific processes. They learn better and are more interested in science.
- Another evaluation was led by a Lamap trainer in 2013 and concluded:
• Good use of IBSE in schools and in teachers’ training
• Activities could be better prepared and thought through to consolidate students’ learning. Teachers should be better trained on how to prepare such activities, and should receive specific training to improve their knowledge on sciences.
- Overall, the teachers tend to appreciate the IBSE methodology, and keep using it even several years after their training.
COLLABORATION WITH LAMAP
Since 2008, Lamap has organized six professional development workshops in Venezuela, an international seminar (2010) and has conducted an evaluation.
Lamap should help other small countries that are interested in implementing IBSE, for example in Central America. It would be useful to develop a Spanish version of the Lamap website so that more Spanish-speaking teachers could have access to the resources.
More collaborative programs could be carried out between countries (exchanges of practice between teachers via videoconferences).
Partnership(s) developed in the context of the programme
- Academic support and help in the conception of the training modules: Academia de Ciencias Fisicas, Matematicas y Naturales; Lamap; La Ciencia en tu escuela (Mexican Academy of Sciences)
- Financial support from Empresas Polar Foundation, Francisco Dorta A. Sucesores C.A and Total
- Inter-American Network of Academies of Sciences: provided the opportunity to exchange with other countries.
Difficulties and/or obstacles encountered during the programme’s implementation :
- The Ministry of Education knows about the programme but does not finance it, while they could expand it to many other schools
- Most of the classrooms do not have the facilities needed to develop experimental activities. Although schools do have access to the internet, connections are poor, which is an impediment for the pupils to carry out some researches.
Solutions used to overcome the difficulties and/or obstacles :
- Provide materials to schools to improve facilities for science classes, provide science books for the library, etc., thanks to the support of private partners and of the Academy of Sciences. Three resource centers have been created in the regions of Valencia (Carabobo), Miranda and Caracas to simplify the delivery of materials especially to rural schools.
- Adapt the strategy according to the needs of the schools: the training is organized according to the teachers’ needs.
Suggestions for future improvement :
- Strengthen the relationship with the Ministry of Education to get academic and economic support
- Establish a stronger cooperation with Colegio Francia in Caracas to exchange experiences, resources, etc.
Summary of factors responsible for the programme’s success :
- It is crucial that the headmaster and the teachers of the schools involved in the programme are interested in it.
- The quality of the materials given to the teachers.
To know more
-With IBSE, students progressively develop key scientific ideas through learning how to investigate and building their knowledge and understanding of the world