The Evolution of Science Education Survey conducted by Oxford University Press provides a timely account of science professionals’ views of the core purposes of science education as well as the challenges and opportunities facing science education. Numerous findings from the survey are noteworthy.
A great number of those surveyed considered skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving as important goals for science education. The emphasis on such skills is welcome particularly given the demands placed on STEM professionals as well as the broader public in navigating the complexities of contemporary societies.
However, considering the imminent problems related to climate change, environmental pollution and anti-science sentiment, it is surprising that a fairly low number of participants considered issues of sustainability and trust as core purposes of science education. Ironically, many did specify climate change and natural environment as constituting the biggest challenges facing students in their futures. These results taken together seem to suggest that while there is recognition of the importance of the natural environment, designating sustainability as a core feature of science education remains a lower priority.
Another significant finding in the survey concerns the participants’ views of the extent to which the pandemic has impacted the teaching of practical science in transition to online learning. The recognition of the limitations to practical resources and activities is important. However, hands-on practical science does not necessarily guarantee effective science learning. In fact, practical activities that are divorced from thinking end up being mindless procedural steps that are akin to recipe following. The challenge for the sector is to design innovative strategies for practical work to equip learners with understanding of not only the doing but also the thinking aspects of practical science. Overall, the survey provides some important messages that will help a renewed vision for science education.
Professor Sibel Erduran, Department of Education, University of Oxford
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