The success of the primary school science education can be measured on the basis of intended objectives of the primary science education. First, it is intended to stimulate the curiosity of pupils in the world that surrounds them and hence encourage or bolster their ability to think critically and creatively. Secondly, the primary science education should prepare the pupils for the science offered at the secondary school level by giving them a firm foundation for science in the first place. In the light of these aims and objective, this essay will discuss how teaching science in primary schools in the UK has produced quality that is desired and whether the method can be said to be a successful method.
The above aims imply that the pupils at the primary level should be equipped with factual knowledge and scientific skills that enable them to solve problems systematically and carry out scientific enquiry. Actually, the ability of students to engage in experiments through a systematic process of planning and execution and evaluation and without failing to recognize the inherent limitations should be set at the primary level of education.
The Royal Society and mother bodies have pointed out that there are yet no sufficiently qualified teachers in classes even though teachers have been put in front of classes to teach. These resentments arise from the fact that even though there are 28 000 primary school teachers in England, the assessment of pupils in English and mathematics is done at the age of seven and eleven through national curriculum tests that are widely referred to as SAT tests. Actually, the name SAT is derived from the conservative perspective of 1991 when the teacher assessments were generally referred to as the standard assessment tasks thus being shortened to SAT. However, teacher assessment is exceptionally used in meting the performance of pupils in science when they are at the age of seven. It is at the age of eleven that both teacher assessment and SAT are used to determine performance. The results of the SAT assessments become the foundational basis for the DfES performance tables. Nevertheless, these tables do not provide a ranking for the schools though the media use them to come up with the league tables (Parliamentary Postnote 2003). The implication of the results of the science tests has been that they have been used especially by the DfES to support the view that the success of the primary science education has been evident.
Using the results of the science tests, the DfES was able to demonstrate that the targets that had earlier been set for 2008 could be brought to 2006. That was in 2003 when the national targets were reduced by 2 years from 2008 to 2006. This move gave schools extra control over the setting of targets at their local levels.
The following graph, which has been adopted from BBC.COM, shows the aggregate scores in English, Mathematics and Science from 2005 to 2008. In the figure, it is evident that the scores in the three subjects climbed tremendously in 2006 and have since then remained stable from 2006 to 2008.
Adopted from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/education/08/school_tables/primary_schools/html/886_2282.stm
Russell (2008), notes that even though there were worries during the post-war period which led to promotion of science in secondary schools because of a general fear of shortage of scientists, the primary science education has received significant attention in the last 30 years. The one part that brought a great step forward was special attention given to primary education in science that made it a core part of primary education.
The problem that can be seen in the current state of affairs is that the desirable position that is much hailed has not been given a sound rationale and in addition to the fact that the aims of this much needed curriculum have not been clear enough. Thus, as the debate would follow that line, it is likely that even if the primary science education is hailed as achieving steps forward, it is still subject to many criticisms, some of which are labelled against the idea of standardized testing. The critics point out that without sound rationale and well explained aims, the teachers are likely to teach the test and thus fail to achieve the aims of primary science that were identified in the first two paragraphs.
Murphy and Beggs (2005) carried out a study to determine the extent of the success of the teaching of science in primary schools in the United Kingdom. In their study, they also sought to establish the extent to which teaching science at the primary level could be described as a successful method in dissemination of knowledge and the impediments involved.
The results of the study showed that the primary science teachers had some problems which impeded the full success of the programme. The study revealed that teachers did not have sufficient background knowledge in science which is needed to provide confidence in effective teaching. Curriculum overloading was also identified as a major problem that was mixed with large class sizes with minimal classroom assistance. The amount of funding had great disparity and this impeded the success of the programme.
Having systematically assessed the development, progress and implementation process for the primary science teaching curriculum, it becomes evident that there is need for more research to be carried out on how to make the programme most effective and relevant to the lives of children without creating policy paradoxes. Development efforts should also be directed to ensuring effective transition between primary and secondary teacher else they should be de-linked.
Close, H., S. & Kent, A. (2009) “Great Chart Primary School” Retrieved from URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/education/08/school_tables/primary_schools/html/886_2282.stm
Murphy C., & Beggs J. (2005) “Primary science in the UK: a scoping study” Retrieved from URL: http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/stellent/groups/corporatesite/@msh_peda/documents/web_document/wtx026636.pdf
Post note (2003) “Primary Science” http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/pn202.pdf
Russell H. (2008) “Perspectives on education: Primary science” http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/stellent/groups/corporatesite/@msh_peda/documents/web_document/wtd042076.pdf
 DfES stand for Department for Education Standards
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