Primary school pupils are turning off science at school, and time-poor teachers may be the reason why, new nationwide research shows.
The 2007 National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) report found that 37 per cent of Year 8 students disliked science at school, up from 15 per cent in 1999.
The percentages of Year 4 and Year 8 students who thought they learned little about science at school also increased between 1999 and 2007, from 8 per cent to 16 per cent for Year 4 students and from 6 per cent to 11 per cent for Year 8 students.
University of Otago Professor of Education and NEMP co-director Dr Terry Crooks said one of the problems could be that teachers lacked time to do experiments in class.
"There's every reason to say teachers are under pressure for time," said Dr Crooks. "Substantially higher proportions [of students] are saying they never do really good things in science at school."
He said children tended to get "talked to" about science but didn't get to "do much science". However, he said it didn't mean students didn't like science at all.
"The survey shows that actually a lot of them want more science. Seventy-one per cent of Year 4 students and 44 per cent of Year 8 students want to do more science at school, both of which are increases over the last eight years.
"What they're saying is that they're actually not happy with the science they're getting at school."
The report showed that students were still enjoying science outside of school. Fifteen per cent of Year 8 students liked doing their own science "heaps", the same as 1999. For Year 4 students this increased to 47 per cent in 2007 from 24 per cent in 1999.
Auckland Primary Principals Association president Owen Alexander agreed that teachers were often time-poor in the classroom.
"I think one of the biggest issues is the increased demands from other curriculum areas such as literacy and numeracy," he said. "Science does take a lot of organisation, particularly as students like hands-on practical experiences. That does take time, and we are sometimes time-poor in trying to get curriculum coverage.
"It would be wonderful if schools had a dedicated science room. It would be a real advantage, but that is a thing of the past unfortunately."
He appreciated reports like the monitoring project's because they highlighted what principals needed to consider in their planning for the following year.
"Now that this report has come out we'll all look at it and evaluate our own science programme against these findings, and if we're found wanting in any area then we really need to do something about it."