New Junior Cert Science
The new specifications for science subjects, at both Junior Cert and Leaving Cert, put an emphasis on the application of knowledge in real-world contexts. In other words, students should be able "to do" rather than only "to know".
The junior cycle changes in science were introduced for first years last September, as part of the ongoing reforms, and the first students to experience these will complete junior cycle in 2019.
Sixth-year students in 30 schools will participate in the trials for the practicals in October, before a final decision on their inclusion into the assessment regime.
The SEC is due to deliver a report on the trials to the department by February and, even if there is no further delay, it is likely to be 2021 at the earliest before the first practicals take place, as the new syllabus would be introduced for fifth years.
In this series of blogs, we analyse the specification for the new and improved Junior Cert Science syllabus and outline what you can expect in 2019.
Science is a collaborative and creative human endeavour arising from our desire to understand the world around us and the wider universe. Essentially, it is curiosity in thoughtful and deliberate action. Learning science through inquiry enables students to ask more questions, and to develop and evaluate explanations of events and phenomena they encounter.
The study of science enables students to build on their learning in primary school and to further develop their knowledge of and about science. Students enhance their scientific literacy by developing their ability to explain phenomena scientifically; their understanding of scientific inquiry; and their ability to interpret and analyse scientific evidence and data to draw appropriate conclusions.
Developing scientific literacy is important to social development. As part of this process students develop the competence and confidence needed to meet the opportunities and challenges of senior cycle sciences, employment, further education and life.
The wider benefits of scientific literacy are well established, including giving students the capacity to make contributions to political, social and cultural life as thoughtful and active citizens who appreciate the cultural and ethical values of science. This supports students to make informed decisions about many of the local, national and global challenges and opportunities they will be presented with as they live and work in a world increasingly shaped by scientists and their work.
Science is not just a tidy package of knowledge, nor is it a step-by-step approach to discovery. Nonetheless, science is able to promote the development of analytical thinking skills such as problem-solving, reasoning, and decision-making. Learning science in junior cycle can afford students opportunities to build on their learning of primary science and to activate intuitive knowledge to generate, explore and refine solutions for solving problems. This may not always yield the expected result, but this, in turn, can be the focus for deeper learning and help the student to develop an understanding of risk and a realisation that different approaches can be adopted.
As students develop their investigative skills, they will be encouraged to examine scientific evidence from their own experiments and draw justifiable conclusions based on the actual evidence. In reviewing and evaluating their own and others’ scientific evidence and data, they will learn to identify limitations and improvements in their investigations. This collaborative approach will increase students’ motivation, and provide opportunities for working in groups and to develop the key skills of junior cycle.
In addition to its practical applications, learning science is a rewarding enterprise in its own right. Students’ natural curiosity and wonder about the world around them can be nurtured and developed through experiencing the joy of scientific discovery. The development of this specification has been informed by the eight principles for junior cycle education that underpin the Framework for Junior Cycle, all of which have significance for the learning of science as promoted by this specification.