The future of science education
What does the PISA 2025 Science Framework tell us about the future of science education?
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Oxford University Press (OUP) have called for science teaching worldwide to create a new generation of “science citizens” in a new Framework published in June 2023.
The new Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2025 Science Framework will test for skills that the OECD says are critical for the next generation to navigate pressing global issues such as climate change and “fake news”, with optimism that scientific literacy can enable students to create solutions.
- Assess students on their ability to use scientific skills to analyse data and evidence
- Examine how we can use science education to empower action for sustainability and the environment
- Shape “science citizens” – people who can apply key information about health, environment, and the physical world to everyday life.
The Framework — developed by a group of international experts led by the OECD and delivered by OUP — will shape the 2025 PISA Assessment taken by a sample of over 500,000 15-year-olds, chosen to be representative of each of the over 90 countries and economies taking part.
What does it tell us about the future of science education?
To mark the launch, Andreas Schleicher — OECD Director for Education and Skills — joined science education experts in a special online panel event chaired by Fiona Fortes, OUP’s International Product Director in our Education Division. You can watch the full launch event here:
Andreas Schleicher introduced the event by explaining the highlights of the Framework. He explained how, in a world where, “Google knows everything,” success is really about balancing resilience and fostering sustainability, and the future of work will require skills to think critically, manage complex problems and navigate ambiguity. Science education is the key to enabling young people to thrive in the digital world, he emphasised, and it is very important to enable them to distinguish scientific evidence from misinformation.
Andreas was keen to signal that we should remain positive about the opportunities that lie ahead, as, “science always creates that scientific optimism, that can-do attitude that actually we can find answers to the problems of the future.”
Jonathan Osborne, who has been Chair of the Science Expert Group which informed the Framework, and is Kamalachari Professor of Science Education, Emeritus, at Stanford University, gave his thoughts on the potential impact of AI on science education. He explained how AI might delude people into thinking that they are “masters of their own knowledge”, whereas “knowledge is quite different from information”. He also highlighted that the primary goal of science is to achieve consensus – and education should explain how science is a “moral community” that engages in checking all of its claims by its peers.
One of the highlights of the event was to hear from Peta White, the author of the ‘Agency in the Anthropocene’ paper, which formed the basis for a new focus on education for sustainability and environmental education in PISA.
This concept focuses on how learners of today can have agency in what is known as the ‘Anthropocene geological epoch’—where humans have a significant impact on the planet’s ecosystems. Peta called for, “curriculum writers around the world to be bold and brave now as they implement change in education systems and curricula… enabling us all to develop agency for better decision-making and action taking.”
Katherine Blundell, Professor of Astrophysics at Oxford University, joined the panel and gave examples of how science education can help shape science citizens. She set up the Global Jet Watch observatories, which collect data on evolving black hole systems and nova explosions in our Galaxy, helping to inspire the next generation of scientists in South Africa, Chile, Australia, and India. She particularly celebrated the work of teachers, who, “have to share their knowledge, their sills, their ability to learn new things with their students.”
A big thank you to all our panel and to the attendees for what was a very interactive session, with over 50 questions from the audience that provoked an interesting discussion of the most relevant issues in science education. You can watch a recording here.
Applying our scientific expertise
OECD and OUP have used their expertise in science education and assessment — supported by leading experts from around the world — to understand what knowledge and skills children will need to address the scientific challenges of the next 25 years.
In 2019, OUP began developing the PISA 2025 Science Framework with the OECD building on our extensive experience of producing science resources around the world, and research into the future of science education.
Our Shaping Science Citizens site tells some of the stories of how the Framework was developed and shares our thinking and resources that will enable educators around the world to shape science citizens.
Fathima Dada, OUP’s Managing Director for Education, said:
“We’re honoured to have been chosen to deliver this important work for PISA that will be a catalyst for an evolution in science education, enabling young people to combat climate change in an age of misinformation.
“OUP wants to equip young people everywhere with the knowledge and skills they need to understand these complex challenges, empowering them to make informed decisions, and be part of the solution.
“We have applied our global experience in science education to create a Framework that will not just shape the 2025 edition of PISA, but will also show the way of the future of science teaching.”
The results will inform policy makers, educators, and the general public about the capabilities and progress of 15-year-olds in their country, as well as provide a global view on how well education systems are preparing students for the future.