The federal government will spend $2 million attempting to turn Australia’s high school students into science nerds.
This is the opening paragraph of ninemsn’s article on the Australian Government’s new $2 million initiative to improve the participation of year 9 and 10 high school students in science, named STELR – The Science and Technology Education Leveraging Relevance program.
Although the journalist was probably attempting to be funny, his or her choice of phrase to “turn high school students into science nerds” perfectly sums up the anti-intellectual attitudes towards scientific pursuits in Australian society, and exposes the heart of the problem: image conscious high school students who want to be cool do not want to be labelled as “science nerds”, hence choose not to study science in years 11 and 12, and do not pursue scientific careers.
I praise the Government’s initiative as a very positive step. $2 million is far too little, but any step forward is a good one. I also praise the decision to target the year 9 and 10 age group as this age group is still young enough to be impressionable, are very conscience about their self image, yet are starting to consider their future after high school. If this program succeeds, it will allow sufficient time for these students to choose science electives for years 11 and 12.
I wish to suggest some further ways to enhance this initiative:
- Extra pay for teachers who hold masters degrees and doctorates
When I was in high school, some science teachers had science degrees, but many didn’t. Even those who did made few efforts to update their knowledge. I can’t blame them completely – there was no incentive or recognition for those teachers who went beyond the bare minimum required to do their job.
- Advertising and promotional material featuring handsome/beautiful scientists
Yes, they exist and I have met them. In fact, a female scientist I know who works in the pharmaceuticals industry has graced the covers of a woman’s fashion magazine.
The old and tired stereotypical nerd with horn-rimmed glasses and a speech impediment promoted on TV and in movies must be destroyed once and for all.
- The right slogan
Science must be promoted as an empowering field that gives a person understanding and control over the world – to save the world, or to make it better.
What are your thoughts?