Home > News


International Forum on Science Education Time:2017/10/19

“One Belt One Road : Children as Agents for Peace and Harmony.Through Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE)”

By Academician Dato Ir. (Dr) Lee Yee Cheong, Malaysia Chair, InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) Science Education Program (SEP) Global

Council/Honorary Chair, Governing Board, UNESCO International Science, Technology

& Innovation for South-South Cooperation (ISTIC)/President, Academy of Engineering

& Technology of the Developing World (AETDEW)

1.0   Scene Setting

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic

Forum, Proclaimed in Davos January 2016 the Coming of the 4thIndustrial


•1stIndustrial Revolution     1784       Steam and Mechanical Power

•2ndIndustrial Revolution     1870       Electric Power and Mass Production

•3rdIndustrial Revolution      1969       Electronics and ICT

•4thIndustrial Revolution      2015--     Cyber-Physical Systems

He justified his Proclamation by stating:

The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. These possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

I would argue what he proclaimed is not the Fourth Industrial Revolution but the Digital Revolution.

I would further argue that the Digital Revolution is but the latest Phase of the same Industrial Revolution that started with steam and mechanical

power in 1784.

The Key Driver has been Economic Growth through Consumption in industrialised countries, leading to colonisation or semi colonisation of less developed countries and regions for raw materials and cheap labour, the competition for markets resulting in two world wars and continued depletion of resources of the Earth.

The majority of the world population have not benefitted much from the fruits of the industrial revolution.

Dr. Schwab regards inequality as the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital—innovators, shareholders, and investors which explains the rising wealth gap.”

According to the UK Guardian Newspaper on US Wealth Inequality: In past three decades, the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22%.The share of wealth owned by the top 0.1% is almost the same as the bottom 90%

World Economic Forum released its study report “The Future of Jobs” in 2016.http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/The study covered more than 13 million employees in nine industry sectors of 15 developed and emerging economies.

One Important Finding:

“Digital technologies, combined with other socio-economic and demographic changes, will transform labour markets in the next five years, leading to a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies. Whilst there will be new 2 million jobs created in digital industrial and services sectors, there will be 7 million job loss in the traditional industrial and services sectors.”

The reality of increased wealth inequality and massive job losshas already impacted negatively the political, economic and social landscape in developed countries.

The rise of the new political ethos “We First and To Hell with the Rest”  in USA and Europe will drastically reduce development assistance from the developed world.

This will make the development prospects for developing countries much worse if they continue to depend on hand-outs from the developed world.

According to World Bank president Dr Jim Yong Kim, the impact of the Digital Revolution on the Developing World will be worse.

He projected about two-thirds of jobs in the developing world may be lost due to automation (Milken Institute Global Conference May 2017).Dr Kim pointed out several countries in particular with high risk of job loss. In Ethiopia, 85% of jobs, compared to 77% in China and 72% in Thailand.http://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/jim-yong-kim-world-bank-milken-conference-2017-5-1001966906

In the developing world of large populations where the proportion of the young is much higher and youth unemployment is also higher, the message is grim if true.

I believe Dr Kim has the 20thCentury mindset that whatever the Developed World is undergoing will also be happening in the Developing World.

Model of the Developed World. It is instead undergoing  a Development Revolution that I call “The Rise of the South through South-South Cooperation”.

This Development Revolution is sparked by the successful infrastructure-led development of Asia Pacific nations.For Economic Uplift, Employment and Wealth Creation, their Development Success has been based on:

•Building inclusive infrastructure like energy, water, waste water, transportation, housing, education and health facilities as well as virtual connectivity through ICT.

•Nurturing indigenous small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as  SMEs are the backbone of domestic manufacture that will uplift their economy.

The Development Revolution is propelled by China’s spectacular development of the past three decades in more than providing her citizens with the basic necessities of living “Clothing, Food, Shelter and Transportation” (衣食住行), being guided by the Chinese Proverb “To Get Rich, Build Roads First” (要想富先修路).

China is sharing her Development Successes with the Developing World through her Visionary “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) Initiative (一带一路).

2.0   One Belt One Road (一带一路)

OBOR routes run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economies at one end and developed European economies at the other.

The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe, linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. The Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China's coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China's coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.

China President Xi Jinping launched the “Vision and Actions on jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road” Document at the BoAo 2015 Forum with Four Principles:

•Openness and Cooperation;

•Harmony and Inclusiveness;

•Market Operation; and

•Mutual Benefits.


Due to the sheer magnitude of OBOR, there have been doubts raised in the Developed World whether China can fulfill her OBOR Commitments.

I am very optimistic for the following reasons:

•China graduates more than one million engineers a year to supply needed skilled human capital for her construction and related industries.

•China has her financial wherewithal as China’s foreign exchange reserve in Dec 2014 was US$ 3,843.0 billion and US$3,054 Billion May 2017

•OBOR is a joint initiative of most developing countries and indeed also  the developed world, for example, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

•China’s tremendous infrastructure development at home and her cutting-edge engineering, manufacturing and project management capabilities and capacities as illustrated in slides below.

The Three Gorges Project is primarily a Flood Mitigation Project. Disastrous Floods in Yangtze River occurred about once a decade. The 1998 flood was considered the worst flood in 40 years in China . It resulted in 3,704 dead, 15 million homeless and US $26 billion in economic loss. The Three Gorges Project also provides 22,500 Mw of renewable hydro power, the largest in the world. Total Project capital cost US $22.5 Billion.

(World Bank funded Xiaolangde Hydro Project ,Yellow River, Louyang, China)

The Yellow River used to be “China’s Sorrow” due to severe floods. Due to many dams upstream and over drawdown of its water, it has run dry at the delta in Shandong.

The 36km-long Hangzhou Bay Bridge is the longest ocean-crossing bridge in the

world, spanning across the Hangzhou Bay on the East China Sea connecting

Shanghai and Ningbo.

Of the top 12 smartphone manufacturers, nine are based in China and

together account for more than a third of the world's total smartphone

market. China is the world’s biggest smartphone market.

As of May 31 2017, China Mobile had 409.316 million 4G subscribers out of a total user base of 835.406 million. China Unicom had 68.182 million 4G users out of 260.117 million mobile subscribers in the same period. China

Telecom, which recorded 205.51 million total mobile subscribers, counted 84.55 million 4G mobile users. Out of a total subscriber base of 1,301 million, 4G subscribers number 562.1 million.

Mobile broadband subscription in 2020 is expected to reach a high of 90 per cent in China.

Major OBOR Projects are already ongoing.

In the “One Belt” Project, the high speed rail project by China in Thailand will be a major component of the3,000km high-speed line from Kunming, China all the way down to Singapore, passing through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. This is the most important OBOR Project in ASEAN. The Jakarta-Bandung high speed train project is under construction. The East West Railway between Port Kelang and Kuantan Malaysia will commence construction soon.

Outside ASEAN, high speed train service between Istanbul and Ankara is operational. Electrified train services between Addis and Port Djibouti and Between Mombasa and Nairobi in Kenya have commenced. Other rail projects are Astana-Almaty and Moscow-Kazan.

China’s Port Projects in Asia includes Kyaukpyu,  Myanmar, Chittagong Bangladesh, Gwadar Pakistan, Colombo Sri Lanka and Kuantan Malaysia.

The Chinesehas started constructionof new Port of Lamu in North Kenya to link landlocked South Sudan and Ethiopia to the Indian Ocean. The project will eventually include a major highway, a railway and an oil pipeline. The Chinese lease and operate part of the Port ofPiraeus in Greece. It owns the Port of Gwadar in Pakistan and is linking it through 3000km long highway and rail to Xinjiang in China.  The Chinese is building the new container port of Dolareh in Djibouti.

3.0   President Xi’s Five Principles of OBOR

China just hosted the OBOR Summit Forum 14-15 May 2017 in Beijing.

President Xi made a great speech at the opening. He gave a history lesson of the ancient OBOR, reviewed the achievements of OBOR Initiative in the past four years and outlined in more practical terms China’s vision and her commitment to OBOR future.


President Xi Annunciated in detail the Five Principles for OBOR Initiative going forward:

First, we should build the Belt and Road into a road for peace.

Second, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of prosperity.

Third, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of opening up.

Fourth, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of innovation.

Fifth, we should build the Belt and Road into a road connecting different civilizations.

The First and Fifth Principles are most relevant to my presentation and to the theme of this Forum

3.1    OBOR as A Road for Peace.

President Xi said “The ancient silk routes thrived in times of peace, but lost vigor in times of war. The pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative requires a peaceful and stable environment.Some regions along the ancient Silk Road used to be a land of milk and honey. Yet today, these places are often associated with conflict, turbulence, crisis and challenge.

In my opinion, whilst STI has greatly improved the human condition in recent decades, it has also tremendously increased the killing power of traditional weapons as well as the chilling military hardware in cyber warfare. Hence, wars and conflicts have never ceased but grown more destructive.

The most striking example is the current fight against global terrorism. ISIL is undoubtedly the global target. From their bases in Syria and Iraq, terrorist attacks have spread throughout the world. The jihadists are drawn from all corners of the globe through clever manipulation of social media.

Terrorism due to religious fundamentalism is not confined to ISIL. Communal violence, religious strife, genocide and massive population dislocation continue to occur in most corners of the global, perpetuated by “well educated” people of every colour and creed.

Besides military means, political and diplomatic dialogues as well as interfaith dialogues have been tried for decades to tackle this human aberration to no avail.

I do not believe more of the same will work

3.3   OBOR as A Road Connecting Civilizations

President Xi said “We should build the Belt and Road into a road connecting different civilizations. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we should ensure that when it comes to different civilizations, exchange will replace estrangement, mutual learning will replace clashes, and coexistence will replace a sense of superiority. This will boost mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual trust among different countries.”

Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. The Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilization.“

“The ancient silk routes spanned the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus and Ganges and the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. They connected the birthplaces of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian and Chinese civilizations as well as the lands of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam and homes of people of different nationalities and races. These routes enabled people of various civilizations, religions and races to interact with and embrace each other with open mind.

Through these routes, Buddhism, Islam and Arab astronomy, calendar and medicine found their way to China, while China's four great inventions and silkworm breeding spread to other parts of the world. More importantly, the exchange of goods and know-how spurred new ideas. For example, Buddhism originated in India, blossomed in China and was enriched in Southeast Asia. Confucianism, which was born in China, gained appreciation by European thinkers such as Leibniz and Voltaire.”

4.0    Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE)

I believe firmly Humankind’s Road to Peace and Harmony will rest with our children.

Children are not only born inquisitive but also benign.  In this internet and digital age, children are much more adept in acquiring and sharing information and knowledge through social media. In turn, they can spread the message of peace and harmony to their parents and their communities.  Indeed, they can be really agents of societal change for peace and harmony.

However they must be educated a different way from the traditional book and rote learning dictated by their teachers with the same aged old prejudices.

The Solution is Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE).

In the Nineteen Nineties, eminent Western academicians of academies of sciences, began to have serious concern about the state of science education and its relevance to the needs of the coming 21stcentury. Instead of the traditional pre-emptive method of book and rote learning dictated by the teacher, they advocated the inquiry based science education (IBSE) or “Learning by Doing” methodology.

IBSE, when applied from preschool through primary and high school, stimulates analytical and critical thinking skills, develops language skills and deepens the pupils' understanding of the world.

IBSE improves science literacy, numeral literacy and language literacy of  children. IBSE allows the students to discover truth themselves through hands-on inquiry and experimentation with the teacher acting as the guide.

IBSE enables children to question and doubt every proposition of the so-called “prophet”, be he “prophet” of fanaticism, climate scepticism or profligate consumption etc,  unless his proposition can be supported by experiment and borne out by evidence. In other words, IBSE trains rational citizens.

IBSE nurtures the inborn curiosity and creativity of the young to develop innovative skill set that will address the most pressing global challenges of the 21stcentury such as climate change, chronic food shortages, exponential increases in non-communicable diseases, energy shortages and environmental degradation.

InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) Science Education Program (SEP) has led IBSE initiatives and programs throughout the world for the past two decades. IAP is the umbrella organisation of some 110 national Academies of Sciences and some 35 national Academy of Medicine. I am the Chair of the IAP SEP Global Council. http://www.interacademies.net/ProjectsAndActivities/Projects/12250/18276.aspx

The outstanding example is La Main a la pate (LAMAP) of the French Academy of Sciences. http://www.fondation-lamap.org/ Apart from Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, Chile and Mexico, the outstanding success of LAMAP-mentored nation in Asia is China in her “Learning By Doing” IBSE program (做中學)http://www.handsbrain.com/

5.0   IAP SEP Fusion of Civilizations Curriculum Design Project

The IAP SEP “Fusion of Civilizations Curriculum Design” project is inspired by the two LAMAP thematic programs, namely “Discoveries in Muslim Countries” based on the ground-breaking discoveries in the Golden Age of Islam; and “Discoveries in European Countries” that resulted from the European Renaissance with knowledge and technology transfer from Islam. Through the ancient Silk Road, Islamic discoveries interacted eastwards with the civilisations in India and China.

IAP SEP Project anchors itself on the tenets of the Islamic Golden Age:

•Seek and share knowledge freely throughout the world;

•Be knowledgeable not only in science, but also in religion, poetry, literature, music and the arts.

The LAMAP thematic book “Decouvertes en pays d’islam” or “The Discoveries in Islamic Countries” in English was authored by Professor Ahmed Djebbar with pedagogical contribution from Cecille de Hosson and David Jasmin. Prof. Djebbar has built ‘learning by doing” modules around “scientific” topics related to discoveries made by outstanding Muslim scientists:

•Al-Farisi’s model of the rainbow,

•Ibn al-Nafis’s discovery of the pulmonary blood cycle,

•Al-Jazari’s water pump,

•Al-Haytham’s light and vison,

•Al-Khwarizme’s astrolabe,

•Al-Kashi’s decorative symmetry and

•Al-Khazini’s balance of wisdom.

The LAMAP thematic book “Discoveries in European Countries” highlights the following discoveries:

•Measurement of the Earth by Eratosthene (Greece)

•The Sail by Gil Eanes (Portugal)

•Parachute by Leonardo da Vinci (Italy)

•Herbal Medicine by Garcia da Orta (Portugal)

•Moon on Jupita by Galileo Galilei (Italy)

•Photosynthesis by Joseph Priestley (UK)

•Hot Air Balloon by Denis Diderot (France)

•Cyanometer by Jacques Balmat (Switzerland)

•Telegraph by Claude Chappe (France)

•Voltaic Pile by Alexandre Volta (Italy)

•Condensation by Justus von Liebig (Germany)

•Pasteurisation by Louis Pasteur (France)

As for India, the great contribution to mathematics was due to the Indian mathematical genius Aryabhata. His major work, Aryabhatiya, a compendium of mathematics and astronomy, was extensively referred to in the Indian mathematical literature and has survived to modern times. While he did not use a symbol for zero, knowledge of zero was implicit in Aryabhata’s place-value system.

As for the contribution of China to science and technology, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing reintroduced the four great inventions to the world in the opening ceremony. These are paper, printing, compass and gun powder. Dr. Joseph Needham’s opus “Science and Civilization in China” was popularized by Professor Robert Temple in his book “The Genius of China: 3000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention” that chronicles many Chinese scientific discoveries throughout the age.

President Xi urged us to remember the great travellers along OBOR “These pioneers won their place in history not as conquerors with warships, guns or swords. Rather, they are remembered as friendly emissaries leading camel caravans and sailing treasure-loaded ships. Generation after generation, the silk route

travellers have built a bridge for peace and East-West cooperation.

In China's Han Dynasty around 140 B.C., Zhang Qian (张骞), a royal emissary, left Chang'an, capital of the Han Dynasty. He travelled westward on a mission of peace and opened an overland route linking the East and the West. Centuries later, in the years of Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties, such silk routes, both over land and at sea, boomed. Great adventurers, including Du Huan (杜环)

of China, Marco Polo of Italy and Ibn Battuta of Morocco, left their footprints along these ancient routes. In the early 15th century, Zheng He (鄭和)

, the famous Chinese navigator in the Ming Dynasty, made seven voyages toWe should indeed include the tales of other great travellers including Xuan Zang (玄奘) of the “Journey to the West” (西遊記) and the great polymath Al Biruni from Central Asia,

In the modern age, the influence of the Nobel prizes is pervasive. We should include Alfred Nobel and some outstanding Nobel Laureates from OBOR countries.

Through the Fusion of Civilizations Curriculum Design for Schools along OBOR, it is my earnest hope that Children and Youth of the 60 odd nations for a start will realise and remember all human beings are the same under the skin.

“History is our best teacher. The glory of the ancient silk routes shows that geographical distance is not insurmountable. If we take the first courageous step towards each other, we can embark on a path leading to friendship, shared development, peace, harmony and a better future.” Xi Jinping, OBOR Forum 14 May, Beijing

“History is a mirror. Only by drawing lessons from history can the world avoid repeating past calamity. We should view history with awe and human conscience. The past cannot be changed, but the future can be shaped…The United Nations needs to address the central issue of how to better promote world peace and development in the 21st century” - President Xi Jinping, UN General Assembly, 28 September 2015