Challenges for Science Education

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Knowledge is very important in the future development of a country. People who are literate in sciences play a vital role in the creation as well as the application of such knowledge. It has been said that learning never stops (Bruner, 1960). However, the quality of scientific knowledge that learners get while in various levels of learning has an impact on an individual’s scientific knowledge in their future lives (The association of science education, 2006).

Although science education is important, various factors have threatened its existence in various levels of education. One of these threats is the lack of teachers who are proficient in teaching this subject. This paper will discuss issues that pertain to science education at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. A comparison of issues that were present a decade ago with those issues which are present today will be done. In addition, the paper will reflect own teaching practice and environment and strategies for addressing these issues.

Comparison of issues

According to Rowe (1983), Science education is not taken seriously by many students once the learning of this subject is declared optional. Various industries such as engineering and other technical industries require a lot of specialists who have scientific knowledge. This is mainly because the global market has become technology oriented. Since many students fail to take science education seriously once it stops being compulsory, not many of them are admitted pursuing higher education in science-related courses (Bruner, 1960). Consequently, people graduating with degrees in various scientific fields are very few.

In addition, few people choose to pursue careers that require scientific knowledge even when one is not a graduate. As a result of this trend, there is a massive shortage of workforce with scientific knowledge. This issue was present a decade ago and is still being experienced presently.

According to Bruner (1960), another issue in science education is the widespread notion that identification of people with outstanding scientific talents should be done at a tender age. The notion further proposes that after such people are identified, they should be provided with science education that is specialized and has a specific focus. This should be done separately from the rest of the students (Fullan, 1991). This is not correct since some people exhibit certain traits that imply that they have a talent in science at a tender age, but such traits disappear when they grow up. Furthermore, others do not show such talents until they are older. In addition, ways that should govern the identification of such talents are unknown. This issue existed a decade ago, but recent research indicates that such a view should not be adopted.

The scientific field experiences change very often (Fullan, 1991). According to Fensham (2008), the view that most curriculums hold about science is outdated and does not reflect the actual purpose of science education. The focus of providing science education should be giving a chance for all students to take part in science but not to be rigid on grooming future scientists as this will deter many students from taking part.

Science education in most parts of the world, such as the U.K, is mandatory for all students between ages five and sixteen. After age sixteen, science education is not compulsory. The main aim of science education is to arouse learners’ curiosity about their world and things that happen around them (Fensham, 1985). Science education helps learners to connect the information they have to their practical experiences. Science teachers should give students a chance to be flexible by allowing them to take part in activities that help them explore their curiosity and capture their imagination.

Some of the issues faced in science education arise from the set of eight unquestioned norms of practice. The first norm is called the myth of miscellaneous information. According to Fensham (1985), a lot of science courses concentrate their efforts on making sure that students have memorized many facts that in an actual sense are not very important to scientists. They include dry facts such as the conversion of various units from one to the other and the density of different things among others. This knowledge is rendered useless because most of the time, the students who learn it do not get a chance to use it anywhere (Coles, 1998; Donnelly, 1998; Eraut, 1994).

The foundational myth alludes that learning science is a hard task since scientific information was got through a tedious and hard process. Therefore, the delivery process of scientific knowledge is done in a manner that only those who get to the end understand the concepts that were being learned (Gibbs and Fox, 1999). The current practice of science education is done in a manner that shows the subject as hard to understand instead of being offered in a simplified manner. Consequently, learners are only able to make sense out of the little details but the larger picture, which is important, is lost (Rowe, 1983).

The myth of coverage

The notion that learning science requires one to learn broad but balanced concepts is another issue faced in science education. Consequently, the curriculum has tried to incorporate a lot of content (Solomon and Aikenhead, 1994). This has led to an increase in quantity but a decrease in the quality of the content covered.

The myth of detached science

The education offered in science is often depicted as objective and detached. It is also depicted as one that lacks value. This is an incorrect view of science education (Merton, 1973).

The myth of critical thinking

The view that studying science helps students to think critically and to logically analyze things is not correct. This view has been an issue in science education since it assumes that students can apply the critical thinking, they develop from studying science to other subjects (Shamos, 1995). Since scientists and other people who are engaged in science-related activities appear to be intelligent, it is assumed that they can apply this to other fields. This assumption has raised concerns from various scholars such as Wason & Johnson-Laird (1972).

The myth of the scientific method

This myth suggests that there is only one scientific method. However, this is not true since scientists employ different methods in their research and discoveries. According to Norris (1997), no single method is universally acceptable.

The myth of utility

This is a myth that propagates the notion that scientific knowledge helps an individual in essential activities such as in operating various technologies and also in helping one be comfortable around technology that is found in the environment where one lives (International bureau of education, 2000).

The homogenous myth

This myth suggests that all people in the science field can be served by a single curriculum and yet work in various science fields (Fensham, 1985). The use of a single curriculum to serve the needs of people who would like to venture into various science fields leads to a lack of motivation and people become disinterested in the curriculum.

These myths were reflected in science education a decade ago and their effect is still felt in this field presently.

Reflection on own teaching practice and environment

I have noted that students are not narrow-minded but view the world from various perspectives. They have the desire to address social and global problems through the knowledge they have and any other knowledge they will get from learning in class (Merton, 1973). The popularity rating of science education in various countries such as Australia has gone up in the recent past. This is evident through the increased viewership of scientific programs on television. Therefore, adapting science education that allows students to take part is an effective way of addressing some of the issues facing this field.

From my teaching practice and environment, I have noticed that there is reluctance by females to study subjects that are related to science. This is because of their perception that this is a field for the males and the perceived difficulty associated with this area (Rowe, 1983).

Negative feedback by students about science education has also been an issue of concern in my teaching practice. Some students often raise concerns regarding the content of the curriculum saying that it is too broad and requires a lot of memorizing.

From the perspective of my fellow teachers, I have noted that some teachers lack the zeal and competence that is required to teach science education.

Negative attitude by young people towards science education and science-related careers has also been a major issue in my teaching practice (Rowe, 1983).

Strategies for addressing these issues

Producing ways of arousing curiosity in young people concerning their environment is one of the strategies that can be used in addressing issues in science education (Fensham, 1985).

Science teachers should be on the lookout for the skills and knowledge that students have and look for ways of integrating these in the learning process. Since a science class has students with diverse characteristics and abilities, diverse teaching methods should be used to ensure that no student is left out of the learning process (Eraut, 1994).

The curriculum should also incorporate various topics that take into account the diversity of the students. Assessment of the content that has already been covered should be done in a way that reflects the purpose of the curriculum.

Another way that these issues can be addressed is ensuring that high-quality teachers are selected to teach the subject (Eraut, 1994). These teachers should receive continuous in-service training and their retention should be a priority.

Using contexts outside classrooms is also an important way of addressing these issues. This helps in showing learners how various concepts learned in science education are applied in the natural world. This increases the learners’ understanding of these concepts.

Science education is very important to all people (Donnelly, 1998). Some of the ways that science education can help people include identification of things that help in healthy living, helping one to make decisions that arise from the knowledge they possess, and an improvement of one’s economic life through getting employed in scientific fields.


Most of the research that has been done on science education focuses mainly on secondary schools, although there exists also research findings that address science education in primary and tertiary levels. It is important for the issues that are present in science education to be addressed since science plays an important role in the lives of people.

Reference List

Bruner, J. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Coles, M. (1998). The nature of scientific work: A study of how science is used in work settings and the implications for education and training programmes. London: Institute of Education. (Unpublished Ph.D.).

Donnelly, J. (1998). The place of the laboratory in second-boratory in secondary science teaching. International journal of science education, vol.20, no. 5, p. 585–96.

Eraut, M. (1994). Developing professional knowledge and competence. London, Falmer Press.

Fensham, P. (1985). Science for all: a reflective essay. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 17(4), 415–435.

Fensham, P. (2008). Science education policy-making. Eleven emerging issues. UNESCO

Fullan, M. (1991). The new meaning of educational change. London: Cassell.

Gibbs, W. W., Fox, D. (1999). The false crisis in science education. Scientific American, p. 87–93.

International bureau of education. (2000). Contemporary society: problems, issues and dilemmas. Final report of the international workshop on the reform in the teaching of science and technology at primary and secondary level in Asia: comparative reference to Europe. Beijing.

Merton, R. K. (1973). The sociology of science: theoretical and empirical investigations. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.

Norris, S. (1997). Intellectual independence for nonscientists and other content-transcendent goals of science goals of science education. Science Education, vol. 8, no. 2, p. 239–58.

Rowe, M. (1983). Science education: a framework for deci-ation: a framework for decision making. Daedalus, vol. 112, no. 2, p. 123–42.3–42.

Shamos, M. H. (1995). The myth of scientific literacy. New Brunswick: University Press.

Solomon, J., Aikenhead, G. (1994). STS education: international perspectives on reform. New York: Teachers College Press.

The association of science education. (2006). Science education in schools. Issues, evidence and proposal. A commentary by teaching and learning programme.

Wason, P.C., Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1972). Psychology of reasoning: structure and content. London: Batsford.

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