'Poor science and maths results just the tip of the iceberg'
Posted on 07/12/2010
A school pupil
Continued low participation in science and mathematics post-16 is a serious concern for the UK. The publication of new figures by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), show disappointing increases in attainment in science and mathematics among 15 year olds in England.
The survey by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is designed to compare standards between different education systems around the world.
Concerted action will need to be taken – but this will be a complex task, as researchers from some of England’s leading universities warn that the answer to increasing post-16 participation rates will not solely lie in raising achievement levels.
Professor Louise Archer, King’s College London, and the lead Coordinator of the Targeted Initiative on Science and Mathematics Education (TISME), said, ‘The findings from the research projects in the TISME initiative underline how increased attainment in examinations does not necessarily translate into more students choosing to study science and mathematics at higher levels. Indeed in some cases, increased attainment can lead to a decrease in students wanting to pursue mathematics and the sciences further.’
Evidence indicates that an increased focus in schools on examination results, and the practice of ‘teaching to the test’, can dramatically decrease students’ liking for a subject and can reduce their intentions of continuing with science and/or mathematics post-16.
Professor Justin Dillon, TISME Co-Coordinator from King’s College London, explains, ‘Put simply, an improvement in PISA scores doesn’t mean better teaching nor does it mean interest in science and mathematics, two key subjects in the Coalition Government’s vision for education, will increase.’
The five research projects, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of TISME, are all major national studies and are conducted by leading academics in the field.
Dr Jeremy Hodgen, TISME Co-Coordinator, also at King’s College London, explains, ‘They provide the most robust and extensive evidence to date on the factors affecting children and young people’s participation in mathematics and science.’
Emergent findings from TISME, which runs until 2014, highlight some key messages for those concerned with trying to increase the uptake of science and mathematics post-16:
• The need for intervention in the early secondary years (11-14)
• Enhance the quality of learning in mathematics and science classrooms
• Improve careers advice (especially relating to careers from science and mathematics) and deliver it earlier
• Raise achievement among pupils from socially disadvantaged backgrounds
• Broaden post-16 routes
• End the culture of early specialisation
Notes to Editors
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2010 QS international world rankings), The Sunday Times 'University of the Year 2010/11' and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has nearly 23,000 students (of whom more than 8,600 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 5,500 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine, nursing and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org
Alex Bevis, Public Relations Department,
Public Relations Department, King's College London
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