Recent budget cuts have proposed a threat to science in schools and the science industry as a whole. This will have a knock on effect to the accessibility of Science focused careers. Despite the decline in quality and funding there still seems to be an appetite for the sciences and Tim Peake’s expedition to the International Space Station has been an example of how imaginations can be sparked.
Online games are becoming an introduction into the worlds of physics and engineering. The gamification of education is a growing trend that allows youngsters to engage with subjects like physics first-hand, something they may be missing out on in the classroom.
Mark Turpin, the CEO of the popular YouTube Gaming Network Yogscast LTD said:
“Games, education and learning are converging. We are seeing more and more people try to capture the excitement and attention of young people by placing their learning within a game. Kids love playing games, as do grown-ups as games are inherently fun, but they need to be seen as a tool and a way to educate.”
The slow decline of science lessons in school has been apparent over the past few years and a recent report from Ofsted* found that the quality of practical science in schools needed revising. Ofsted visited 180 schools and reported that standards of science were not good enough in more than a quarter them. They also found that while the intention to perform practical experiments was there, in practice it was not possible due to timetabling constraints. Some secondary schools were allocated less than one-fifth of the weekly timetable to teach the triple science GCSE syllabus, so as a consequence only the “necessary minimum” practical work was carried out.
The recent rise in popularity of space games, such as Kerbal Space Program, indicates a growing interest in space and science. According to the Joint Council for Qualifications** there was a 3.2% rise in ‘A’ Levels taken in Physics between 2012 and 2014. Along with a 3.3% rise in Chemistry uptake and 0.2% in Biology.
Ted Everett, a Technical Producer at Kerbal Space Program added:
“There is an area of children’s minds that won’t be developed with these budget cuts- they won’t be seeing the everyday occurrence of science and or find an appreciation for everything around them.
Games likes Kerbal Space Program can teach people about science through a sort of passive learning, as you are playing a game that is not initially brought to teach yourself about physics, but brought to have fun. As the game is quite a real world simulation of rocket science, you end up learning a lot about these niche areas of science that ordinarily would be very out of access to you.”
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) student records***, over the 10 year span between 2004 and 2014, show that the number of students studying biological sciences at universities in the UK rose by 62,000. Physical sciences rose by 18,000. Although the appetite for science is apparent among young people, the support and funding could hold them back from entering jobs in science or taking their science education further.
For more understanding of how games and education can work together you can watch the following video with experts from Kerbal Space Program, and Yogscast