Energy education, its current state and what it should be like: scientists call for networked learning
What do Germany’s pupils know about energy? This question is as important as it is complex. It is important because as a topic it impacts our future and because mature decisions are based on knowledge. It is complex because energy is not just a matter of physics, it also has a social, political, economic and ecological dimension. A scientific study provides us with an answer: on behalf of the RWE Foundation, the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN) in Kiel, Germany, is investigating energy education in schools. Initial findings are already emerging.
What the syllabus says
In a first step, Professor Manfred Euler and his team of scientists analysed the syllabuses and found that the different federal states prioritise the various aspects of the topic of energy very differently. While Saxony and Baden-Wuerttemberg, for instance, place much value on physics and technology, North Rhine-Westphalia gives more focus to the topic’s social and ecological aspects. Another difference between the individual federal states is the way in which knowledge about energy grows from one year to the next.
What the teachers teach
Following the syllabus analysis, the IPN questioned around 500 teachers. The majority of them criticised the fact that teaching about energy is not sufficiently interdisciplinary: not enough of a connection is established between the aspects of science and technology and the economic, ecological and socio-political aspects. Two thirds of the teachers questioned deplore the fact that the topic of energy is underrepresented at the primary school level, which means that the pupils lack a sound basis later on. The respondents also want further training and better material resources for experiments and interdisciplinary projects.
What the young people know
The energy education study then turns its focus on the pupils. From September to November 2012 the IPN interviews around 1,000 young people on what they know about energy. One of the questions asks the pupils to estimate how much electrical energy an energy-saving bulb converts into visible light, and another, which country Germany imports most of its crude oil from.
What can be done to improve things
At the beginning of 2013 IPN will identify instances of good practice and recommend them as examples to be followed. Based on these findings, the RWE Foundation will develop projects and implement them with select partners. The aim of the projects will be to make energy education in Germany more interdisciplinary and to promote networked learning.