Teaching astronomy and the crisis in science education
In Australia, as in many other countries, the fraction of high school students voluntarily choosing to study the core sciences such as physics and chemistry has dropped
in recent decades. The reasons for this worrying trend include the perception that these sciences are difficult subjects that lack relevance to the lives of the students. Family influence to choose courses that are believed to be more likely to lead to highly paid careers ts also a major factor. Astronomy, by contrast, has a broad public appeal and seems untainted by the negative feelings associated with most other scientific fields. As a result, astronomy can be a useful tool to stimulate students' scientific interest, not only in formal college-level courses but also in informal education centers. Investment in public facilities and the provision of resources for astronomy outreach can be highly beneficial by engaging the imagination of
the public. We will discuss activities offered at Sydney Observatory, where school student attendances have increased by 50% in the last five years.