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Science: Are we world class? Gillian Whitehouse Harriet Weaving 28 th June 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Science: Are we world class? Gillian Whitehouse Harriet Weaving 28 th June 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Science: Are we world class? Gillian Whitehouse Harriet Weaving 28 th June 2013

2 World Class? The National Curriculum has provided a solid, unified education to generations of children. While it is not perfect and has had its strong critics, it remains one of the best in the world and delivered its, sometimes conflicting, aims with remarkable robustness. The idea that the English school system is a world class system might be controversial to some but let us look at the evidence: –International surveys –How different countries cater with wide ability ranges –Curriculum content and skills comparisons with high performing jurisdictions Do we need to reform?

3 What do we mean by raising standards? 3


5 TIMSS (2011) results Science In England, there were differences in achievement across the content and cognitive domains for science. In science, Year 9 pupils performed below England’s average at ‘Chemistry’. The average scale score for ‘Reasoning’ in science was above the overall science scale score.

6 TIMSS 2011 science scores

7 PISA 2006 results Seven countries had mean scores for science which were significantly higher than that of England. Thirty-six countries had mean scores which were significantly lower than England. The mean score for science in England was higher than the OECD average. This difference was statistically significant.

8 Working with wide variation in student ability Most of the high performing jurisdictions focus on providing a good general grounding in science, aimed primarily at creating technologically literate citizens, actively enquiring and with good thinking and problem solving skills (with the exception of Singapore, which provides different pathways according to different needs). Some jurisdictions, such as Alberta, allow for pre-16 specialisation for those who are going to want to study science in post-compulsory education to help them prepare and deepen their knowledge. In others the specialisation occurs post-16 but still within the compulsory defined national curriculum (Finland, Korea, Australia and New Zealand). If any KS4 reform wishes to replicate Singapore’s success in science then it probably also needs to ensure similar provision for those not aiming to study science post-16, i.e. equivalents to N Level science or the O Level Combined or Co-ordinated sciences, or risk disenfranchising a significant proportion of the school population. The data from TIMSS 2011 (Martin et al., 2012; Sturman et al., 2012) show that seven per cent of the UK Year 9 cohort fails to achieve the lowest benchmark compared to four per cent in Singapore and so the need in England is comparably larger.

9 How transferable are some of these lessons to the UK context? England is economically, socially and culturally diverse What works in some contexts will not necessarily work in the UK – simple policy borrowing will not work. We need to make sure we are clear what the learning trajectories of UK students are and how that relates to other countries.

10 We need to make sure that one-size really does fit all “The basic structure of education systems affects equity. Traditionally, education systems have sorted students according to attainment. Evidence from studies of secondary and primary schools suggests that such sorting can increase inequalities and inequities, particularly if it takes place early in the education process. Early sorting can also weaken results overall.” OECD Policy Brief 2008

11 Curriculum comparisons –key findings The science curricula from Canada (Alberta), Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Singapore were investigated and compared, at a level equivalent to GCSE (Key Stage 4 in England). In essence, they are all very similar and provide helpful guidance for curriculum developers. The most important outcome of science learning for students today is scientific literacy, in other words the main aim of a science curriculum should be to equip its students with the skills and knowledge to make informed decisions about science and technology.

12 Curriculum comparisons –key findings An investigative approach, where students are encouraged and guided to follow lines of enquiry to discover knowledge for themselves should be at the core of any scientific curriculum. The learning outcomes for skills and attitudes should be presented generically, with exemplification that integrates them well with the knowledge content. A successful science curriculum at key stage 4 level needs to form a basis for the study of science at higher levels, but also needs to be useful and engaging for those who will not be continuing with science education. Different jurisdictions deal with this in different ways, but tend to provide different routes through science education either through options or streaming. A science curriculum should suggest examples that are contemporary and relevant, but be flexible so that teachers can include examples that are of particular interest to their own students. A science curriculum should encourage the development of positive values and attitudes that will help students to become conscientious global citizens.

13 Why reform? “A feature of high performing jurisdictions is a requirement on all students to study a broad range of subjects to the age of 16. In particular, many high performing jurisdictions have a compulsory substantive core up to age 16 that includes the mother tongue, mathematics, the sciences, modern foreign languages, history, and geography. England narrows its curriculum for the majority of pupils earlier than more successful nations. The system is failing to support lower attaining pupils. Future prospects for pupils who fail to get a GCSE grade D or better are poor and tiered papers... caps aspiration.” DfE Evidence to Select Committee November 2012

14 Need for caution The reforms have potential for producing real improvements but also for real risk! Peter Ransom, Mathematical Association: "The pace of change in recent years has been relentless and we are still uncomfortable with the proposed timeline for GCSE reform. The proposals are extremely significant and we simply cannot afford for them to be botched or mishandled. The 2015 schedule for implementation is so ambitious that no time will be available for piloting, reflection and refinement."

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