Prioritising science education
Sir, – According to the 2019 annual report of Science Foundation Ireland, €5 million was spent on 47 Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education projects, and €189 million was spent on scientific research. However, not one euro was invested in research that would seek to support how science is taught and learned throughout primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Ireland.
The National Science Foundation in the United States invests about $160 million every single year to facilitate research on supporting how science is taught and learned across all levels of education.
Decades of investment in this research has produced much fruit, in particular, the adoption of the ambitious yet lauded Next Generation Science Standards which set out the what and how of science is to be learned for young people aged five to 18.
Granted, funding science outreach projects is important; however, it must be complemented by research seeking to have a positive, long-term impact on how science is taught and learned. One must wonder if Science Foundation Ireland recognised and acted upon the need to invest in this kind of research, would we end up with such highly criticised reforms to junior and senior cycle science subjects? Would we end up with distressed secondary school science teachers and students? Would we realise that without a rigorous, evidence-based science education, we are stifling our very first step towards meeting our grand ambitions for progressing the field of science itself? – Yours, etc,
Dr AISHLING FLAHERTY,
School of Education,