Commonwealth Association for Science Technology and Maths Education
(EMERGENT SCIENCE WITH COMMUNITIES -
PARENTS, CARERS, PLAY and EVERYDAY ACTIVITES)
CASTME (Commonwealth Association for Science Technology and Maths Education) is one of the affiliated NGOs of the Commonwealth Foundation. The Trustees of CASTME decided that, whilst recognising that all stages of schooling are important in developing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) capacity in a country, the early years, both pre-formal schooling and up to eight years (UNESCO definition of early years) in school, are critical. Hence, they decided to focus CASTEME’s efforts there. We particularly recognise the importance of the community and family, especially of mothers or first carers, as the most important teacher of their child. Such recognition empowers them.
The CASTME Early Years is an initiative which was developed by CASTME to mark the Commonwealth Year of Science and Technology 2010.
There is relatively little research on very young children and how they experience science and technology (engineering) phenomena which are features of their early play or everyday tasks and actions.
Is there a critical period for development of such concepts? Children are intuitive scientists. (Gopnik, 2009)
The starting point for the learning of science and engineering is at this early age and occurs in the immediate environment of the child with the people with whom s/he spend their time. These places are where they live and the immediate environment outside. In these locations children witness everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, washing, various activities with materials such as textiles, wood, clay, as well as identifying and being involved with basic life processes such as moving, breathing, eating, and excreting and the human activities associated with these life processes and beyond. Children are immersed in their environment, human constructed or natural, such as their village or neighbourhood, which all contain various amounts of technology, sconce in action and biodiversity. This environment includes a range of activities/objects, from a simple cooking vessel being used on an open fire to using mobile phones; from natural areas of vegetation to manicured garden, and other phenomena of humans including human life history, needs, habitats and tools. Moreover, the natural environment is made from physical, geological and biological phenomena, features of this, their ‘place’ in the world, such as rocks, plants, and water courses, which may be observed. Additionally the culture and particular uses of science and technology by the community with whom the children live are evident and noticed.
The starting point for science is observation. We aim to encourage their carers to share the observations and talk about such and increase their own self esteem and literacy.
“Children, we now know, need to talk, and to experience a rich diet of spoken language in order to think and learn. Reading, writing and number may be acknowledged as curriculum ‘basics’ but talk is the true foundation for teaching”. (Alexander, 2008, page 9)
Furthermore. it is now accepted that there is an intimate link between language and thought and thus the cognitive development of a child is affected to a considerable extent by the nature, context and forms of language, which s/he hears and uses. (Halliday, 1993)
As children acquire early language they begin to label phenomena. This naming is an inherent human need (Bruner, Goodnow and Austin 1956; Markman. 1989). Additionally, Young children ask questions incessantly when given an opportunity (Tough, 1977), a behaviour which often disappears in the formal educating environment where classic triadic dialogue takes over. However, there is a move towards developing dialogic talking in classrooms (Alexander, 2008) as well as inquiry and critical thinking.
The CASTME Early Years Talking Everyday Science project seeks to encourage parents and other carers, and particularly disadvantaged women, many deemed illiterate by some because they do not read or write or have very limited skills in these two strands of the four aspects of literacy, the others being listening and speaking. These women can listen and they can speak. They furthermore know and are familiar with the science and engineering phenomena in their lives. By helping them talk about these and identify the phenomena, actions and artefacts, and then to tell the children, we maintain that we can develop science and engineering literacy in both adults and children.
A number of people and organisations have committed to develop this talking science and engineering approach though everyday life and where possible science language through play, particularly in Sreepur Children’s Village (SPP), Bangladesh, and the Rajiv Ghandi Science Centre in Mauritius, which has set up a Kiddy’s corner for pre-schoolers and their adults in the interactive science centre, opened by their Minister for Education, a great supporter of early years. Also, the Maltese Council for Women are running six sessions for mothers and children each summer, and their minister for Education is supportive of early years.
Alexander, R. (2008) Towards Dialogic Teaching: rethinking classroom talk. Cambridge. Dialogos. York.
Bruner, J. S., Goodnow, J. J. and Austin, G. A. (1956) A Study of thinking. New York, John Wiley, Science Editions, Inc.
Gopnik, A.( 2009) The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life . Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, USA
Halliday, M.A.K. (1993) Towards a Language-based theory of Education. Linguistics in Education 5
Markman, E. (1989) Categorization and naming in children: Problems of induction. The MIT Press, Cambridge Mass.
Tough, J. (1977) The Development of Meaning. London, George Allen and Unwin
Copyright: S.D. Tunnicliffe, Reader in Science Education, University College London, Institute of Education, London
Chair, CASTME Lady.email@example.com [++] 07710571445
A Report on the Cameroon Commonwealth Commemoration Conference (Douala 2017)
Presented by Femi Richard OMOTOYINBO
To the Bristol Commonwealth Society.
A letter of invitation dated 22nd of February 2017 was sent via email to formally invite me for the 2017 Cameroon Commonwealth Commemoration as scheduled for the 16th to 18th of March 2017. My attendance at the conference was majorly funded through the kind support of the Bristol Commonwealth Society (BCS) and the encouragements of Gina Smith and Janet Kirk. I was actually a representative of the BCS at the conference. The flight to Cameroon on March 15, 2017 through ASKY airline took about 1 hour, 30 minutes from Lagos, Nigeria to Douala, Cameroon; and I returned to Nigeria on 20th of March 2017.
For the sake of clarity, I have divided the report into 3 parts: 1. Conference Overview 2. Personal Experience and 3. Overall Comment and Conclusion.
The Cameroon Commonwealth Conference was actually between the 13th and 18th of March 2017 at the University of Douala. The conference has the same universal Commonwealth Theme for 2017: “A Peace Building Commonwealth”, which was very apt for the conditions in many of the African member States of the Commonwealth, specifically Cameroon whose peace is experiencing political, linguistic and terrorist challenges. While events between the 13th and 15th of March was majorly for Students and Staff in the Douala University; dignitaries arrived from other Cameroonian Universities and from other parts of Africa (especially Nigeria) on 16 March. Authorities of Douala University, Professionals, government officials (the Governor of the region inclusive) and eminent scholars were among peoples that graced the opening ceremony of the conference at the Ground Stand of Nelson Mandela Stadium on 16 March 2017. The opening ceremony includes the singing of the Cameroonian National Anthem, the Commonwealth Anthem (composed and sung by the Student Commonwealth Club of the University). It includes the reading of the Queen’s Commonwealth Day Message, introduction of attendees, and a bilingual welcome speech delivered by the President of the Student Commonwealth Society (Joseph Chedjou), who hosted me on the final nights of my stay in Douala.
A round table on “a peace building Commonwealth” was later chaired by Professor Sammy Beban Chumbow; with a gender-balanced panelists to discuss peace, its nature and socio-political significances. Professor Kizitus Mpoche was the major brain behind the 2017 conference since his usual co-organiser Dr Bala Chandra (in the UK) was unable to come for the conference. The responsibilities could have overwhelmed Prof. Kizitus if not for the assistance of some staff members and postgraduate students of the University. However, the conference had a massive student involvement, which is quite encouraging because the youth are effective agents of sustainable peace. There was no boring moment throughout the conference because entertainment (including modern and cultural activities) and feeding were adequately provided.
Accommodation for the guests was okay, and there was no need for transportation because the hotel accommodation is near the venue (the University of Douala). The papers presented at the conference raised topical issues on peace from historical, legal, political and socio-linguistic perspectives. I hope the papers would appear in the forthcoming edition of the Cameroon Journal of Commonwealth Studies published by the organisers of the conference.
I am once again grateful to the BCS for the sponsorship. It was indeed a worthy investment because my attendance was obviously encouraging to everyone, especially the young people. I was probably the youngest among the guests and the presenters. Many of the students were happy to know more about the Commonwealth, and existing members of the Student Commonwealth Society were encouraged. Prof. Kizitus gave me a special introduction and I was later one of the panellists to discuss and answer questions on peace. I discussed the two natures of peace (positive and negative peace) and mentioned some connections with the Commonwealth generally. Although funding was not actually enough and the organisers had to support me until I got more money via my credit card. Professor Kizitus was grateful for my participation and the support I rendered with the presentation gadgets during the presentations. Among other things, I was able to present an interesting paper with the title “Human Rights: the Commonwealth and the Banjul Charter” on the 17th of March 2017. I really wish it would be published in the Journal mentioned above.
The personal benefit I got from attending the conference include the honourable opportunity to represent the BCS, exchange of knowledge with erudite scholars, friendship, constructive networking and academic development. The latter was even marked with a certificate of participation, which could be useful for an academic career. I must mention my networking with some University dons from Nigeria; and their desire to kick-start a student commonwealth society in one of the two universities represented. I expressed my willingness to give them support in the course of establishing the commonwealth student society. At the end of the conference and scientific presentations, the organisers set up a committee to sustain the continuity of the conference and its journal. I was invited to give some suggestions on the possible thematic focus of the journal in subsequent publications.
To finalise the whole event, a commonwealth alumni party commenced at one of the hotels, and I was invited to the high table as an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society with Commonwealth Fellows who had gained Commonwealth scholarships for postgraduate studies in the UK. Although I was recovering from an illness prior my travel to Douala, I still represented the BCS effectively to the best of my ability.
Overall Comment and Conclusion
The Douala Commonwealth Conference was not only interesting because of the international participation but it was also interesting because it erased the divide between the Anglophone and Francophone communities in attendance. I was able to advise the youth to consider the Anglophone and Francophone divide as an opportunity to be bilingual rather than as a negative difference. I believe that events of this nature in Cameroon (and Africa generally) are needed to invest in the youth and prepare them as possible leaders in the nearest future. Visits to some public places with Prof. Kizitus reveal that the conference has a constructive social impact even before it ended. Many people in the restaurants were busy chatting and exchanging views on some topical issues raised during the paper presentations. This further shows that the Commonwealth conference in Cameroon is a worthy development that deserves both moral and material support from the Commonwealth society. It is important to note that the sponsorship of the conference was in some way poor. The poor sponsorship reflected in the type of materials (e.g., folders, pen, nametags etc.) presented to the guests during the conference. These materials were obviously low in quality compare to what is obtainable in conferences elsewhere. I use this medium to solicit more support for the Cameroon commonwealth conference; the organisers and participants deserve every encouragement possible, and the BCS would be making more impacts by increasing their support. Without such supports, commitments from the organisers and supporters would certainly decline.
I am happily grateful for the support from the BCS; I remain available for further duties as an ‘ambassador’ of the BCS and an Associate Fellow of the RCS.
Femi Richard OMOTOYINBO
13 – 18 MARCH 2017
UNIVERSITY OF DOUALA
THEME: A PEACE-BUILDING COMMONWEALTH
The Commonwealth theme centres on peace. In this year, against a global background of increasing instability and rise of extremism and terrorism, Commonwealth member states will build on their diversity and reaffirm their commitment to international peace and security by discussing the theme ‘Peace-Building Commonwealth’. This is in line with the Commonwealth Charter principle: ‘International peace and security, sustainable economic growth and development and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all’. http://www.commonwealthofnations.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Charter-of-the-Commonwealth.pdf
‘At a time of increasing instability and uncertainty in the world, the Commonwealth family of nations in its rich diversity becomes an ever more-needed source of strength and hope for all its members. ‘A peace-building Commonwealth’ is a natural follow-on from 2016’s theme of ‘An Inclusive Commonwealth’, and reaffirms the Commonwealth Charter principle that ‘international peace and security, sustainable economic growth and development and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all’. http://thecommonwealth.org/theme#sthash.8NhRMTED.dpuf
Conference delegates will participate in sports and cultural events, and discuss/debate the above theme to promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the improvement of the lives of citizens in its member states. Delegates will have the option of submitting their papers/contributions for publication in the special issue (2017) of the Cameroon Journal of Studies in the Commonwealth on 'A Peace-building’ Commonwealth’ ISSN 2411-1325
The Conference is supported by the University of Doula, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Royal Commonwealth Society, Bristol Commonwealth Society, Cameroon Alumni of Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows, and University of Douala Commonwealth Club.
Registration fee: 30.000 CFA (US $ 60) for participants from Africa; and US$ 100 for participant from other regions; Student discount: 50%.
For further details, please contact:
Prof. Kizitus Mpoche, University of Douala (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), phone. +237 675055353; or
Dr Balasubramanyam Chandramohan, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, London WC1E 7HU) email@example.com phone: +44 7779 162674
The YDI is a composite index of 18 indicators that collectively measure multi-dimensional progress on youth development in 183 countries, including 49 of the 53 Commonwealth countries. It has five domains measuring levels of education, health and well-being, employment and opportunity, political participation and civic participation for young people. The YDI is guided by the Commonwealth definition of youth as people between the ages of 15 and 29, while recognising that some countries and international institutions define youth differently.
Launch of the Global Youth Development Index and Report 2016
First Commonwealth Summer School, University of Buea, Cameroon 2011
Chandramohan, Balasubramanyam. 2011. 'Partnering for democracy and good governance in the Commonwealth'. Association of Commonwealth Universities Bulletin (London), September 2011, 8-9.
Commonwealth Day Celebrations, 2016
University of Doula, Douala, Cameroon
The students union of the Faculty of Arts, University of Douala led the event, with support and contribution from the Cameroon Association of Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows.
Commonwealth Commemorative Conference, University of Douala, Douala, Cameroon, 11-13 March 2015
(Jointly organised by Professor Kizitus Mpoche and Dr Balasubramanyam Chandramohan)
The theme of the conference was 'A Young Commonwealth'.
At the conference, academic discussions and student activities focussed on the following topics:
A Young Commonwealth - Youth as a Resource in National Development
A Young Commonwealth, Cultural Heritage and Commonwealth Values
A Young Commonwealth and Globalisation
Education in/about the Commonwealth: Pedagogy and Research
Commonwealth Alumni and Student Societies
Impressions of the Conference –
Ms Ifeoma Ndubuisi, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
It was my first time in Cameron and I hope to return whenever I get the chance.
The conference started on the 11th -13th of march 2015.participants from other member common wealth state like Nigeria, UK and various regions and universities in Cameron were duly represented. The essence of the conference was to find an opportunity where members can share experiences, discuss their differences, compare their likenesses, share their strength, and build strong networks as they need each other to find solutions to their common problem.
The conference was themed ‘A young commonwealth’. It was centred on the youth and featured very interesting subject areas, great speakers, moderators, researchers and reviews and participants. Ideas and questions from various contemporary issues ranging from youth empowerment, motivational talk, and researches were shared.
One of key messages that I took away from the conference include; sharing and support is paramount to global development and our choices today as youth is the ‘future’.
The presence of BCS [Bristol Commonwealth Society] also left a mark on the youth. For some of them, it was a time of discovery, others felt appreciated and for others it was a wakeup call for the task ahead. ‘Flames were kindled’. To keep this flames burning, they suggested the need for continuity and sustaining of such important gathering. They also beckoned on BCS to continue to support as my presence was of positive influence on them.
I have attached a copy of the conference programme and topics of discussion. Further details/contact are available from professor Mpoche Kizitus (Kizitus@yahoo.com) in cases of topics of interest.