16 September 2011
This report draws together research commissioned by the Wellcome Trust aiming to provide a deeper understanding of young people’s attitudes to science education, particularly regarding the value young people place on science education (for themselves as individuals and for society in general), as well as the key factors determining their continued engagement with formal and informal science education.
The study had three main strands: a brief review of relevant UK literature over the past ten years, case studies in 20 schools involving interviews and focus groups with a total of 240 pupils, and consultation with 20 young people aged 16 and above who have left education. In addition, teachers from eight of the 20 case-study schools agreed to participate in short telephone discussions with research staff to reflect upon and comment on the findings from the research.
- Almost two-thirds of participants said that they find science lessons "fairly" or "very" interesting, and 90 per cent felt that compulsory teaching of science in school up to the age of 16 is important.
- Around 80 per cent felt that having a good understanding of science would improve their career prospects. However a need for better careers guidance was identified to ensure that young people are equipped with all of the options available to them for a career in, or from, science.
- Almost 40 per cent had difficulties in making direct links between what they learn in the classroom and how they apply this to everyday situations. Many felt they were learning science solely to pass an exam, identifying this as a demotivating factor in engagement with the subject.