Compulsory maths and science only part of the solution

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The curriculum for secondary school science and mathematics must be made more relevant and interesting before it can be made compulsory, according to a Charles Sturt University (CSU) expert.

Executive Dean of Education Professor Toni Downes believes the Government’s plan to make mathematics and science compulsory for year 11 and 12 students will not necessarily increase students’ engagement in the field.

“Obviously we can increase the number of students studying maths and science at school by making the subjects compulsory, however this will not necessarily increase a student’s long-term interest in the field,” Professor Downes said.

“You can’t force a student to be interested in a subject. We should be focussing on making sure the year seven to 10 curriculum shows students how maths and science are applicable to a range of careers and how they can apply the skills to real life. For example, demonstrating how maths is applicable to the health industry or science to the development of the latest gadget.

“By changing our approach to teaching maths and science in years seven to 10, we will have less students entering year 11 bored, disillusioned or phobic about maths and science.”

Professor Downes believes sparking a long-term interest and passion in maths and science is the key to increasing the number of professionals in these areas.

“There is a shortage of teachers trained in maths and science in regional Australia and in order to address this shortage we must ensure that the curriculum is interesting and relevant enough to sustain someone’s passion long after they finish school,” Professor Downes said.

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“We must also ensure that students who have become disillusioned with maths and science in earlier years are given ample opportunity to re-engage and year 11 and 12 subjects could be the opportunity to do this. Therefore, the challenge is to design a relevant and engaging curriculum for all secondary school years.”

(Source: Charles Sturt University)

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Date Created: June 28, 2015