Science is the study of the phenomena and events that surround us through systematic observation and experimentation. Science education cultivates students’ curiosity about the world and enhances scientific thinking.
Through the inquiry process, students will recognize the nature of science and develop scientific knowledge and scientific process skills that will help them assess the impact of scientific and technological development. This will prepare students to participate in public discourse on science-related issues and allow them to become science and technology learners throughout their lives.
What is Science Education?
One of the definitions of learning in the Webster dictionary is memorizing, and too often science education is nothing more than memorizing facts about science, where learning is assessed by repeating these facts on a multiple-choice exam. Memorization is not science. Another definition of learning is “gaining knowledge or understanding through study, instruction, or experience,” which is a better approach to science education.
Understanding the physical world from what previous generations of scientists have discovered is an important but not the most important component of science. The most important feature of science is the process of rationally determining the underlying cause of a phenomenon observed in nature, a process called the scientific method. The scientific principles taught today were discovered by past generations of cie
thifices who used the scientific method. The definition of the scientific method is taught in the traditional physical science class, but the only way to really learn the scientific method is by doing, which requires practical experimentation and inquiry-based questions, not memorizing facts from a textbook. You can only really learn science by behaving like a true scientist. This means that students have to collect and analyze their own data, not just memorize facts developed over the years by the great minds of science.
Learning about the Scientific Method
Learning the scientific method (which is much more than learning about the scientific method) has important benefits for all students, not just those pursuing a career in science or engineering. For example, consider a technician on the paint line of an automobile factory, when the paint starts staining. The challenge is to rationally determine the underlying cause of the paint veins to correct the problem, which requires using the scientific method to evaluate the various potential causes, perform discrimination experiments, and then analyze the resulting data to determine the cause of the problem.
Another example is that of a nurse observing a health problem in a patient, in which the challenge is to first determine the cause of the problem and then choose an appropriate treatment option. Again, solving the problem requires the application of the same thought processes used in the scientific method: identification of the possible causes of the observed effect, design of tests to eliminate some of the alternatives, analysis of the result of various changes in medication/diet/exercise/etc. and proposal of a treatment protocol.
There are many more examples where the thought processes of the scientific method have significant value far beyond science. A well-focused physical science curriculum provides one of the best platforms for learning to rationally determine the cause, or causes, of an observed phenomenon, whether in science, health, social issues, or even politics.
The emphasis of science education is to improve students’ scientific literacy through research activities involving planning, measurement, observation, data analysis, procedure design and evaluation, and testing. Science learning will enable our students to lead a fulfilling and responsible life by encouraging them to learn independently, to face new situations, to reason critically, to think creatively, to make informed decisions and to solve problems.
Through scientific activities, students must develop an interest in science and will therefore be motivated to become active learners in science. Students should also develop an understanding of the interrelationship between science, technology, society and the environment (CTSE), and strengthen the ability to integrate and apply knowledge and skills in all disciplines. They must be able to face the changes and challenges of the constantly developing society and contribute to the scientific and technological world.
Students with high abilities or a strong interest in science need more demanding learning programs. These programmes should expand students’ scientific abilities and provide them with opportunities to develop their full potential.
Science Education in the Curriculum
There are very good reasons why science teaching should continue to be supported in school and not marginalized by the trendy topics that clutter the curriculum. Science and technology are driving forces in a world where things like artificial intelligence and mobile devices are taking hold. Here are five lasting benefits of teaching science in schools.
Science enhances critical thinking
Scientific concepts usually begin with an idea followed by an experiment to corroborate that idea through technical methods and analysis. It dictates a logical way of approaching unknown topics, ensuring that students can learn to relate theoretical work to practical work.
Learning to find the relationship between theories and empirical evidence brings cognitive benefits, which they confer on other subjects and areas of life. Like gas to a stove, science is the fuel that accelerates young minds toward peak performance. On the other hand, deficiencies in critical thinking in many parts of the community can be attributed to the lack of accumulated practice involved in the time spent on scientific studies.
Cultivate a passion for learning
The thrill of discovering why the sun sets in the east, why the sky is blue, how fish breathe in the water and other remarkable everyday scenarios is naturally fascinating. Science feeds the natural curiosity that moves students and encourages them to explore the mysteries that are observed everywhere.
A practical approach also appeals to many. The ability to demonstrate scientific concepts firsthand whets the appetite for learning.
Science elevates many disciplines
To understand science, a solid understanding of other essential areas of study is needed. For example:
Knowledge of mathematical concepts is a fundamental prerequisite that comes in handy for qualitative and quantitative analysis.
The scientific method is based on technical skills, such as careful observation of the world around us and the ability to conduct highly controlled experiments.
The presentation of results in scientific reports teaches the values of objectivity and rigour.
Science holds the key to the future
It’s hard to think of an aspect of life that doesn’t rely on science to some extent. It is an integral part of several fields, from agriculture to medicine and everything in between. The next generation deserves a strong science education to help them prepare for what may happen in the future.
For example, the decline in tobacco use rates appears to be due, in part, to science-based intervention programmes in schools. Science is useful in demonstrating to students the environmental and medical effects of pollutants, including tobacco smoke, and the risks of substance addiction. Interactive learning has been the most statistically compelling teaching method in terms of producing long-term observable benefits.
In a world where new scientific advances emerge seemingly every hour, a science background ensures that students are not left behind. Especially with the ever-changing tides of the technological wave. It teaches students to be self-sufficient in an environment where constant change is the only constant.
Numerous career opportunities
Ultimately, one of the main reasons kids go to school is to get a job and a good one. Thanks to improved logical and mathematical skills, children with a scientific background have enormous opportunities ahead of them. These cover professions both within and outside the scientific field, extending to fields such as business, engineering, computer science and health.
Science follows an upward and expansive trend. The economy may or may not suffer a blow in the future, but the same can never be said of science. It always takes steps forward and rarely backwards. With scientific solutions and innovations emerging at an accelerated pace, science never loses its daily relevance.
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Taber, K. S. (Editor) (2007) Science Education for Gifted Learners, London: Routledge.
Taber, K. S. (2007) Enriching School Science for the Gifted Learner, London: Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme.
Kind, V. & Taber, K. S. (2005) Science: Teaching School Subjects 11-19, London: Routledge.
Davis, I.C. (1935) The measurement of scientific attitudes. Science Education 19: 117–22.