Flask in scientist hand with lab background, science research and development concept. Picture: iStock
Flask in scientist hand with lab background, science research and development concept. Picture: iStock

TAKE THE TEST: Basic science questions kids can’t answer

A WORRYING number of Australian students are unable to answer basic questions such as the cause for day and night, how a BBQ cooks meat and how a kangaroo is able to jump.

The latest National Assessment Program Science Literacy assessment data published today showed 35 per cent of Year 10 and 48 per cent of Year 6 Australian students do not know that the Earth's rotation on its own axis causes night and day.

"These surprising - and, some may even argue, worrying - results should give teachers valuable insights about the kind of misconceptions students may have about the relationship between the Earth, sun and moon," the report said.

Only 24 per cent of year 10 students could correctly answer how heat is transferred in a BBQ via radiation, convection and conduction to cook meat.

"The results for this item indicate that students are finding it very difficult to understand the concept of heat transfer," the report said.

Only 18 per cent of Year 6 students achieved full marks for being able to fully explain how a kangaroo can jump.

Alarmingly, on the assessment's student survey, more 39 percent of Year 6 students and 44 per cent of Year 10 students reported they "sometimes" or "never" have in-depth discussions about science in class.

And 40 per cent of students in Year 6 felt they were unable to learn science topics quickly, while 48 per cent of Year 10 students reported the same.



Australian Centre for Education Research deputy chief executive Dr Sue Thomson said the fact students could not answer basic science questions was worrying and the fact they felt unable to learn was concerning for their employment in jobs of the future.

"Those things are in the curriculum, those things should be being taught and it's really worrying if half the kids don't know the answer about day and night," she said.

"I suspect a lot of it because they don't have qualified teachers teaching them.

"That's something we could always do that could improve learning, to have better qualified teachers or help the teachers teaching out of field to teach in a better way, whether it's by providing more support and training to get their skills up."

The Centre for Independent Studies' education program director Dr Fiona Mueller said it was reassuring there was some high-achievement around the country but this to be across the board.

"This is the key - where there is success the strategies need to be shared, we haven't seen enough of that collaboration, in the STEM subjects this is really invaluable," she said.
"The challenge is to establish and maintain excellence across all schools and what has to be done to ensure very high academic expectations as we see in high performing systems and to make sure every teacher in front of every class is a subject expert."

Education Minister Dan Tehan said that while 58 per cent of Year 6 students and 50 per cent of Year 10 students were achieving the proficiency standard, the report showed there was room to improve.

"Strong science skills must be a key feature of our education system because STEM skills will drive the jobs of the future," he said.

"Australia should be a world leader in science education and that should be reflected in our results."