Rethinking science education: meeting the challenge of ‘science for all’

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This article presents the author's Presidential Address delivered to the Association for Science Education Annual Conference, University of Liverpool, January 2012. "Science for all" has been an aspiration of the Association for Science Education and the organisations from which it evolved for almost a century. It has, however, proved an elusive goal. The history of science education in the UK throughout the past century, and indeed beyond, is of an almost constant stream of calls for change, improvement and reform. The past decade has seen a succession of substantial reports from working groups commissioned by Government departments, and by scientific bodies such as the Royal Society. Similar issues are discussed in reports at the European level, in the USA and in many other countries. In the UK, calls for reform of science education can be traced back through important documents such as "Science 5-16: A Statement of Policy," "Alternatives for Science Education," "Science in Secondary Schools," and many others, to the Thomson Committee report of 1918 and beyond. It is not only the number and frequency of these reports that is striking. So too is the constancy of their concerns. One prominent concern derives from the perceived link between science (and hence science education) and national economic success. A second persistent cause for concern is that the science curriculum is not sufficiently engaging. The author argues that many of the challenges of teaching and learning science are real, and arise from the characteristics of science itself. This article focuses on two central issues concerning science education: (1) the role of science in the curriculum and its contribution to general education; and (2) the question of what teachers should try to teach, if their aim is to provide a worthwhile experience of "science for all". (Contains 3 boxes and 2 figures.)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalSchool Science Review
Issue number345
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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