ROSE (Relevance Of Science Education) is an international comparative research project which aims to analyze attitudes towards science and technology among 15 year-old students from upper secondary school. The project was launched in 2000 by Svein Sjøberg and Camilla Schreiner from the University of Oslo, with the support of the Research Council of Norway; nowadays 40 countries join the ROSE network. The study is a relevant resource both to compare the situation in different countries and for policy making in science education.
Observa Science in Society conducted the survey in Italy, interviewing 1445 students from 40 schools throughout the country.
The results are now available in the book “Scienza e nuove generazioni” (Science and New Generations), published in collaboration with UNESCO.
The study shows that Italian students express a high level of interest and trust in science, sometimes higher than the level observed in other countries. Indeed, in general, young Italians have a medium-to-high level of interest towards scientific subjects. The majority of students, especially boys, think that the most appealing topics in science and technology are those which have practical implications. However, basic research gets also significant attention particularly among girls.
The strong interest in scientific subjects is linked with a high trust in science, especially when science is considered capable of improving our daily life. Most Italian students believe that science will find remedies for still incurable, dangerous diseases and will produce greater employment opportunities. Therefore, it is not surprising that four students out of five consider science to be important for society.
On the other hand, this optimistic perception becomes diluted when science is connected to school activities. Even though young Italians recognize the relevance of science school subjects and approach those subjects with curiosity, they think that studying science is difficult and not very appealing, particularly in terms of future job opportunities.
In many cases, their hesitation to take up a scientific career may depend, at least partially, upon a correlation between the widespread perception of the scientific profession and the occupational aspirations of new generations. Indeed, in many students’ opinion, research careers may represent a good opportunity to express their own skills but they don’t leave time for activities outside work, tending to monopolize one’s life plan.
The image of scientist is equally in the shade. Although students express trust in the benefits of science, they don’t express the same trust in those who work in science. Indeed, quite differently from the recent past, the level of skepticism appears on the rise: nowadays, only one student out of two recognize to scientists complete independence and objectivity.
The book “Scienza e nuove generazioni”, edited by F. Neresini, S. Crovato, B. Saracino, published by Observa Science in Society in collaboration with Unesco, Vicenza, 2010, pp.188 is free for Observa members.
Stefano Corsi, graduated in Philosophy at the University of Padua, collaborates with research centre Observa Science in Society and has a special interest for the communication of science.