Science education in Australia: time of change
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Pauline M. Ross, Philip Poronnik, 2013. "Science education in Australia: time of change", Grumpy Scientists: The Ecological Conscience of a Nation, Daniel Lunney, Pat Hutchings, Harry Recher
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The 21st century will be characterised by our successes and failures to solve global issues, and solving our global issues will require a higher quality of science education. However, in science education in Australia it is time to decide to change. In the last decade, enrolments in senior secondary science have declined. With only half of the year 12 cohort completing science, the learning of science in the junior years becomes the only place where future generations of Australians will learn about why science matters. It is in the junior years, however where disenchantment with learning science commences. At all levels of secondary science there is evidence that the majority of students do not understand nor see the relevance of science to their future and the future of Australia. The re-emergence of an “inquiry pedagogy” in the Australian National Curriculum in Science aims to re-engage and challenge students. The issue that concepts in science are difficult to teach and learn remains. A “critical pedagogy”, which includes “inquiry” may be more holistic. Whatever the decision on pedagogy, the issue of assessment in science education, which has traditionally been punitive, must be addressed. Science education at the tertiary level raises similar questions about pedagogies of learning, because academics cover content at an accelerated pace. Moreover, academics are under pressure from increased workloads. This is a result of enrolment of a more diverse student body, decreased resources and fierce competition for research funding. The newest development in science education at the tertiary level is the arrival of Massive On-line Open Courses (MOOCs), which has the potential to alter universities and academics. The troubling reality is that science education will not improve at tertiary level until value is placed on education as much as research. Two tertiary discipline networks; Vision and Innovation in Biology Education (VIBEnet) and Collaborative Universities Biomedical Education (CUBEnet) are initiatives of the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) in Australia. These networks provide a place for academics to close the gap between research and teaching to so that the academy can benefit from both research and education. There has never been a greater sense of urgency to resolve these issues so science education can contribute to the science of the future.