Six months ago my Office published Looking Ahead: Science Education for the Twenty-First Century, which was a discussion paper on the future direction of school science education. This work, carried out in conjunction with the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Ministry of Science & Innovation, was prompted by concerns about how the changing nature of science and the changing role of science in society create major challenges for effective science teaching; it directly links to the terms of reference for my Office. The paper made recommendations around supporting primary schools to integrate science into their teaching, reconsidering the objectives of science education in secondary schools, building partnerships between schools and the science community, and ensuring equity in science education.
So it is gratifying to see that the Ministry of Education has announced their response to some of the challenges I laid out with their announcement of a request for proposals for work in three specific areas arising from my report:
- Science community engagement, with emphasis on identifying best practice and future opportunities and on how to reach Māori and Pasifika students
- Curriculum support for science, particularly by expanding resources for the overarching Nature of Science theme in primary and secondary schools and for promoting use of this theme in teaching the ‘science for citizenship’ component of science education outlined in my paper
- E-learning in science, intended to prepare schools to make the most of the Ultrafast Broadband in Schools programme for their science teaching
Organisations wishing to respond to these proposals have until 9 December 2011 to do so. I think all those who were involved in the work leading up to my report will be enthused by the way the Ministry has responded. It reinforces my view that well-argued and researched discussion papers allowing officials the opportunity to identify the specific pathways ahead is an effective way for my Office to operate.