SCIENCE as taught in Queensland schools is a “social and cultural activity” that generates explanations of natural phenomenon based on “personal experiences”, a view rejected by the nation’s deans of science as fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of scientific inquiry.
The description is contained in an overarching statement introducing the syllabus for physics, chemistry and biology for Years 11 and 12 entitled: “A view of science and science education.”
“Science is a social and cultural activity through which explanations of natural phenomena are generated,” it says.
“Explanations of natural phenomena may be viewed as mental constructions based on personal experiences and result from a range of activities including observation, experimentation, imagination and discussion.
“Accepted scientific concepts, theories and models may be viewed as shared understandings that the scientific community perceive as viable in light of current available evidence.”
The view of science as outlined by the Queensland Studies Authority was utterly rejected by the Australian Council of Deans of Science, representing the heads of science faculties in the nation’s universities. The council’s executive director, John Rice from Sydney University, said it was a misleading view of science and misunderstood “the unique way in which science goes about understanding things”.
“That statement makes scientific knowledge sound as though it’s no more than the fantasies of a bunch of scientists,” he said.
“That’s quite wrong. It fails to understand the way in which science grounds itself in observation and testable hypotheses.”
The Queensland Studies Authority said the statements concerning a view of science and science education should be read in the context of the entire syllabus and it was not, and was never intended to be, a definition of science.
The authority said the statement was “intended to reflect the complex nature by which scientific understandings have progressed”.
“The extract is referring to a way of viewing science education that makes the subject engaging and meaningful in the classroom,” the QSA said in a statement.