Back to the classroom: Belgian teachers give conference delegates a lesson on debating

What do university students and secondary school pupils think about the use of laboratory animals in science and education? And how do schools approach the public debate on this issue? Delegates at the international conference can find out for themselves on 28 November when, led by science teacher Karin Van den Eynde and maths teacher Glenn Embrechts from Belgium, they will go back to school.

Karin van den Eynde
Karin van den Eynde

"The lesson pack was developed for European Schoolnet in six countries: Malta, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Spain and Belgium. European Schoolnet is a network of 34 European Ministries of Education and is based is Brussels," says Karin, who is a science teacher at Sint Donatus Merchtem School in Belgium.

"For us, the lesson consists of a debate on animal-free innovation in a secondary school. In other schools, the lesson pack involves using alternatives to animals in the teaching and learning, or researching the alternatives that are available for medical purposes or the use of animals in cultural rituals. The lesson packs are currently being put to the test in different countries and different schools and we will do the same during the conference. Its quite exciting because its the first time Ive taught adults. Im really looking forward to seeing how everyone will react."

School method

"We divide the audience into two groups: one group is taught at a university and is subjected to the university method of animal-free teaching. The other group goes back to school, to a secondary school. A number of volunteers will play a role. They will sit at the front and put forward a particular view. Then, just as in the classroom, the rest of the audience can vote for or against it."

According to Karin, the lessons can easily be incorporated into subjects like natural sciences, social studies or philosophy, for example. Depending on where a school or country sees these social themes as belonging. "The pack actually transcends individual subjects, so it would work well within a theme. Pupils are usually aware that animal testing still goes on but they don't know of many alternatives. Exploring this issue in school and reading about the subject will help them to consider these alternatives. Theyll also learn to talk to each other about this issue and to listen better, rather than spreading random opinions on social media. It just helps increase our students' awareness."