10-year-olds spend less time on science - but performance is up
The amount of time Irish 10-year-olds spend learning science has halved in four years, but their reading skills seem to give them an advantage in tackling the subject.
These are among the findings of an analysis of the latest assessment of fourth class pupils in relation to science and maths.
The report showed a number of positive outcomes for Ireland, which will be welcome news for Education Minister Richard Bruton.
For both maths and science, Irish pupils recorded significant improvements in 2015 compared with 2011.
On the downside, concern is expressed about a lack of confidence among primary teachers about teaching science, and a new report calls for more supports for the subject.
The 'Inside the primary classroom: what happens in fourth class?' report is based on the responses of teachers.
These teachers were involved in educating 4,344 pupils who took part in trends in international mathematics and science study (TIMSS) 2015, the findings of which were published in 2016. The Irish report, written by Aidan Clerkin, Rachel Perkins, and Emma Chubb of the Educational Research Centre (ERC), Drumcondra, is published today.
Among its findings is that teachers in Ireland expressed substantially less confidence in teaching science than their international counterparts, although younger teachers were more comfortable than older teachers.
Some 55pc of Irish pupils were taught by a teacher with only medium or low confidence that they could assess pupils' understanding of science, compared with 23pc internationally. Similarly, about half of pupils in Ireland (49pc) had a teacher who expressed only medium or low confidence they could improve the understanding of pupils who were struggling with science, compared with 29pc internationally.
In contrast, the study points to high levels of satisfaction and confidence when it comes to teaching maths, where Irish pupils scored significantly higher than their peers in 37 countries and significantly lower than pupils in only seven countries.
Dr Clerkin said "participation in science-related professional development in the two years leading up to the survey was relatively rare, which suggests there may be scope for additional support for teachers on this front".
According to TIMSS, fourth class pupils in Ireland typically spend 32 hours a year on science - significantly down from 63 hours in 2011 - compared with an international average of 76 hours. Despite the cut, which is likely linked to extra time given to literacy and numeracy in schools, the Irish performance in science improved significantly between 2011 and 2015.