The Science Teachers Association NSW, dedicated to upholding the high standards of science education, has completed a thorough analysis of the proposed K-6 Science and Technology Syllabus (Draft 1) and 7-10 Science Syllabus (Draft 2), which are part of NESA’s extensive overhaul of the NSW curriculum.
Margaret Shepherd, STANSW President, commented "Our students deserve a robust and comprehensive science education. While we are concerned about the current state, we remain hopeful that our detailed feedback will be taken on board. We believe our recommendations can help shape a syllabus that improves scientific literacy for all students."
In summary, the K-6 Science and Technology feedback includes:
- Emphasis on Practical Learning: The new syllabus appears to promote practical learning. We like the emphasis on ‘doing’.
- Working scientifically skills: 75% of outcomes are skills and 25% outcomes are content which is not reflected in the content statements. A greater focus is needed in the first-hand investigations.
- Content Intent: Ambiguity surrounds the mandatory nature of K-6 content, creating challenges for students transitioning to secondary schools.
- Depth & Breadth: The syllabus does not sufficiently clarify the depth or breadth of content
- Conceptual Gaps: A jump in knowledge requirements from Stage 3 to Stage 4 may leave students behind.
Key concerns regarding the 7-10 Science Syllabus are as follows:
- Pitching: in general, the level of content knowledge is much higher than previously expected. Many items from stage 6 are now covered in stages 4 and 5. The content-heavy focus is not considered beneficial for most learners, for the following reasons:
- Cognitive load and cognitive density too high, leading to a lack of mastery and therefore disengagement
- Content focus rather than context focus reduces student engagement
- The syllabus will be difficult to differentiate for a range of learners.
Structure of focus areas: Much of the content in “Observing the Universe”, “Data Science 1” and “Data Science 2” repeats skill descriptors already covered as Working Scientifically skills, without adding either content or context. These need significant restructuring.
- Narrow definition of ‘practical’: Opportunities for hands-on, active learning, and for practicing the skills of scientific inquiry, are critical aspects of science education. Therefore, the encouragement to include 50% practicals is welcomed. However, a much more nuanced approach is needed when defining practical. There are many dimensions of a learning experience that may determine whether something should be considered a practical.
- Content Errors: Several critical content errors have been identified, casting doubt on the syllabus's reliability.
The Science Teachers Association of NSW's analysis of the K-10 Science Syllabus has unveiled substantial changes that are needed. STANSW firmly believes that the future of science education in New South Wales must not be compromised, and the identified issues must not be ignored.
We urge decision-makers to take our concerns seriously. STANSW is committed to fostering a constructive dialogue around these critical matters. We are looking forward to engaging in further discussions to ensure that our students receive the exceptional science education they truly deserve.
Read the full analysis here