Lacklustre science teaching failing children, global survey finds

Pupils should learn through experimentation, teachers around the world have said

Seven in 10 teachers believe science education in their country is unfit for the future, according to a global report published by Oxford University Press.

Teachers voiced their concern that curriculums were failing children by not preparing them to navigate challenges such as climate change and the evolving role of technology.

“The scientific challenges of the past year with the pandemic and the ever-growing signs of climate change mean that there has never been a more important time to focus on science, empowering pupils to thrive in a changing world,” said Andreas Schleicher, the most senior education official at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Researchers polled 398 teachers in 22 countries and regions for the study, called Evolution of Science Education. Some respondents were in the UAE, although most were in India or the UK.

We wanted to start a global conversation about how we enable learners to benefit from the lessons of the past 15 months
Dave Leach, Oxford University Press

Educators said children should be allowed to experiment and encouraged to engage while studying the underpinning scientific concepts.

They requested a rebalancing of exams, away from the current focus on knowledge, towards assessing the application of science.

Teachers said that to remain relevant, science lessons should focus on practical skills, and that a greater connection should be made between the science being taught and what was happening in the world.

Covid-19 changed science teaching in the past year, particularly by restricting practical experimentation in the classroom.

But 42 per cent of teachers surveyed said the pandemic had not changed the focus of science education.

Of those polled, a quarter said climate change was the biggest challenge in the future of science education.

To ensure science education evolves and remains relevant in the future, teachers said, there should be a greater focus on climate change, tackling fake news and adapting more quickly to technological and societal change.

Dave Leach, global assessment director, Oxford University Press said, “When we were first appointed as the developer of the Pisa 2025 science framework [with the OECD] in late 2019 we could never have predicted the chaos that the pandemic would bring.

“We wanted to elevate the voices of those teachers, to start a global conversation about how we enable learners to benefit from the lessons of the past 15 months, how we equip them for the challenges that lie ahead of us.”

Updated: July 19th 2021, 3:10 AM