Sciences Conversation Day 2

Following the publication of the 3-18 Curriculum Impact Report for Sciences in September 2012 Education Scotland hosted a series of conversations to engage stakeholders in discussions around the findings of the report and to collectively identify priorities for action to secure improvements in science education nationally.

The second sciences conversation day took place in Bishopbriggs Academy, East Dunbartonshire and brought together around 25 participants from a wide variety of sectors.

Contexts for discussion included

  • recognising the importance of  Sciences, Technologies, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to the Scottish economy,
  • appreciating the need to look beyond the economic picture to the importance of scientific literacy for young people in an increasingly fast-paced and technological society
  • recognising STEM  as a key area within Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)
  • SSEAG Report (Science and Engineering Education Advisory Group) published February 2012 and the Government response, October 2012
  • why this could be considered a ‘Time of Opportunity’ for improving science education nationally

Delegates discussed the key priorities for sciences education focussed around four themes:

  1. Equity in education – science for all
  2. The importance of planning across school clusters
  3. Career long professional learning and support for practitioners
  4. Partnerships

This post will address the first point, Equity in Education. The remaining key priorities will be highlighted in forthcoming posts.

Equity in education – science for all

It was recognised that there had been many initiatives and significant funding provided over the last few decades to make education more equitable but little progress had been made.

The discussion generated views that

  • A different perspective was required to close the attainment gap particularly for those from the most deprived background.
  • Science education is about promoting scientific literacy for all, preparing learners for STEM careers and inspiring all learners – not just those who intend to pursue science at university level.
  • The language of learning needs to be explained to parents to help them appreciate the importance of STEM – Bishopbriggs Academy has run open evenings for parents to engage them in the school science programme.
  • The broad general education (especially early years and primary) should be a priority since this is where all learners have the biggest exposure to science.
  • More than one career pathway is available – not just school, further study then work. Many STEM careers are at Technician 3 Level – degrees are not the only way. Awareness of this must be promoted.
  • Science should be seen as a skill for life.
  • Initial teacher education (ITE) establishments have introduced concurrent degrees – more primary teachers will have the opportunity to study STEM subjects at undergraduate level but there are timetabling issues to be addressed to enable student teachers to access courses in other faculties.
  • Good science coordinators in local authorities play an essential role in brokering effective links between schools and between schools and partners.

If we are to attract greater number of learners into STEM, gender bias within subjects, such as the prevalence of boys in Physics, must be addressed. There must be consideration given to the influence of female teachers, positive role models for learners choosing science (from industry and HE) and misunderstanding the subject and maths connection, which may put some learners off.

Education Scotland is keen to hear your views about the report and its findings. Visit the Talk with us blog to share your thoughts.