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Where is Chemistry Education Heading?

More than a decade ago, working groups at the Neaman Institute explored the future of the chemical industry in Israel. One of the four working groups focused on the question of education in chemistry. Under the leadership of Prof. Judy Dori, this group investigated the state of chemistry teaching in Israel and the future of chemistry education in Israel by interviewing and administering questionnaires to chemists, chemical engineers, academics, and teachers.

In view of the decline in popularity of chemistry in high schools and decrease in the number of teachers and schools in which chemistry is taught, the current research revisits that study and expands it. The objective is to examine trends in motivation and reasons for choosing a career in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, or chemical education and recommend ways to foster these career choices.

The study group includes about 110 participants, 30 of whom are faculty members engaged in research in chemistry, bio-chemistry, chemical engineering and other chemistry-related fields in universities in Israel, about 40 chemists and chemical engineers, and about 40 first- and second-career chemistry teachers. Most of the participating pre-service teachers studied in the track of chemistry teaching of the two-year Views ("Mabatim") program at the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology at the Technion. The study is a mixed-method research, based on in-depth interviews and questionnaires.

Preliminary findings indicate that the process of choosing chemistry as a major study field and as a career is related to various external and internal motivational factors. These include influential role models, such as a Ph.D. advisor or a high school teacher, personal qualities, such as striving for excellence, exposure to science during middle and high school, and socio-cultural messages, such as the prestige of the profession or family guidance.

The research has practical implications of potentially increasing the number of students choosing to study chemistry in high schools and universities and to pursue chemistry as a future profession. The study recommendations may also help increase the number of chemistry teachers, countering the dramatic drop over the past decade in the number of chemistry teachers, high school and undergraduate students who study chemistry as a major.

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