Saving New Zealand Science
| 15 November, 2008
On-going concerns about the
teaching and assessment of science in New Zealand have prompted a
discussion forum at this weeks New Zealand Microbiology Society (NZMS)
conference in Christchurch.
One area of interest is whether the
in-coming National Government will do better than the out-going
administration when it comes to fixing NCEA.
Teacher, microbiologist and examination
marker Michael Fenton explains:
"A NZMS review panel,
which included teachers and scientists, examined commonly used school
texts and found errors in the microbiology which were attributed by the
publishers as coming from New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)
This appears similar to the situation
in United Kingdom, as reported by the Guardian newspaper in December
last year, where one author of a science textbook was reportedly told
to write a factually incorrect answer because the mistake had been made
in the curriculum and the book had to match.
The society is concerned about the
"parrot-learning" to get pupils through exams at the sacrifice of wider
critical thinking and accurate science. Students also view science and
mathematics as too hard and are opting to choose other "softer" options.
But alI is not doom and gloom.
Education Forum chair Christine Fenton is
looking for solutions, not just problems.
"The whole point of being willing to
recognise deficiencies in any system is to remedy the situation. We
know of teachers and scientists who are keen to assist with getting
this right. This forum is to look at these opportunities."
The education session is the first that the
professional society of scientists has held. There is no charge to
encourage teachers to attend and participate in the discussion. This
has been advertised to over 200 High Schools but so far only 2 teachers
have indicated that they will be attending.
The education session will be held at the
University of Canterbury on the 20th of November starting at 2 pm with
an address by Dr Jack Heinemann from the University of Canterbury in
lecture theatre C1. Keynote speaker Martin Hanson of Auckland, author
of 12 science textbooks, follows at 3.15 pm. Other speakers include Dr
Mary Jane Sneyd of Otago University, Dr Chris Eames of Waikato
University, Christine Fenton from WITT and Frances Wall from CPIT.