One more time: Why is so hard to make school Science engaging?

Dublin City of Science 2012 will host a 10 day ‘Science in the City’  festival from 6 – 15 July as part of the ESOF 2012 science in the city programme. The  Festival will consist of over 60 events and unites a community of cultural institutions, organisations and individuals who are passionate about showcasing the best of science, arts and culture in Ireland. The innovative programme of science themed events across Dublin consists of photographic and art exhibitions, several theatre pieces, film festivals, tours, trails and treasure hunts, science buskers, large-scale interactive installations, experiments, public talks, debates and workshops.

Taken from their website

If you’ve got a son or daughter doing Science in secondary school in Ireland (or if, indeed, you are that student) keep an eye on the list of impressive activities that will be in the news over the coming few weeks. And then ask yourself why so very little of these wonderful and engaging activities are on the school syllabus. And then ask why not?

Why is the dull-as-dishwater  image of Science that we present in school (which in turn is a reflection of the syllabus) always at odds with the fascinating picture of Science that seems to be coming from everywhere else?
Why do we always have to look for ways to spruce up the syllabus?

Why is there no Astronomy/Cosmology at Junior or Senior cycle?

Why is the word ‘Evolution’ not even mentioned at Junior Cert level (it gets little more than lip-service at Leaving Cert level)?

Why is there nothing on Over-population or Obesity and almost nothing on the single greatest issue of our time – Global Warming?

Why can’t there be options to develop the interdisciplinary nature of Science – with Art, History, Geography or Religion to name just a few.
There are actually some quite engaging Science topics on the Religion syllabus (Evolution, Cosmology (including the Big Bang), Overpopulation and Global Warming), but none of this is considered relevant for our Science students.

Why can we not tell Science as a story?

And the bit that I am always most baffled by; why do so many Science teachers attend public Science lectures and activities (either as part of a school activity or from a purely personal interest) and yet not voice any frustration at the school syllabus that must surely be letting both them and their students down?

Here’s what The Guardian’s Geroge Monbiot had to say about our schooling:

We are deprived by our stupid schooling system of most of the wonders of the world, of the skills and knowledge required to navigate it, above all of the ability to understand each other. Our narrow, antiquated education is forcing us apart like the characters in a Francis Bacon painting, each locked in our boxes, unable to communicate.

And this one is mine:

We educators take this incredibly exotic jungle of knowledge called Science and distil it until all the wonder has been removed and we are left with nothing but a heap of dry shavings. We then pour this drivel into our syllabus and textbooks and make our students learn it off by heart so that it can all get vomited back up come exam time.
And then we wonder why so many young people don’t like science.

There is the odd rumbling about this disgrace from teachers themselves; Humphrey Jones over at provides us with a neverending supply of resources to remind us how incredible Science actually is, and his alter ego site at is where you’re likely to find his personal ramblings.

Apart from that?


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