In the wake of international studies that show Scotland lags behind other countries in science attainment, the Scottish Government has admitted that primary teachers lack confidence in teaching science; secondary science teachers struggle to keep their knowledge up-to-date; B.Ed primary courses lack science content; and there is a lack of progression in science teaching from primary to secondary.
The Government says its action plan, Science and Engineering 21, identifies the changes needed to ensure that:
- teachers' capacity and expertise in science is built up;
- more access to practical help for schools is made available;
- young people have an increased understanding of real-life science and engineering;
- more learning, training and job opportunities are available;
- the awareness of the general public of the value of scientific expertise is increased.
The document sets out plans to map the continuing professional development currently available to science teachers across the country.
It also states that real-life science and science role models will be provided for pupils; topical science online communities will be established; a comprehensive online science, engineering and technology resource built; and more "learning opportunities" for pupils established with colleges, universities and employers.
The action plan will be overseen by an advisory group chaired by Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser for Scotland.
Education Secretary Michael Russell launched it at Balfron High in Stirling. He said: "Science permeates so much of modern society - from health, food and technology through to climate change and sustainability issues. We need to make this relevance clear.
"We need to make sure our teachers have the right knowledge and skills to make science education more engaging, enthusing pupils to study science and understand the impact it can have on their future employment prospects. This action plan will help make these ambitions a reality."
Professor Glover said: "Children are born scientists, exploring the world around them. But as they grow older, too many of our young people lose that natural curiosity.
"I want more of them to see the relevance of science to their world, and the spectrum of careers open to them."