Education at the core of science literacy – Gluckman

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Prof Sir Peter Gluckman, has written about the role of science in society in a new blog posting.

His comments follow the announcement of a unique joint education-science sector plan to lift engagement and achievement in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) across New Zealand.

An excerpt (read in full here):

Towards a smarter nation – the role of science education and science literacy

Increasingly it is accepted that democratic governments must better incorporate the use of research derived evidence into policy formation. Many challenges that societies face require an understanding of the uses and limits of technologies and of how science can better inform our choices. There are inevitably complex trade-offs in balancing the many conflicting demands for further economic growth, social equity, better standards of living and environmental sustainability and protection. This trend goes hand in hand with the recognition that it is important to promote science literacy across all sectors of the population so that informed citizens can participate in these difficult discussions. Increasing science literacy in turn increases the demand for evidence-informed decision making and the consequent demand from within policy circles for access to relevant data and analysis to build a body of evidence that can be used to strengthen public policy.

One promising example of creating and applying such a body of policy-relevant evidence is the recently released national assessment of the very foundation of science literacy – the New Zealand Science Curriculum. The fact that the lens of evidence-informed-policy is being directed on the science curriculum itself is especially satisfying. Indeed, it would seem inconceivable to do anything other than employ robust research to help improve our knowledge and techniques for teaching students about science and the scientific method. Too often rhetoric has got in the way of understanding what works in education and what is cause for concern.

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