This paper was commissioned by the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor in conjunction with the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology to encourage debate on how better to engage students with science, with a particular focus on the role of schools. The focus of this paper is the current provision of science education. It discusses a range of purposes for science education and reviews New Zealand and international evidence on what students think about science and how well they achieve in it. The paper also questions whether the current provision of science education meets the changing needs of society, work and young people, and makes suggestions for possible ways forward.
The paper is designed for scientists, educators and policy makers. It is not a comprehensive review of New Zealand’s students’ achievements in science, nor is it a critique of the New Zealand Curriculum. Its primary intent is to take a strategic look at how science education can best meet the needs of both the young people of today and New Zealand society in general.