AHEAD OF THE PACK: Melrose High year 8 students Talei Forrest (left) and Maddie Ingram demonstrate an experiment with Geoff McNamara. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
ACT year 6 students inched even further ahead of the rest of the country in science literacy according to the latest National Assessment Program - Science Literacy results, released on Tuesday.
Canberra outperformed the rest of the country, as it did in 2006 and 2009, but the average result has also improved from 418 in 2006 to 429 last year. The mean score was significantly higher than all other states and territories, with the second-highest jurisdiction, Western Australia, at 406.
The ACT also had the highest proportion of students attaining the proficient standard at 65.3 per cent, compared with the national result of 51.4 per cent.
ACT Education and Training Minister Joy Burch said the results came from a good teaching curriculum and ''fabulous'' teachers.
''2012 was the first year we've implemented, from foundation through to year 10, the Australian curriculum with science,'' she said.
''We've embedded a national curriculum of a very high standard so I would expect to see, in the years to come, that we continue to inch away from the pack.
''These test reflect the results of year 6 … as it goes through the secondary years, we've got to keep those kids interested and continue to grow and mentor their interest in science.''
One school doing that is Melrose High School, which has a mentor program run by teacher Geoff McNamara, who won the national Eureka prize for science or mathematics teaching in 2012.
''The sooner we get the students familiar with science, comfortable with the fact that, even though they're not necessarily going to become scientists, that it still plays a central role in their lives, the better,'' Mr McNamara said. ''I say to the kids, 'The vast majority of you are not going to become scientists', only a few will … but the rest of them still need to understand science.
''It's absolutely crucial, from primary school through the rest of their lives, that they understand what science is, how it's done and how it affects them, because how else are they going to make logical decisions?''
Mr McNamara has expanded his mentor program - which matches ''curious and hard-working'' students with professional working scientists - from six children two years ago to 21 this year.
Melrose High principal George Palavestra credited Mr McNamara with fostering links with local institutions.
''We are fortunate that we have the CSIRO and both [local] universities are supporting us,'' he said. ''We've got a very strong link with our scientific community, which [enables] those real-life learning situations for our kids.''