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The Curricula of Various European Countries.

Austria.

Belgium.

Czech Republic.

Finland.

Greece.

Hungary.

International Baccalaureate.

Italy.

Netherlands.

Norway.

Poland.

Portugal.

Slovakia.

Spain.

UK.

United States.

Austria.

For each school type there exists a different curriculum.

First I want to explain this one of my school type: This is a high school with focus on engineering.

Physics is taught only three years with two lessons per week. Because this school type does not only grant university access but enables the students to pursue a highly qualified occupation in trade and industry, the subject is called applied physics. That means, that the students should know and be able to apply the physical laws and methods which are relevant for their engineering practice. The curriculum contains that for describing connections mathematics, symbolic language, scientific terminology, graphics, tables and formulas have to be used. It is very general, so each teacher can decide the details for himself. It does not mention experiments nor how to assess the work.

The curriculum of a "normal" high school is very different, it is much longer and contains details. It specifies what the students must know before they start any topic, what are fundamental idea, goal, contents, characteristic experiments, applications and connections with daily life and other subjects like biology, chemistry. It contents different forms of teaching and that experiments form a significant part of teaching. At least one of the suggested experiments had to be carried out.

Belgium.

Belgium is a federal state with three policy levels: the federal state, the communities and the regions.

The three communities are the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-speaking Community with respectively 55,84%, 43,62% and 0,54% of the overall number of pupils (percentages for '94 '95).

Constitutional freedom of education led to the organization of three educational networks:

Each network is free to develop its own curricula.

On the webpage of the Education Department of the Ministry of the Flemish Community www.ond.vlaanderen.be/

more information can be found on:

More detailed information on the content of the syllabuses in Flanders can be found on www.argo.be/ for the community education and subsidized official education, and on www.vsko.be/ for the subsidized private education of catholic origin.

To give an idea: in the syllabus of the 'general education' branch of a secondary private school the main topics for physics are:

3th year :    properties of matter, optics
4th year :    forces, work, energy, power, pressure, laws of gasses
5th year :    electrodynamics and electric structure of the solid state, electromagnetism, nuclear physics (only for some of the students)
6th year :    kinematics, dynamics, periodical phenomena
Very little ideas of quantum mechanics, relativity or high energy physics are included, unless individual teachers take the initiative to do so. There is a tendency to diminish the hours of the physics courses in the 3th and 4th year of this general education branch of the secondary school!

Czech Republic.

Gymnázium Beroun. The grammar school prepares students for university study with general education. e-mail: gb@iol.cz.
The study is finished with a school-leaving examination, which is required by all universities and colleges. This examination is taken in four subjects (Czech language, a foreign language and two optional subjects chosen from languages, science subjects or humanities)
In teaching a subject, different methods and strategies are used. For example:
            1. Methods of the passive learning (e.g. lecture methods )
            2. Methods using handouts, standard example problems,and explicitly defined laboratory activities.
            3. Problem solving activities.
            4. Heuristic method ( e.g. demonstrations without teacher commentary involving an experiment; problem tasks - with redundant data, missing data and description of construction )
            5. Research method using independent study of material and class presentation of the material.
Teacher checks only student's understanding
      Teaching methods may be combined to add depth and versatility to instruction.
      Physics curriculum     :    2-3 periods per week for all years of study
                         :    class periods, practical laboratory exercises, measurement using computers,computer simulations of physical processes
                         :   detail of the syllabus

Finland.


 

Greece.

A very short comment on high school physics teaching in Greece and the relevant syllabus would be the very common one about having too much theory versus lab work. This is supposed to being changing in the context of a broad educational reform which is attempted by now. The reform involves changes in curriculum, school books and assessment. However,not much about particle physics can be found in the new syllabus.

The Greek school system in few lines has as follows:

i) Primary school (6-12 years old)
ii) Gymnasium (12-15 years old)
iii) Lyceum (15-18 years old)
Primary school and Gymnasium are compulsory. The curriculum includes integrated science teaching for the last two years at primary school, whereas physics is taught as a separate science from the second year at Gymnasium onward. An educational reform focussing on Lyceum curriculum was launched in school year 1997-1998 and will be completed in 1999-2000. Thus, an attempt of making some comments on the new physics syllabus for Lyceum would be risky. Although more time is dedicated to lab-work it seems that again, teaching theory is predominant. The syllabus update on the other hand, does not meet the need for including QMS and particle physics.

For some information contact the Ministry of Education at: www.ypepth.gr and the Hellenic Pedagogical Institute at: www.pi.schools.gr.

Hungary.

The Hungarian system of school in main lines:
    The school is obligatory for all the children from 6 to 16.
 
Primary school. from 6 to 14 8 levels
Secondary school. Three main types
Gymnasium to prepare for university from 14 to 18. 4 levels finishing with final examination.
Technical high school to learn profession, and to prepare for university from 14 to 18. 4 level finishing with final examination.
Vocational school to learn profession from 14 to 17; it is not enough to go to the university.

Physics in the school:
    Start: 6th level, in the primary school 2 hours/week
                     Topics: Properties of matter (atoms, molecules), mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, optics, astronomy. They use in this time only a little mathematics, enough for the topics.
    Secondary:  Generally 4 years 2 hours/week
                        Properties of matter, the motion of atoms, structure of atoms, modeling, boundaries, connection between the world of atoms and macroscopic world, thermodynamics.
                        Mechanics, dynamics, circular motion, harmonic motion,  waves.
                        Optics, electricity, magnetism, electromagnetic fields.
                        Modern physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, astronomy

The students have to solve lot of exercises, and they can choose physics as a subject of final examination.

Connection to Hungarian Educational Ministerium:  www.om.hu/

International Baccalaureate (IB).

IB. This is a worldwide organisation which offers, currently, two schemes: the Middle Years programme for 11 ń 16 year olds and the Diploma programme for post-16 students.

The Diploma Programme. This is an intensive two-year programme of study whose basic aim is to provide a broad-based education in preparation for university studies. Students study six subjects covering the full range of arts, science, humanities and languages. These subjects are studied at either Standard or Higher levels, the difference being in the time allocation and syllabus quantity, not in the intellectual level expected. In addition they follow a course called Theory of Knowledge (philosophy and thinking skills), a social programme called Community, Action and Service, and must produce a 4000 word Extended Essay. Grading for academic subjects is on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest). The students must also pass the other three compulsory elements, which can gain them bonus points. In total a student can achieve 45 points and typically will need 40+ to gain entry to a top university.

Physics in the IB. This is a very modern course in its content and very practically based in its philosophy. The syllabus contains all of the essential, usual physics in its six core topics but does have more modern physics than most in the Atomic & Nuclear topic. Additionally two option topics are also studies from a range of five. These range from Optics to Relativity. The syllabus has a strong practical element. Students must spend approximately a quarter of their time on experimental work, which is teacher assessed throughout the two years and then submitted for moderation. In all it counts for 24% of a students overall grade.
All the science subject syllabi are currently beginning a review process but the results of these will not come into effect until 2002.

Being an international scheme the full programme is also available in French and Spanish (as well as English) and possibly others too.

For more information and contact details refer to the International Baccalaureate site at www.ibo.org.

Italy.

Since 1990 our lyceum started an experimental project, supported by the National Administration, leading to a deeper and more thorough preparation in Mathematics and Physics in order to reduce the number that failed to complete the course at University. So now we have 3 hours per week in Physics and 5 hours per week in Mathematics for 5 years. So far we have the possibility to have both experiments and theory, because we gained time compared to the traditional schedule. The group of teachers involved in the project had to work very hard to find the right way but our results seem to be very much improved. www.battaglini.ta.it/ilpiano.htm

Netherlands.

Teaching Modern Physics in Dutch High Schools.

Main aim of the project: Develop a series of ~35 lessons about modern physics. Have them tested in the classroom. Write a proposal for examination terms

Relevant student background: A more or less standard High School curriculum containing classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, waves, geometrical and wave optics, and radioactivity

The contents of the course:
  * Main topic: Introducing a 'quantum picture' of matter.
Other topics were dropped, sometimes reluctantly, to avoid overloading the program. Accordingly, the proposed core program contains, for instance, no relativity theory, except for an ad hoc introduction of E = mc2, necessary for treating nuclear and particle interactions. However, for interested students there are some possibilities of spending additional time on extra courses.

* Main difficulty: Quantum Mechanics is a 'difficult' theory.
This holds for students, even for most physics students, and it will certainly be true for almost all high school students. Therefore, a high school course must be very elementary, but how does one achieve this? Can such an "elementary course" be realized at all?

What makes QM difficult?
* Mathematical difficulties
* Conceptual difficulties

For students, the mathematical difficulties get most of the attention but (as a consequence?) Students tend to see Quantum Mechanics as a mathematical exercise, with no direct relation to physical reality.

There are more details of this programme.

Norway.

In the 3-year High School covering age groups 16-19 years, there is a compulsory 5 periods a week general science course that includes biology, chemistry and physics. This is taken the first year. In the second and third years we offer two physics courses (2FY and 3FY) each of 5 periods a week. About 30 % take 2FY while about two third of these continue with 3FY. Both courses are algebra based, but 3FY is more mathematical than 2FY. For instance: The difficult parts of mechanics including projectile motion, circular motion and Newtons laws on vector form are done in 3FY. The syllabus also emphasize conceptual understanding, scientific methods, experimental work including data logging, history of physics and environmental problems. In 2FY the students may be selected for an oral exam including a practical part. This exam is set by the teacher and marked by an external examiner. For 3FY most students have to sit for a written exam set by a national examination board, but some may also be selected for an oral exam as in 2FY. All student are marked by there teacher independently of these final exams. The complete syllabus can be found on the following website: skolenettet.nls.no/.  Go from "Laereplaner" to "Videregaend opplaering" to "Velg studieretning" to "Fysikk FY+3FY". (The syllabus is in Norwegian.)

Poland.

Youth Palace, Katowice.

Physics faculty was invented and created there by Urszula Woznikowska-Bezak. It all stared with the question that she asked herself:
- What programs should be realized to attract young people to the physics faculty ?
- How to achieve the assumed results and the groups acceptance of the goals ?
- How to avoid methods based on formal teaching ?
There are also appeared new aspects of today:
- Spreading knowledge about the significance of physics among the people of the European Union.
- Care of the new generation of physicists.

The answer seemed to be simple - it is better to know only a little piece of knowledge than to misunderstand a big one, and a good start of effective learning in physics lies in creating a specific atmosphere, based on conversations and physical contact between both of the sides participating in the process of learning.

Mostly this is realized in pupils` after-school weekly sessions but also with experiments in Research Institutes, at Summer and Winter Physics Schools where they present their interests, talk, sing and enjoy life itself.
Here has grown an idea to create a common sphere of meetings with physics. For the most interested can be included competitions:

Pupils who come to us gain experience of being independent and having freedom of decision about what to do with their spare time and future.
And......

We had a discussion about teaching curricula and the ways of working with them based on the curriculum shown by Maria Kusmierek from Poland, which she uses in her experimental class. It seems that all Physics teachers meet the same problems, the most important of which is that there is less and less time given to teaching Physics. Besides in some countries the teacher has to follow strictly the official syllabus, in others he (or she) is less restricted. Another problem is that very often the teaching is mainly limited to lectures given by the teacher and to solving physical problems mathematically (eg Italy). Because of the shortage of time and because of the 'theoretical' way of teaching sometimes pupils do not see a single experiment, do nothing with their own hands, and learn nothing about modern Physics like basic quantum mechanics, nuclear physics or particle physics. Those who try to include these topics find out that most of the pupils are very interested in them. Even if we give rather simple explanations of the problems there is always a group which probes deeper. Some of us have already found out that it is worth starting by showing the pupils what matter is built of, going up to the quarks and then connecting it with the history of the Universe. For beginners one can explain things practically without mathematics, building up the mathematical apparatus later according to the needs and ability of the pupils. Also we find out that experiments not only make lessons more interesting, but allow pupils to understand and to remember the lessons better - so it is worth trying ....

Portugal.

In Portugal the school system is composed by the Basic and Secondary school. The basic school is for students with 6-14 years old, the Secondary school is only for students who want to continue studying. Students start learning physics in Basic school with 6 years old. In the Basic school they have little mathematics, only the necessary to understand the concepts.

In Portugal students learn particle physics, for instance in the Basic school they learn the structure of matter.

Slovakia.

National Program. In the first and second year, all of the students have an average of 3 periods (45 minutes each) of physics per week. Two periods are for classroom instruction for all students (about 35). The students are divided into three groups. Each group has laboratory time consisting of three consecutive periods once every three weeks. In third and fourth year they can choose to study at a higher level or at the standard level. Standard level studies 2 periods per week. Higher level studies 4 or 5 periods per week.

Syllabus outline:
1st year:  Mechanics: Kinematics concepts, linear motion with constant acceleration, concept of force and mass, Newton's laws, linear momentum, work, energy and power, rotational motion of a rigid body. Fluids, Circular motion, Universal gravitation, Projectile motion,
2nd.year:  Thermal physics and properties of matter: Specific heat capacity, specific latent heat, thermal properties of gases. Electrostatic and electrodynamics: Electric force field and potential, electromagnetic induction, direct current in conductors, semiconductors, electrolytes and gasses, Ohm's law, and Kirchoff's laws.
3rd year: Magnetic field, simple harmonic motion, alternating current, waves, sound, electromagnetic waves
4th year: Ray optics and wave optics, general relativity, quantum concept, atomic and nuclear physics and astrophysics.

IB. The students have special curriculum during 2 years. The curriculum contains six academic areas: language A (Slovak), B (English), individuals and society, experimental science, mathematics and the arts and electives. At last three and not more than four are taken at higher level the others at subsidiary or standard level. HL courses represent 240 teaching hours, SL courses cover 150 hours.

IB Syllabus outline.
Measurement, Mechanics, Thermal physics and properties of matter, waves, electricity and magnetism, Atomic and nuclear physics, 2 options (Mechanics extension, atomic and nuclear physics extension, energy extension, Biomedical physics, historical physics, Astrophysics, Special and general relativity, Optics).

In physics all of the students are required to spend at least 25% of their teaching time following an internally assessed scheme of practical investigative work, related to all aspects of the programme, including the options.

Spain.

Compulsory Secondary Schooling begins for students at age twelve and ends when they reach the age of sixteen. The contents of the physics curriculum are split into three groups: 1) subject knowledge, 2) procedures, and 3) attitudes.

Physics at secondary level (grade 3) is a compulsory subject (two periods per week). Students of grade four choose Physics as a specialized course (three lessons per week) or Laboratory Techniques (two periods a week). The number of students in one class is between 20 and 30. If there are more than 20 pupils, it is impossible to do laboratory works with the class as a whole group. In this case, the class is split for these practical lessons. All schools have equipment; usually the number of equipment sets is five.

The post-mandatory education system lasts two years and leads to the university entrance qualification. . Students can choose four different types of bac (or graduating degrees): Science, Technology, Social Sciences and Fine Arts. In the first year the subjects are obligatory, and for the last one it is a system of compulsory and optional subjects. Those pupils who study Science bac will take four periods of Physics each week in their first year. Physics (four periods per week) is an obligatory subject at second year while Applied Physics (four lessons per week) is an optional subject.

UK.

Science is part of the National Curriculum, and so students have to study the 3 sciences up to the age of 16, the end of compulsory education. In the two years for age 17-18, traditionally known as the '6th form', students take 3, sometimes 4, and occasionally more, A-levels (A = advanced), often within one broad area - Natural Sciences, Humanities, Classics and so on. For those hoping to go to a top University then the highest grade A is almost essential. (E is the lowest pass grade.) Since the impact of the Nuffield project in the '60's, Science teaching has become very much more experimentally based; 'stage managed heurism' and in addition the more complex ideas are approached conceptually - no calculus! Exams are set by Examination Boards at a national level, and there are several to choose from. There is an increasing tendency for exams to be modular, that is taken at various stages through the two years, with the possibility of retaking modules if the marks are poor. (Scotland has its own system more in line with the new system detailed below, but Wales is more in line with England, although it is possible to sit (some or all? I am not sure...) examinations in Welsh.)

In 2000 we begin teaching a new A-level. The content of the syllabi (now called 'specifications') is not hugely different to the old schemes, but about 50% is nationally specified content. There are now only three English exam boards, and each should produce two Physics specifications. The major change is that there will be exams at the end of the first 6th form year for an 'AS' qualification, which is then converted to the full A-level by successful completion of the Upper 6th exams. The idea is to try and keep the curriculum broad. For example some may do four subjects up to AS, but only continue three to the end. Whilst all the specifications are of necessity new, some have taken the chance of a fundamental rethink. The Institute of Physics has the 'Advancing Physics' project, which is a very experimental scheme, and the Salters team have issued a Physics specification which is application led, following on the success of their Chemistry scheme. All have a significant practical component, amounting typically to one unit out of the six of the full exam. This may be ongoing coursework, a single major experimental project, or a practical exam.

The following is for the new scheme, starting in year 2000. They are only draft specifications but are not likely to change much.

www.edexcel.org.uk Look for 'curriculum 2000', 'specification documents', 'A level', 'Science' and 'Physics'. This board is also looking after the Salters Physics, but there seems little on line at the time of writing. A draft specification is available on paper, but apparently not electronically. There is some detail at www.york.ac.uk/depts/chem/seg/sap.html - don't worry about the 'chem' in the address.
www.ocr.org.uk/develop/index.htm is much easier; you will find two specifications here, one developed by the IOP. A CD is being published in support of the IOP course. The IOP course can also be found at post16.iop.org/advphys.(Note no www.)
www.aeb.org.uk/aqaspec contains two specifications as well. The exam board is called AQA (not AEB, although it once was.... sort of), and it may be that later in 1999 the site www.aqa.org.uk will be more useful than it is now.

United States.

The United States of America does not have a national curriculum for physics or any other subject. While some states have established curriculum guidelines, only a few have created standardized assessments to parallel these guidelines. The country as a whole is moving slowly towards statewide standardized testing, but this trend is meeting with great resistance for a number of reasons.

In most public schools, completion of a physics course is not required for graduation. Often only a small fraction of students actually pursue the study of physics in high school. And while some schools offer several levels of physics study (including a calculus-based advanced placement curriculum), some do not offer physics at all.

There are a number of optional standardized tests in physics. The most common is the SAT II, which is a comprehensive, multiple-choice test that requires only basic algebra. There are also two Advanced Placement options. The B-level exam is a very exhaustive survey of physics, including many modern topics, but requiring only advanced algebra. The C-level covers classical mechanics and electromagnetism with single-variable calculus. These tests are mainly used by students to obtain placement and/or credit at the university.

Other trends in teaching physics have aimed at making physics more hands-on, conceptual, and accessible to all students regardless of mathematical proficiency. Part of the reason for this trend is an attempt to attract students to a subject that is often perceived as complicated, technical, and non-intuitive.

The US physics picture is complicated and inconsistent. Here are a few links to learn more:

 www.collegeboard.org/ap/physics/
www.doe.mass.edu/edreform/standards/science.html
www.collegeboard.org/sat/html/students/subj011.html


Contact: Hanley@southbridge.demon.co.uk Last modified: 14.10.99
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