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Friday, May 29, 2015

Compulsory science and maths is great but there’s more to be done by Ragbir Bhathal

Photo: Ragbir Bhathal
"Compulsory maths and science in years 11 and 12 will have a lasting benefit, but we need to boost the skills of teachers and start teaching science even earlier." reports Ragbir Bhathal, Lecturer in physics at University of Western Sydney.
 
Photo: The Conversation AU

Federal Education and Training Minister Christopher Pyne today met with his state counterparts to confirm his proposal to make science and maths compulsory for year 11 and 12 students. This is to be applauded by the scientific community as a step in the right direction, as it will produce a more scientifically literate society at a time of rapid technological change.

It will enable Australia to remain highly competitive in the areas of science and technology in an environment where rapid technological change and development is taking place in the East Asian nations, who are our competitors in the international high technology markets.

Steady decline
Australian policy makers and governments have to be worried since the picture that has emerged in the international comparisons of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies are not very flattering. The Benchmarking Australian Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics report, released by Chief Scientist Ian Chubb in November 2014, revealed a decline in the participation rates of Australian year 12 students in the major scientific disciplines: physics, chemistry and biology.

What is even more worrying is the decline in Advanced and Intermediate Mathematics, which underpins university studies in the physical sciences, engineering and medicine...

Teaching the teachers
The issue facing Pyne at the moment is not the question of making mathematics compulsory for years 11 and 12 but ensuring that 100% of the teachers have the necessary qualifications and expertise in mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Unless the issue is solved we will be on a perpetual merry-go-round for the next ten years. 

Depending on the university, there is between 20 to 30% of HSC students enrolling in science and engineering programs without proper mathematics, physics and chemistry backgrounds.

This places a tremendous strain on university resources to get these students up to speed so that they can continue their studies and thus allow the universities to keep their retention rates high.

However, it is a job that can be done more cheaply in schools and thus save taxpayers' money.
Read more...

Source: The Conversation AU


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