Analysis of secondary school quantum physics curricula of 15 different countries: Different perspectives on a challenging topic

Kirsten Stadermann, Euwe van den Berg, Martin Goedhart

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Secondary school level quantum physics (QP) courses have recently been implemented in the national curricula of many countries. QP gives opportunities to acquaint students with more recent physics and its applications and to discuss aspects of the nature of science. Research has shown that QP is a challenging area for students. Because the inclusion of QP in national curricula is rather new in most countries, it is interesting to compare QP curricula from these countries to make the choices by curriculum designers visible. In this study, we provide a detailed overview of QP courses from fifteen countries. We collected and analyzed official curriculum documents to identify key items present in most curricula. Our inventory identifies a shared current core curriculum of QP which contains the following seven main categories: discrete atomic energy levels, interactions between light and matter, wave-particle duality, de Broglie wavelength, technical applications, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and the probabilistic nature of QP. We also found differences in the focus of the listed topics of certain countries, which indicate different views on teaching QP and might inspire curriculum designers struggling with QP. For instance, challenging items like QP interpretations or epistemological aspects of QP are taught only in a few countries. Although research suggests that epistemological aspects help students to comprehend novel QP concepts, many countries do not explicitly include these in the curriculum. We provide reasons and suggestions for this.

Original languageEnglish
Article number010130
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPhysical Review Physics Education Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2019


We want to thank the following experts from different countries who helped us to understand national school systems and curriculum documents. Helen Gourlay (UK); Graeme Anderson (IB); Berit Bungum (Norway); Tommi Kokkonen (Finland); Rainer Müller, Torsten Franz, Josef Küblbeck, Helmut Fischler (Germany); Clément Crastes (France); Marco Alessandro Luigi Giliberti (Italy); Paulo Simeão Carvalho (Portugal); Rita Van Peteghem, Wim Peeters, Mieke De Cock (Belgium); Martin Hopf (Austria); Ángel Vázquez-Alonso (Spain); and Elaine Horne (Australia). The research for this article is supported by DUDOC (PhD grant for teaching and teacher related studies), funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science (OCW).

FundersFunder number
Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science
Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap


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