[ASC-media] Media Release: Stemming a ³ Dramatic ² Decline in Maths & Science Enrolments

Australasian Science science at control.com.au
Mon Oct 2 01:49:08 CEST 2006

For immediate release
2 October 2006

Stemming a ³Dramatic² Decline in Maths & Science Enrolments

A leading academic is calling for substantial improvement in Australia¹s
approach to education in mathematics and science. Professor John McKenzie
says that, for the national good and international competitiveness, ³we must
insist on innovative curricula and signals that encourage students to
participate in [mathematics and science] at every level of education².

Writing in the October issue of Australasian Science, published today,
Professor McKenzie - who is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the
University of Melbourne and past Secretary (Education and Public Awareness)
of the Australian Academy of Science - draws attention to a 28% decrease,
Australia-wide, in the proportion of science students in universities
between 2000 and 2004.

As further evidence of the worrying trend he cites a Macquarie University
survey that found a significant decrease in the proportion of students doing
science subjects in the NSW HSC over a 25-year period. As an example,
chemistry enrolments fell by 41% over this time. Similar observations apply
to advanced mathematics.

³The task ahead is to rekindle excitement and demand for science,² he
writes. ³Advancement at primary level is essential.²

Profesor McKenzie says that the results of initial trials of a program in
scientific education at primary and early secondary levels were
³spectacular². The ³Primary Connections² program embeds scientific
principles into literacy programs in a whole-of-school approach so that
science becomes an integral part of learning. The program is sponsored in
all states and territories by the Australian Academy of Science in
partnership with the Department of Education, Science & Training.

Professor McKenzie says that student-directed investigation is a ³paramount²
feature of education, allowing ³students and teachers to share the passion
of the climb and the excitement of scientific discovery, and reaching
understanding by doing².

He concludes: ³It is critical that universities promote the need for
students to take mathematics and science at school if they are to study
these subjects at tertiary levelŠ Demand for science in general has remained
strong in universities where prerequisites for mathematical and scientific
entry have been maintained and curricula are informed by research, in
particular for the core disciplines of mathematics, chemistry and physics².

Summaries and quotations of selected passages for reporting or review are
permissible provided AUSTRALASIAN SCIENCE MAGAZINE is credited as the source
of this story.

Professor McKenzie can be reached on (03) 8344 3238
For a copy of the full article and permission to reproduce the text,
partially or in full, call the Editor, Guy Nolch, on (03) 9500 0015.
A photo of Professor McKenzie is available.

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