The OST's Program for the Austrian EU Presidency Continued...


bridges vol. 10, Juni 2006 / Austrian EU Presidency

by Jutta Kern and Sonja Strohmer

During the Austrian EU Presidency, the Office of Science & Technology (OST) at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC, hosted working group meetings for representatives of the EU Member States covering topics in the areas of Science and Technology, Health, Environment, and Energy and Education. As a continuation of the first report on the EU meetings on "Global Climate Change" and "Obesity and its Challenge to Public Health," this article reports on the events discussed in "Innovative Approaches to Science Education" and "Internationalization of Higher Education." Due to the editorial deadline of this issue of bridges, the closing event on "The Building of Tomorrow" will be covered in more depth in bridges vol. 11.



{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest}Innovative Approaches to Science Education
May 9, 2006

The third EU Science, Technology, and Education Counselors meeting sought to explore the larger meaning of science education, its current state, and strategies and initiatives for enhancing the quality of math and science education.

In modern knowledge societies, science education plays a crucial role in forming the labor force needed to guarantee national innovation and thus the competitive edge of national economies. Science education, however, has also gained importance on a more general level: "scientific literacy" is a vital prerequisite enabling citizens to make informed decisions in areas ranging from GMOs as part of the food chain to stem cell research as an issue in election campaigns.
Yet, many experts lament that current math and science education practices fail to meet expectations.

In the 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative "to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science." The question of how to teach science attractively enough to guarantee a broad scientifically literate public and a large enough group to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects at college and university level is of importance on both sides of the Atlantic.

Four distinguished guest speakers discussed the topic in its diverse aspects:

• Patricia O'Connell Ross, Team Leader for the Mathematics and Science Partnerships Program at the US Department of Education, provided insight into the components of the American Competitiveness Initiative. The American Competitiveness Initiative is designed to improve learning and instruction in mathematics and science and has committed $5.9 billion in 2007. Following "Reading First," "Math Now" promotes research-based practices in mathematics instruction. (In Middle Schools a systematic way to diagnose students' deficiencies in mathematics will be developed in order to enable them to pass Algebra.)
At the same time, teachers will be provided with quality professional development opportunities and motivated through incentive systems in order to improve the quality of teaching. Whereas, in general, the pedagogical skills of American science teachers are highly developed, their content knowledge is in need of improvement.
Ms. O'Connell Ross emphasized that the numerous initiatives do not aim at improving the average level of mathematics proficiency but at supporting every single student to reach a certain level.

• Robert Kuczkowski, Program Officer at the National Science Foundation, has been responsible for the programs in the Chemistry Divison oKuczkowski_photo_smallf the NSF that promote the integration of research and education. He presented NSF projects that help bring cutting-edge research into the undergraduate college curriculum for the successful integration of research and education. Recently, the NSF introduced a new undergraduate research model called Undergraduate Research Collaborative that is designed to involve large numbers of freshman and sophomore undergraduate students in an authentic research experience.

Robert Kuczkowski contributed to the bridges article Undergraduate Research Collaboratives: Turning Undergraduates into Investigators.


• Muriel Lederman, Professor Emerita of Molecular and CellulLederman_smallar Biology and Women's Studies at Virginia Tech, discussed the social and gender aspects of science education. In the US, women and certain minorities are underrepresented in the practice of science and technology. One reason is that science education assumes women will assimilate into the science that is. Ms. Lederman emphasized that science is a social activity shaped by history, institutions, beliefs, and values. She claims that making science an appealing career choice for all requires, in addition to understanding "science as it is," looking at science from outside the discipline. Including social studies of science in science education could promote the inclusion of those whose race, gender, or social status do not fit the traditional practitioners of science.

Read more in Muriel Lederman's bridges article Science as a Social Activity .

chelen_preferred_picture_small• John Chelen, President of the Hampshire Research Institute, is an attorney and systems engineer who has specialized in applying technology for the public interest. He presented the "World Mathematics Software Initiative (WMSI)" as an innovative approach to science education. With "OurMath Tutor," a comprehensive Internet-based global service, WMSI aims at increasing the use of advanced software in education. The online software-based tutorial system will stimulate and track the individual progress of each student. A database of every question and response is permanently maintained, providing an "artifical intelligence" foundation for the program itself, and a research base for exploration of cognitive and social factors in education. The tutorial system will be made available in a variety of languages and will help assure that income and national or cultural identity are not barriers to education.

For further information please contact Mr. Chelen at john(at) .

The presentations of Pat O'Connell Ross, Robert Kuczkowski, Muriel Lederman, and John Chelen can be downloaded at:

Related Links
American Competitiveness Initiative

US Department of Education
Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) program

xplora - European Science Education


Science and Society Portal of the European Commission

Internationalization of Higher Education
May 30, 2006

This meeting for science, technology, and education counselors addressed the various repercussions of globalization in higher education. The higher education market is coping with globalization by trying to weather the increasing international competition for students, scholars, and financial support. Especially US American and Australian higher education institutions push internationalization by launching international cooperation or by opening satellite campuses all over the world. In Europe, higher education systems are being harmonized through the Bologna process. This new interchangeability and accessibility also make European higher education an attractive competitor in the global education market. At the same time, internationally operating for-profit education companies, such as the Apollo Group, assume an ever more important role in emerging economies. Three guest speakers elaborated on the question of what ramifications these processes have for higher education.

• Gottfried Bacher, Deputy Director for EU-Higher Education Programs and Head of the Austrian Bologna Contact Point at the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Vienna, Austria, briefed the audience on the current state Bacher-smallof the "Bologna Process." In June 1999, European Ministers in charge of Higher Education in 29 European countries committed themselves in the so-called "Bologna Declaration" to major reforms in higher education with the goal of establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010. By 2005, the number of participating countries had already increased to 45. Bacher pointed out that the Bologna Process also ties into the "Lisbon Strategy," as it seeks to produce more employable graduates. In general, however, the central goals of the Bologna Process are:
• to make degrees more readable and comparable across Europe,
• to adopt a three-tier degree system (Bachelor's/Master's/Doctoral), and
• to establish a "European Course Credit Transfer System" (ECTS).
This major reform throughout the higher education landscape in the participating countries also aims at developing better doctoral programs which link education and research more closely. Bacher conveyed the message that one of the advantages of the Bologna Process is its lean management structure, as every country covers its own expenses. A central secretariat is located in and sponsored by the UK. A more homogeneous European higher education system makes Europe an attractive competitor to the US higher education market. Although it largely depends on the specific US institution as to whether the European three-year Bachelor's degree is accepted as equivalent to the US four-year programs, the new structure makes European higher education much more attractive to Asian and Latin American students.

Read more about the Bologna Process in Gottfried Bacher's bridges article Higher Education in Austria and the Bologna Process in Vol. 3.


• Jorge Klor de Alva, President, Latin American Operations and Senior Vice President of International Operations at Apollo Group, Inc. addressed the audience from the perspective of the world's largest private higher education company. The Apollo Group, through its University of Phoenix, has been educating working students for over 30 years. The Apollo Group is educating over 310,000 students on 248 campuses in the US and other countries such as India and Brazil. Klor de Alva pointed out that today's knowledge societies have created a huge demand for graduates, outside the US as well. Emerging economies, especially, Jorge_foto_smalldemonstrate a great need for accredited, still affordable higher education to address huge social asymmetries in accessibility. The Apollo Group, through its educational programs, caters to students wanting to better their employment chances by earning an accredited university degree when it is otherwise impossible or too costly for them to do. The Apollo Group degree programs are aligned with local employment markets, and the standardized curricula are developed by experts. Klor de Alva stressed that Apollo's programs are strictly centered on the student, not the faculty. It is important to note that the Apollo Group's programs, as products of a publicly traded company on NASDAQ, are scalable and grown in the country where the venture has been started. Thus, Apollo's campuses contribute substantially to the local economy, which is vital for emerging economies. Moreover, the programs place a strong emphasis on content adaptation. For example, the Apollo Group's next venture in Mexico will offer programs in Mandarin, as China emerges as one of the major trade partners of Latin America. Continuous and strict assessment of education and the students' progress are part of Apollo's accountability and quality control system and thus are the backbone of Apollo's success, according to Jorge Klor de Alva.

• Nana Rinehart, Vice President, International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) has been involved in international student exchange for many years. In her input at the counselors' meeting, Rinehart pointed out that international Nana_Rinehart_smallereducational exchange is a subset of international student mobility. While its implementation is complex and labor-intensive, students benefit greatly in their future careers by gaining cross-cultural experience and communication skills. International student exchanges play an important role in global workforce development through the attainment of intercultural competencies. Rinehart had just returned from the annual NAFSA (Association of International Educators) conference in Montreal, where she witnessed the huge expansion of interest in topics related to international education over the past years. Internationalization of higher education, according to Rinehart, incorporates the idealistic vision of generating better understanding between nations while serving as a commodity, that is traded by international corporations and sold as a skill set to enhance careers. Rinehart also stressed that educational costs in Europe are often less visible than in the United States, since European universities are mostly cross-financed by tax revenues while US institutions collect obvious tuition fees.


The presentations of Gottfried Bacher and Jorge Klor de Alva, as well as all materials pertaining to this meeting can be downloaded at:


Related Links
Activities and Priorities of the Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture
during the Austrian Presidency of the European Council

Activities of the European Union - Education, Training, Youth

American Council on Education (ACE)

Apollo Group, Inc.

Austrian Bologna Website

The Bologna Declaration on the European space for higher education:
an explanation

Bologna Ministers´ Meeting, London, UK, 2007

International Student Exchange Program

NAFSA - Association of International Educators

"The Building of Tomorrow"
June 22, 2006

In the United States, private and commercial buildings consume about 37 percent of all energy used. Little wonder, therefore, that in times of high energy prices and the specter of global warming, the building and construction industry is the object of much scrutiny. "Green Buildings," "High Performance Buildings," and "Sustainable Buildings" are just some of the energy efficient alternatives to traditional buildings.

The Austrian Ministry of Transport, Innovation & Technology (BMVIT) and the Office of Science & Technology at the Austrian Embassy invited a select audience for this event, which aimed to address some of the questions relating to policies, regulations, best practices, and technologies favorable to energy efficient homes and buildings.

The event, which was hosted within the framework of the Austrian EU presidency, brought together a panel of experts from the US and the EU and a select audience of policy makers, diplomats, scientists, and representatives from the building industry. Followed by a reception and buffet dinner, within this timely venue, select projects of the Austrian program "The Building of Tomorrow" were showcased in a poster presentation. Theresia Vogel-Lahner, head of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency's program on sustainable economic development, introduced the successful program line, "The Building of Tomorrow," to the audience.

Distinguished guest speakers included:
• Bill Browning, Principal, Browning & Bannon
• Linda Veach, President, Home Builders Association of Maryland
• S. Richard Fedrizzi, President, US Green Building Council
• Martin Treberspurg, Architect and Professor of Sustainable Constructions, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna
• Georg Reichard, Professor of Building Construction, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

Please check back with bridges volume 11 for more in-depth articles on energy efficiency in the building sector.

Related Links
The American Institute of Architects

Austrian Research Promotion Agency

The Building of Tomorrow

Home Builders Association of Maryland (HBAM)

The Rocky Mountain Institute

US Green Building Council

About the authors
Jutta Kern was deputy director of the Office of Science & Technology at the Embassy of Austria in Washington, DC, from 2002 to 2006. She coordinated the EU Presidency activities of the OST.

Sonja Strohmer has worked in the Office of Science & Technology (OST) in Washington, DC, since October 2005 and assists in coordinating the EU Presidency activities of the OST.

Further information:
If you are interested in further information, please find speaker's bios and presentations, programs, and other background materials for download at:

Official Website of the Austrian Presidency of the European Union.{/access}