To be human is to be curious about the world we live in, to wonder why it is that way, and to ask about our place in it. A fundamental goal for science education is to stimulate, respond to and nourish such curiosity, wonder and questioning. Science provides us with one view of the world – a view that changes as our knowledge and understanding of science evolves.
Science is a human process influencing and influenced by social values. Science has a long and fascinating history of human attempts to appreciate, understand, control and manage our world. Scientists use techniques of scientific investigation to create an understanding of the world. The resulting cumulative knowledge is part of our human heritage.
Science is dynamic and progressive. Our society is being continually confronted, challenged and redirected by ideas borne from people’s curiosity, imagination and dreams about what might be possible. The work of scientists such as Newton, Einstein, Curie, Darwin, Florey, Macfarlane Burnet and Oliphant began as ‘why’ and ‘what if’. Their work challenged and subsequently changed accepted opinions in the areas of motion and gravity, radioactivity, evolution, medicine, immunology, structure of the nucleus of the atom, and nuclear energy. This and other accepted science knowledge continues to fuel the dreams of a new generation of scientists as they explore the expanding frontiers of science.
Science has had, and will continue to have, successes and setbacks as technologies that provide people with an improved quality of life are developed and implemented.
It is becoming increasingly important that students understand these challenges and redirections, and the implications of these for their own life choices, the environment and the community (local and global) in which they live. Building students’ Science capability is critical to help them develop the skills and understanding necessary to meet these challenges and make responsible, informed choices.
Science extends our understanding beyond what affects us to include what we can’t see, feel, hear or touch but can only imagine. Science capability is multidimensional, consisting of dispositional facets (interest and curiosity), operational facets (creativity and problem solving) and cognitive facets (reasoning and critical thinking). The extent to which we as citizens understand and appreciate these interactions will shape our future.
A set of values inform and govern how scientists operate including respect for the environment (living and non-living) and the opinions and ideas of others, honesty in collecting and presenting data and evidence, and acknowledgment of the work of others. These values are an integral part of a science curriculum that explores and encourages debate about the relationship between science, society and technology.
A major goal of science education is to develop citizens who are capable of engaging in informed debate about science and its applications. Increasing emphasis will be placed on the role of science and the work of Australian and other scientists in addressing issues of sustainability at a local and global level. Science education provides opportunities for students to develop the skills and understanding appropriate to service and good citizenship. It also encourages students to articulate science values and accept the ethical principles embedded in science research. While only some students directly pursue a career in science and scientific research, all students need to appreciate the significance of science for the long-term future of our society.