SYDNEY — A group of scientists and educators is calling on the Abbott government to stop spending millions of dollars on the “AESOP” curriculum, calling it “a recipe for disaster.”
The group, called the Global Education Forum, said the curriculum is “outrageous and out of touch with our world.”
“Australia has the most rigorous science education in the world, but is investing in an outdated curriculum that doesn’t prepare children for the world we are leaving them in,” said the group’s chief executive, Dr. Michael Smith.
The Australian Science Teachers Association said the “challenge is immense” for science educators.
“We are facing a world in which we are losing the capacity to understand our place in the cosmos, our place within our universe, our capacity to comprehend our place among the great and mighty,” said AAPTSA chief executive officer Andrew Pyle.
Dr. Smith said the program was part of a larger national push to turn science into a profession.
Australia is currently ranked sixth in the global index of science teachers, behind the U.K., United States, Russia, India and China.
In the past, Australia has been the top performer among countries, with its national science academy consistently ranking in the top five.
Its science academies have also been ranked among the world leaders in the quality of teaching.
However, this year, Australia dropped to ninth place on the world science rankings.
With only one science teacher teaching a primary school in Melbourne, Smith said it was time for the government to start focusing on teaching more STEM subjects.
Smith said the country needs to develop an “Australia First” approach to teaching science.
Instead of focusing on the science of astronomy, he said, the country should focus on the humanities, social science and the social sciences.
To achieve that, he suggested a focus on teaching children how to use science to solve real-world problems and how to make practical decisions in their everyday lives.
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“Science teachers must teach students the tools of science, rather than the tools they use to understand science,” Smith said.
And while some of the schools that have used the curriculum have been performing well, Smith argued it needs to be “re-thought.”
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For science teachers like Dr. Smith, the curriculum should not be based on science.
“There are other skills and skills that are critical in the education of children in our society,” he said.
“It is vital that we teach science to our children, not just in science courses but also in the arts and in the humanities.”
In 2016, Drs.
Smith and Dr. Matthew Gorman, director of the Institute of Education at Macquarie University, found a gap between science and STEM education in Australian schools.
Their report found a lack of research about how science is taught and why it matters.
It also said teachers in the sciences were not properly trained and had not received the necessary training to teach science effectively.
This has left them teaching students “inaccurate and biased accounts of the scientific process,” the report said.
“In a country with a rapidly changing economy, education needs to focus on ensuring students are prepared to use their skills, knowledge and abilities,” it said.