Dáil Éireann - Volume 553 - 26 June, 2002

Written Answers. - Science Education.

  99. Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which he intends to increase participation in science subjects at second level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14777/02]

  Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): I am very conscious of the importance of these subjects in a modern educational system. My Department is very active in implementing strategies to increase participation in them.

  Provisional data for the school year 2001-02 indicate that 42.5% of the leaving certificate cohort of students were studying biology. The corresponding figures for chemistry and physics were 12.3% and 17.0%, respectively. The latter figures indicate slightly increased participation rates in physics and chemistry.

  New leaving certificate syllabi in physics and chemistry were introduced in September 2000 and were examined for the first time this year. As well as the addition of up to date content, these syllabi have an increased emphasis on student practical work and on the interface between science, technology and society. A new leaving cer[1460] tificate syllabus in biology is being introduced in September.

  At junior certificate level a course committee of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has produced a draft of a new science syllabus. This draft has been circulated among the education partners for discussion. At the end of this process a final draft of the syllabus will be submitted to my Department for approval.

  An extensive three year in-career development programme for teachers of physics and chemistry was established in September 1999 as part of a comprehensive physical sciences initiative. There are plans to extend this programme for another year. An in-career development programme for teachers of biology has been put in place in the current school year.

  Laboratory resources are an important element in the delivery of a modern science curriculum. As a further part of the physical sciences initiative capital grants to a total of over €13,000 have been provided to each school offering the physical sciences for the purchase of laboratory equipment, including ICT equipment. In addition, a special annual per capita grant is being paid to schools in respect of each pupil taking a physical science subject at leaving certificate level. Furthermore, schools that currently have a capital project in architectural planning will have their science laboratories upgraded as an integral element of the capital project.

  A task force on the physical sciences was established over 18 months ago. The brief of this task force was to identify the issues contributing to the falling uptake of the physical sciences at both second and third level and to recommend additional measures to address these issues. The task force reported earlier this year and its report has now been circulated for consultation. The consultation period extends to 1 September. At that stage my Department will initiate an implementation process based on the recommendations contained in the report and on submissions received.

  Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 79.