Study: Only Half Of Australian Students Take Science Subjects In High School
December 21, 2011
The number of Australians studying science in years 11 and 12 has fallen from 94 percent in 1991 to 51 percent in 2010, a new report from the Australian Academy of Science shows.
AsianScientist (Dec. 21, 2011) – The number of Australians studying science in years 11 and 12 has fallen significantly since the 1990s and is continuing to drop, a new report from the Australian Academy of Science shows.
Released today, The Status and Quality of Year 11 and 12 Science in Australian Schools found that since 1991 the percentage of year 11 and 12 students enrolled in science subjects has fallen dramatically, from 94.1 percent to just 51.42 percent in 2010.
“The overall drop in science study as a whole is quite staggering,” said lead author of the study, Professor Denis Goodrum of the Australian Academy of Science.
“For a country that believes its future prosperity depends on innovation and a skilled workforce, this situation needs to be addressed,” he urged.
Commissioned by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, the study also highlighted the decline in Australian students’ science and math literacy, when compared internationally.
Worryingly, the downward trend is expected to continue and the authors say that while the decrease is slowing, there is no indication that enrolments have reached the lowest point.
“In 2000, two countries performed better than Australia, but in 2009 this number had risen to six. It is disturbing that while other countries are improving their science achievement scores, Australia’s scores remain static or have fallen,” Prof. Goodrum said.
The study authors also interviewed and surveyed students, teachers, and community members to determine attitudes towards science and science education.
“Almost one-third of non-science students agree that science is important to Australia’s future but few see science as relevant in their own everyday lives,” Prof. Goodrum said.
“The belief that students only take science subjects in preparation for university has resulted in an overcrowded curriculum. This encourages science to be taught in a traditional way which assumes that students know little and the role of the teacher is to fill their heads with new facts and knowledge.
“Both students and teachers find this mode of teaching boring and uninspiring,” he said.
Recommendations from the report include:
- Reduce the amount of content for science subjects to a realistic level.
- Support science education programs that capture the interest of year 7 to 10 students.
- Provide more professional learning opportunities for senior science teachers.
- Develop a suite of digital curriculum resources for the new national curriculum.
The full report can be found at: The Status and Quality of Year 11 and 12 Science in Australian Schools (2.41 MB, PDF).
Source: Australian Academy of Science.
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