A total of 29 percent of year three pupils at upper secondary schools in Troms chose science in 2009, meaning Troms is well above the national average of 22 percent.
Research scientists at Norut Tromsø have evaluated the project “Realfagssatsingen i Troms” (Initiative to promote science subjects in schools in Troms). Has this initiative had a positive effect on the pupils’ choice?
“Yes, that is highly probable,” says Senior Research Scientist Ellen Brox at Norut Tromsø.
“In the period 2006-2009, we saw a clear increase in pupils at upper secondary schools choosing science subjects. In particular, the subjects of mathematics and chemistry have become popular.”
Initiative in Troms
The initiative to promote science subjects in schools took place over the last three years. The goal was to raise the competence of teachers of mathematics and natural science, increase recruitment to science subjects and make the subjects more relevant.
Norut Tromsø has now evaluated the Troms initiative, after being commissioned to do so by the RDA Board in Troms.
During the three-year period, a sum of NOK 30 million was used on 82 projects throughout the county.
More are choosing science subjects
More pupils at upper secondary schools in Troms are choosing science subjects. Subjects such as mathematics and chemistry in particular have experienced increases.
Part of this increase can be contributed to the fact that new science subjects have been introduced during this period. Examples of new science subjects include geosciences, technology and theory of research.
While the proportion of year three students at upper secondary school who choose science subjects in 2008-2009 academic year was 22 percent on a national basis, the figure for Troms was 29 percent. According to the scientists that while they cannot say without doubt that this is an effect of the county’s initiative to promote science subjects in schools, it is probable that there is a positive connection here.
Schools continuing on their own
Part of the data used in the evaluation was collected through questionnaires to mathematics and natural science teachers and schools in the autumn semesters in 2008 and 2009.
“An interesting result is that while almost half of the schools replied in 2008 that they had support from the initiative to promote science subjects in schools, just 10 percent replied that they had support one year later.”
“This can be interpreted that many schools have continued their initiative on science subjects at their own expense or that they have had access to other external funding or, in other words, that the original support from the county’s initiative to promote science subjects at schools started up a process at the schools to engage in their own science projects,” says Post doc Margrethe Aanesen at the University of Tromsø.
Teachers with increased competence
Between 50 and 60 percent of the teachers believe they have acquired increased competence in the teaching of science subjects over the past few years. Teachers who had participated in the initiative experienced to a higher degree that their competence had increased than was the case with their colleagues.
“Around one third of the teachers believed the pupils’ interest in science subjects had increased in recent years,” says Margrethe Aanesen. “There were clearly more teachers who had participated in the initiative who believe the pupils’ interest had increased, in comparison with other teachers.”
“We found a clear positive connection between the teachers’ engagement in the initiative to promote science subjects in schools and their view of the pupils’ interest in the subjects.”