In early August, Barry Slattery and Anna Walshe from the National Council on Curriculum and Assessment outlined developments in the Leaving Certificate and the Junior Certificate science curricula. A number of opportunities for companies were evident.
Junior Curriculum Development /Consultation
The new junior cycle will be built around 24 statements of learning, 20 of which are arguably, STEM-related. Implementation of the new junior certificate will begin on a phased basis from September 2014. English will the first revised curriculum to be introduced in phase 1. Science is the first of the STEM subjects to be reviewed; it is due to be introduced in phase 2 in Sept 2015. A background paper on the science curriculum and assessment specification will be published in September 2013 for public consultation; the specification itself will be published in draft form in June 2014.
There will be opportunity for companies to comment at both phases.
Short courses are a new type of curricular component to be introduced to schools as part of the new junior cycle. A student may replace 1 subject with 2 short courses, however only 4 short courses are allowed to be carried for certification purposes
Eight short courses are available from the Department ‘off the shelf’ but schools may produce their own. These could be about a specific industry in a local area, a local topic of concern and so on. There is likely to be an opportunity for companies to get involved with co-producing short courses with local schools or acting as mentors on courses developed by the schools.
Changing emphasis in Leaving Certificate science subjects
Recent developments of science curricula around the world have focused on emphasising the nature of science, and how science is more than just a body of knowledge or practices. By encouraging a way of thinking about science, it helps the development of scientifically literate leaders, innovators and citizens. Work on this has begun through the primary schools science programme and will shape the thinking around the development of the new junior cert science curriculum.
This shift of emphasis will support the learning and teaching that is espoused by the new Leaving Certificate science curricula which are due to be introduced to schools. The goal of these senior science curricula is to position the teacher as facilitator to students who are encouraged to be more entrepreneurial and risk-taking when it comes to science, enquiring and challenging what they are being taught. They will also be encouraged to collaborate and to apply their learnings to real-life situations. They will be rewarded for that approach.
In relation to both junior and senior cycles there is a role for companies to:
1. Highlight the need for problem-solvers in the workplace.
2. Make real data available that students can use as case studies or assessment tasks.
3. Collaborate so that all of the points are made with real impact.
Anyone who is interested in participating in a working group on these opportunities should contact Elise McCarthy (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Germaine Noonan (email@example.com) at Business in the Community Ireland.