Changes in Science Education
Changes in Science Education

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This course started by asking simple questions such as ‘what science to teach?’ and ‘what is science?’ and pursued them to the point where answers proved both complex and elusive. Much of what I've said about such issues has been in the context of UK science education, though you'll be aware (e.g. see the Fensham reading) that moves currently underway in the UK toward ‘science for citizenship’ courses are part of a wider global change. A range of initiatives has been set in motion, largely as an expression of a sense of disquiet with the status quo of science education that transcends national boundaries. Indeed, the UK initiatives I've described owe a large debt to pioneers of curriculum change working in the Netherlands (the ANW project). What you have read will have convinced you that the picture in the UK is very much in a state of flux and is certain to continue as such. I hope you feel sufficiently motivated by what you've read to follow future changes and to appreciate the different pressures and anxieties that underpin them.

Any strategy for edging closer to a curriculum geared more towards ‘science for citizenship’ has to take account of existing problems of teaching science, at primary, secondary and post-compulsory level. Such problems were highlighted in the latter part of the course and together they represent a considerable obstacle to the smooth running of the existing curriculum. For that reason alone, some may face the prospect of more fundamental change of the type proposed by Beyond 2000 – with all its implications across the full educational spectrum – with some apprehension. If you have a science background yourself, you might like to reflect on whether the new style curriculum would have suited you as a pupil and whether such an early experience – much less of the hard and fast facts of science – might have prompted you along a very different career track than the one you followed. So much of the detail of your own spider diagram (Figure 1) would no doubt be very different! That type of imponderable makes the prospect of radical change for the future – no matter how strong the case – the cause of apprehension and excitement in equal measure.

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