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Professor David Raubenheimer in Nepalese Himalaya

 

Innovative degree a response to science needs

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Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey

Massey University will back the call by the Government’s chief science adviser to boost science education, Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says.

The University announced today that, from next year, it is offering an exciting new science degree based on the innovative inquiry-based learning model.

Mr Maharey says the Bachelor of Natural Sciences degree will be taught at the University’s centre for innovation – the Albany campus in Auckland.

“It will provide knowledge across natural science disciplines and the flexibility to study beyond the classical science subjects in areas such as sociology of science, sustainability, philosophy and project management. It will produce a new breed of scientists able to address the most pressing issues the world faces, things like biosecurity, food and water shortages, global warming.”

The programme director for the degree is Professor David Raubenheimer, a nutritional ecologist widely known for his international research projects conducted in remote regions of Nepal, Uganda and China, tracking tigers, snow leopards, blue sheep and mountain gorillas, and analysing the interaction between humans and wildlife.

“David is the perfect fit for the innovative programme we plan to offer,” Mr Maharey says. “He’s an adventurer, a go-getter who breaks the moulds and is passionate about seeking new knowledge and applying it.”

In a report issued yesterday, Sir Peter Gluckman said there is too much underachievement in science in New Zealand schools and a strong science education system is needed to address the challenges world communities face.

Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O’Reilly has also said science is crucial for the future of many business sectors and national prosperity.

Mr Maharey says as well as offering a new degree at tertiary level, Massey’s College of Education is keen to engage with the Government and the science and business communities to discuss ways of improving the numbers and quality of science teachers in schools and achieving better outcomes so that more students are qualified to do science degrees.

Professor Raubenheimer says the Bachelor of Natural Sciences degree will employ an interdisciplinary, research-based teaching model. “Inquiry-based learning is at the heart of this innovative degree, encouraging students to identify what they need to know and enable discovery,” he says. “Students may be familiar with this learning approach used in secondary schools.”

First-year study is around structured inquiry. In year two teachers provide guidance to stimulate self-directed exploration of questions. In year three, open inquiry is the aim, where students come up with the questions and independently research the answers.

Colin Harvey, managing director of Ancare Scientific Ltd, a private New Zealand company researching and developing veterinary medicines, recognises the importance of science education relevant to the workplace. “Employers are looking for graduates who have a solid and broad grounding in the sciences, a feel for business and a good understanding of science-and-society issues such as the importance of sustainability,” Mr Harvey says.  “Above all, we want graduates who can think independently and communicate well.”

 

 

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