Writer: Dr. Pornpun Waitayangkoon
Science on the Screen: Entertaining, Creative, Exciting - and Always Educational
I am honored to have been invited to write about the contribution of the Goethe-Institut to Thai science education and the opportunity to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Goethe-Institut in Thailand in 2020, which reflects the close cooperation between Germany and Thailand. It was in 2005 when the Goethe-Institut initiated the Science Film Festival in Bangkok in collaboration with the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST). At that time, we reached about 5,000 viewers in the greater Bangkok area through the screenings. A successful start for the first edition! Teachers and young audiences were particularly impressed.
In the following years, more connected activities were developed, for example, the Goethe-Institut invited professional filmmakers and science communication experts to organize workshops for prospective young science communicators in Thailand. This positive encouragement has made profound impacts in local production of science education content in the following years. The initiative also gained further key partners in the form of the National Science Museum Thailand (NSM), as well as the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), the 20 Science Centers of the Non-Formal Education throughout the country, nanmeebooks Learning Center, CLP Nakhorn Sri Thammarat, Thai Film Archive, TK park, and other agencies.
Today, the Science Film Festival reaches over 20 countries across four continents. I am not exaggerating when I say the festival has become increasingly popular among teachers and students. Science centers, universities, schools, and community learning centers, have helped expand screenings across the globe, meanwhile reaching over half a million visitors annually in Thailand and over one million visitors internationally. Statistically, this reach has made the Science Film Festival the largest event of its kind worldwide and a leading science education initiative in Thailand and the other countries in which it is organized by the Goethe-Institut.
More importantly, the alternative approach to teaching science put forward by projects such as these, in this case the use of science films in combination with hands-on learning activities, has encouraged teachers to embrace exploring non-traditional teaching methodologies. Science subjects often may seem difficult to students and there is a lack of interest in studying basic sciences, which is largely due to the way that science is taught in local schools. The crowded curriculum makes it impossible for educators to teach science as it is supposed to be and to allow students to do practical activities or hands-on experiments. Under these circumstances, some teachers tend to simply run through all the content specified in the curriculum, while both teachers and students are struggling with time allocation and learning resource constraints. The use of educational films in teaching science is therefore regarded as a useful tool for instruction. Science films not only attract students’ interest in science and technology, but also help develop positive attitudes towards science and the environment. Science films also contribute significantly to the students’ imagination and inspire them to be interested in scientific issues.
More recently, the Goethe-Institut has also introduced the Southeast Asian Digital STEM platform or SEADSTEM along with the Science Film Festival. This platform aims to provide quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teaching resources developed by experienced educators from participating countries. The resources can be contextualized and integrated into school curricula as appropriate. The platform also provides an opportunity for dialogue among participating countries to share and exchange expertise and ideas. This is a strategic development in support of STEM education to guide students to future careers in the fields of science and technology. The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Center for STEM Education (SEAMEO STEM-ED) is proud to be one of the Goethe-Institut partners to pursue this mission for the regional countries.
These measures demonstrate the valuable contribution and efforts the Goethe-Institut has made to science education and access to knowledge in Thailand and the broader ASEAN region over the past two decades in particular and I look forward to the continued development of these existing projects and future initiatives of the Goethe-Institut in the crucial field of science education cooperation.
Dr. Pornpun Waitayangkoon
Former President of IPST and
Center Director of SEAMEO STEM-ED