Serving up “super science” education

Super Science has become a household word among educators in Japan in recent years. First came the Super Science High Schools, then came the many super science study courses offered by cramschools, and the announcement by the government their intention to beef up the nation’s scientific research budget to maintain Japan’s edge as a super science nation, so it’s no surprise the Education ministry has to train super science teachers. The article however stops short of actually telling us how the ministry plans to identify super science teachers nor does it give a definition of a super science teacher.

Education ministry plans to train ‘super science teachers’

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry plans to train “super science teachers” specializing in science education at primary, middle and high schools, with the aim of getting children interested in science at an early age, it has been learned.

The ministry will train and bring into schools specialist science teachers who have graduated from science and technology universities, have a deep understanding of science and have the teaching ability to make science easy for children to grasp.

The move comes in light of an international survey showing a notable drop in Japanese children’s interest and performance in science.

The ministry will include funds for the establishment of training courses for specialist science teachers at institutions such as science and technology universities and postgraduate schools in its budgetary request for the next fiscal year. It will also invite suggestions from universities.

The courses will teach future science teachers how to create new materials for experiments to support the latest scientific knowledge and teaching methods to coax children into developing an interest in science. They will also provide the usual educational instruction for teaching primary, middle and high school students.

The ministry will form links from the stage of curriculum planning through to regional boards of education and reflect classroom opinion in its plan, while coming up with ways to make it easier for students to actually be hired as teachers.

Teacher training courses exist for middle and high school teachers at science and technology universities and postgraduate schools, but these courses tend not to focus on methods to make science easy for pupils to understand.

After graduation from such courses, many students choose careers in research or technology, but few go into teaching.

Students undertaking primary school teacher training courses study a range of subjects, but many of them say they are poor at science.

(May. 8, 2008) Yomiuri Shimbun
In other news…
A major Tokyo cram school Waseda Prep School has introduced the “Super Science Program”, a special course that offers High School students the opportunity to study life science under Professor Masaru Tomita dean of Keio’s Environment Info Faculty, and other teachers at Keio and Waseda Prep Schools. Students of the course then participate in a study camp at Keio’s INsittute for Advance Biosciences in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture. The course not only offers lectures but also places importance on experiments, discussion and exchanges among participants at hte dinner table. The students can also participate in a grad school profit and learn science-related English to improve their presentation skillsat international meetings. Note: Students who also do not usually attend Waseda Prep School can also apply for the SSP course. Selection is based on an interview and a short essay about an article from Time magazine.
See also our earlier feature “What are Super Science High Schools?” (see the sidebar menu) 

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