Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Science Student Enrolments: The Glass Is Half-Full

By Simon Grose

Fewer science students at school is better than more. It’s what they do next that matters.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The glum spin was predictable late last year when the Australian Academy of Science released The Status and Quality of Year 11 and 12 Science in Australian Schools. Commissioned by the Chief Scientist, the report found that from 1991 to 2010 the percentage of Year 11 and 12 students enrolled in science subjects had fallen from 94% to 51%.

The lead author of the study, Prof Denis Goodrum, who heads the process to develop a national science curriculum, described the downward trend as “quite staggering” and likely to continue.

“For a country that believes its future prosperity depends on innovation and a skilled workforce, this situation needs to be addressed.”

Does it? Look on the bright side: more than of half the 2010 cohort were studying science.

If the 1991 figure is correct only 6% of senior students were not doing science. That means a lot of students hanging down the back of science classes had little interest or aptitude for what they were studying, forcing teachers to devote too much preparation and class-time energy to making their lessons interesting and imposing discipline.

Twenty years later, with that 40% out of the way, teachers would have been able to focus their efforts on the keener 54% to give them a much better learning experience than their 1991 counterparts.

The report acknowledges this: “The general picture...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.