A report released today by the Education Review Office shows that only 27 percent of schools have effective or generally effective science programmes for Years 5 to 8 students. The findings of the report Science in The New Zealand Curriculum: Years 5 to 8 are based on 100 schools reviewed in 2011.
“We are not giving our children the best opportunity to build on their excitement about discovering the world around them,” said Dr Graham Stoop, Chief Review Officer for the Education Review Office. “We need to improve the way we teach science to our young children to help them succeed in an economy increasingly based on knowledge and innovation.”
The report is one of ERO’s successive evaluations of the teaching and learning of science in primary schools since 2004.
Dr Stoop said “We have identified common areas of concern in all of these evaluations. This latest report concludes that science programmes have not improved since 2004.”
The considerable challenges facing science education in Years 5 to 8 include the lack of teacher confidence and capability in teaching science, and the limited opportunities for high quality professional development in science. Other areas of concern were the quality of initial teacher education in teaching science; developing teaching that consistently improves students’ scientific understanding and thinking; and the assessment and self review of science programmes.
“The recent emphasis on literacy and numeracy should not be at the expense of other curriculum areas such as science. Teachers need support to understand how literacy and numeracy teaching can complement science and give children the tools necessary for science learning,” said Dr Stoop.
ERO’s report makes a number of recommendations including that the Teachers’ Council investigate how well initial teacher education equips primary school teachers to confidently and effectively teach science.
It also recommends that the Ministry of Education investigate opportunities for support and ongoing professional learning development for teachers, including considering the place of National Standards for achievement in reading, writing and mathematics across all learning areas, including science.
For schools, ERO recommends that they review the priority given to science teaching and learning in their curriculum, and the quality of science teaching and learning.
An earlier report published by ERO in 2010, Science in Years 5 to 8: Capable and Competent Teaching, provides examples of high quality teaching and management practices related to science education. It includes self-review questions and indicators of good practice which schools can use to review their science teaching in Years 5 to 8.