1216th OGM and public lecture

“Re-thinking science education in Australian schools: development and implementation of the National Science Curriculum”

Mark Butler  Dr Mark Butler

  Department of Education and Communities

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Union, University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Dr Butler examined the development and nature of the new national senior high school science curriculum. In 2008 the Federal Government secured agreement with all state and territory governments to develop a national F-12 school curriculum. Responsibility for developing the curriculum was assigned to the newly established, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). The national F-10 Science curriculum was completed in 2011 and will be implemented in NSW schools from 2014.

In December 2012 the curricula for senior courses in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Earth and Environmental Science were completed and signed off by the state and territory governments. Provided the newly elected Federal Government continues to support the new curriculum, the national senior science courses will be introduced in NSW schools in 2016.

The senior science curriculum was developed to reflect international best practice in science education. The courses were designed to cater for students who wished to pursue further study in science and for those who would not continue to study science beyond school level. But in spite of two extensive rounds of public consultation and over two years of refinement, the national senior science curriculum remains controversial and the content chosen, and the three strands (Science as Human Endeavour, Science Inquiry Skills and, Knowledge and Understanding) used to present it, continue to cause some concern. While the new courses will undoubtedly address the issues of comparability and consistency, only time will tell if the new courses will attract more students to study science and/or more effectively prepare students for studying science at tertiary level.

Dr Mark Butler is currently Head Teacher of Science at Gosford High School and the National Education Convener of the Australian Institute of Physics. He has taught science in secondary schools in NSW and has been an active member of the professional science education community for over thirty years. Dr Butler is particularly interested in developing strategies to encourage more students to study science in senior high school and at tertiary level.

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