In this publication, the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST) presents the results of the Survey of Science in Secondary Schools, 2011.
The Survey of Science in Secondary Schools, 2011 was a two-part enquiry of teachers and students in Forms 1 to 5 in government, government-assisted and private secondary schools. The major objectives of this study were to compile data on the profile of secondary school science teachers, training needs, choice of career and difficulties encountered in teaching science. The adequacy and availability of teaching aids and textbooks, teaching and evaluation methods, students' attitudes towards science and careers in science were also addressed in the enquiry.
The teaching and understanding of science in schools are essential for promoting scientific literacy in society and the development of future scientists and engineers. The results of this study are therefore intended to provide empirical data on key education indicators necessary for improving the quality of science education to the benefit of all stakeholders.
One hundred and fifty-seven government, government assisted and private secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago were surveyed and 143 (91%) responded.
Profile of Secondary School Science Teachers
- Of the sample of 144 science teachers, 29% were males and 71% were females, representing a male to female ratio of 1 to 2.5. Females out-numbered their male counterparts in all age groups and types of school.
- Most science teachers (39%) overall were between 30-39 years of age followed by one-third (33%) in the 20-29 age cohort. The modal age of science teachers in government secondary schools (40%) was between 30-39 years while the largest proportion in government-assisted (49%) and private (38%) schools was between 20-29 years of age.
- A significant majority (80%) of secondary school science teachers, especially amongst those from government (84%) and government-assisted (80%) institutions, reported a first degree as their highest level of education while 10% possessed a higher degree qualification.
- A half (54%) of the sample of secondary school science teachers had no professional qualification while approximately two-fifths (37%) possessed a diploma in education. A higher percentage (45%) of science teachers in government secondary schools obtained the diploma in education compared to their counterparts in government-assisted (37%) and private (5%) schools.
- One-fifth (22%) of the science teachers taught a combination of Biology and Integrated Science while a similar percentage (19%) taught Integrated Science only. Fifteen percent (15%) taught both Chemistry and Integrated Science while 11% and 10% taught Physics and Chemistry respectively.
- Most male teachers were engaged in teaching Physics (24%), Integrated Science (21%), and both Biology and Integrated Science (17%) while females taught Biology (25%) and Chemistry (19%) with Integrated Science in each case, and Integrated Science (18%).
- Two-fifths (39%) of the sample of science teachers majored in Chemistry, a quarter (25%) in Biology and approximately one-fifth (17%) in Physics.
- Forty-nine percent (49%) of the science teachers, especially in government-assisted schools (66%), selected teaching as their career of first choice while a similar percentage (51%) did not.
- The majority (72%) of science teachers overall, and similarly by type of school and gender indicated that they were not desirous of changing to another career.
Syllabus Content and Instructional Time
- Overall, a significant percentage (85%) of science teachers, especially in government (85%) and government-assisted (95%) schools were very familiar with the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (C.S.E.C.) syllabus.
- Two-fifths (42%) of the science teachers indicated that they expected to complete between 81-100% of the syllabus for the academic year 2010/2011 and approximately a quarter (23%) between 61-80%.
- Seventy-one percent (71%) of form 5 teachers expected to complete between 81-100% of the syllabus by the end of the academic year, 2010/2011.
- The most frequently performed scientific activity was to explain scientific principles and concepts. The majority of teachers indicated that students conducted experiments (81%), made observations and presented findings and interpretations (71%), and formulated and tested hypotheses (70%), at some lessons.
Time spent outside the Formal School Day
- Teachers in general devoted more time to planning future class sessions and preparing or grading student exams or homework. In addition, science teachers in private secondary schools spent considerable time on administrative tasks including staff meetings.
- Over a third (37%) of the teachers spent less than one hour on professional reading and development, while one-quarter (25%) spent 1-2 hours.
- Forty-six percent (46%) of the sample of science teachers attended workshops in curriculum and teaching methods while one-third (32%) was exposed to workshops in assessment.
- Over a half (58%) of the teachers assigned science homework once or twice a week while one-fifth did so everyday (22%) and 19% sometimes.
- A relatively larger proportion of teachers in private (29%) and government-assisted (27%) schools assigned science homework every day compared to 18% in government schools.
Adequacy and use of Teaching Resources
- Twenty-two percent (22%) and 37% of the science teachers who participated in the survey indicated that they used the Internet, a great deal and quite a lot respectively, as a teaching resource while one-third (35%) used it a little and 6% did not use it.
- Teachers in government-assisted secondary schools used the Internet as a teaching resource more than their counterparts in government and private schools.
- All government (100%) and 71% of the private schools had science laboratories. However, a half (51%), especially in the government-assisted schools (67%), indicated that the laboratories were not well equipped.
- Two-fifths of the sample of science teachers had a lot (41%) and some (40%) influence on the subject matter to be taught. However, by comparison teachers' influence declined on the acquisition of specific textbooks, and materials and supplies.
- In assessing students' work, science teachers assigned the most weight to teacher-made tests and responses from students in class.
- Laboratory work and projects also received high ratings from the majority of science teachers.
Issues that Limited Teaching of the Subject
- A substantial proportion of teachers reported that lack of parental interest in children's learning and progress (65%) and disruptive students (52%), mainly in government schools, limited their teaching of science, a great deal and quite a lot.
- A relatively large percentage (51%) of teachers in government schools identified student absenteeism, and students who come from a wide range of backgrounds, as factors that impacted considerably on teaching, together with inadequate physical facilities in all schools.
Teachers View on Students' Learning
- Almost all (96%) of the science teachers in both public and private secondary schools agreed that: an understanding of how students learn was essential for teaching science, together with some students had a natural talent for science and others did not (74%), and too often the class was intrigued by scientific demonstrations while not grasping the underlying principles (61%).
- Three-quarters (75%) of the teachers disagreed that students were not interested in science at the secondary school level.
- The majority (53%) of form 1 students was 12 years and under, while students in forms 2 (47%) and 3 (46%) were 13 and 14 years of age respectively. This trend continued whereby in the higher forms 4 (53%) and 5 (85%) most students were 15 and 16 years and over respectively.
- Overall, the largest proportion (35%) of the students, who responded to the survey, reported a frequency of 4 science periods each week while 30% indicated 5 periods, mainly in form 5.
- Most students in forms 1 (83%) and 2 (77%) used the New Lower Secondary Science Books 1 and 2 respectively. Caribbean Interactive Science Book 3 (64%) was most popular amongst form 3 students. Students in forms 4 and 5, however, used a variety of science textbooks.
- In general, the majority (69%) of students, as in the case of the teachers (60%), reported that the prescribed science textbooks were adequate; 16% stated they were inadequate; and 11% useless.
- Two-fifths (42%) of the students brought their science textbooks to school, every time while one-third (34%) stated sometimes.
- Over a half (57%) of the responding sample of students indicated that teachers assigned science homework sometimes while one-third (32%) stated every time. A higher percentage (37%) of students in government-assisted schools, especially in form 4 (56%), reported homework every time compared to 29% and 28% in government and private institutions respectively.
- The response data reveal that 51% of students did their science homework, every time, and 41%, sometimes.
- Three-fifths (59%) of the students in government-assisted secondary schools did their homework every time compared to 52% and 45% in private and government schools respectively.
- The main reasons given by students for not doing their science homework every time were difficulty with the science homework (33%), not inclined to (27%) and lack of time (21%).
- In seeking help with science homework, students identified their parents or guardians (28%), classmates or friends (28%) and teachers (23%) as their main sources of assistance.
- A substantial percentage (69%) of the responding sample of secondary school science students did not take extra lessons or tutoring.
- Overall, two-thirds (65%) of the students, especially in forms 4 (76%) and 5 (77%), attended extra lessons to do better which was also seen as the desired outcome by a larger proportion of students in government-assisted secondary schools (76%) compared to state (57%) and private (62%) schools.
- As Integrated Science is taught in the lower forms, especially in the government institutions, most students in forms 1 to 3 enjoyed this combination of the biological and physical sciences. However, in pursuing studies in core sciences, most students in forms 4 and 5 enjoyed Biology, followed by Chemistry and Physics to a lesser extent.
- Four-fifths (81%) of the students reported that their schools had no science club. The government-assisted institutions had a higher percentage (36%) of science clubs compared to 19% in state schools.
- Of the 19% of students who indicated that their schools had science clubs only 15% were members.
- Students copied notes from the board or teacher (88%) and discussed completed homework (67%) most frequently in their science classes.
- Approximately a half of the students related science to everyday problems (52%), presented and discussed findings (52%), had a quiz or test (52%), worked in groups (49%) and worked individually using textbook (48%), always and pretty often.
- A significant percentage of the students indicated that learning science will help them in their daily lives (91%) and that they liked science (81%).
- Approximately three-quarters agreed: they should do well in science to get the job they wanted (75%), they would have liked science much more if it were not so difficult (72%), and they usually did well in science (72%).
- Students also indicated: they would like a job that involved science (62%), they needed to do well in science to please their parents (59%), they would like to take more science in school (56%), and they needed science to learn other school subjects (56%).
- Students devoted more time to doing homework on a normal school day. A quarter of the students spent three hours and more hanging out with friends (24%) and watching television or videos (24%).
- Most students (87%) had access to a home computer, had science books (73%), other than textbooks, and study desks (69%) at their homes.
- Overall, three-fifths (60%) of the students read science books other than their textbooks. Students in the higher forms, 4 (70%) and 5 (68%), read science books more than those in the lower forms, 1 (57%), 2 (54%) and 3 (53%).
- Most students (68%) watched science programmes on television. Television viewing of science programmes was reported by 75% of form 4 and 70% of form 5 students.
- A significant percentage (73%) of the sample of secondary school science students expressed a desire to attain a university-level education.
- A quarter of the parents/guardians of students from all schools attained O'levels/C.S.E.C. (27%) and university degrees (25%) as their highest level of education. Parents/guardians of the students in state-assisted (31%) and private (28%) institutions had achieved university-level education compared to 21% in state schools. This trend is similar to that of the intended educational achievement of students.