Dr Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority writes about the new UK GCSE Science specifications.
His article went out under the headline "A Catalyst for Change"
Two immediate thoughts:
1. Catalysts won't be in the new Science specification as they are considered too hard...
2. One immediate result of this "Catalyst for Change" is that many independent schools are switching out of the specification altogether and moving across to iGCSE on the grounds that it will at least contain some Science...
As an Australian, it gives me some satisfaction to know that my country has won more Nobel Prizes in science and medicine, in proportion to its population, than any other. Any successful system of science education must enable students to aspire to, and ultimately reach, this level of success as an academic scientist.
But that is not all it needs to do: science education must also meet the ever-increasing demand for trained scientists in industry, providing young people with a thorough grounding in disciplines that open the way to rewarding and challenging careers. But even this is not sufficient.
As the national curriculum rightly states, through science, students "learn to question and discuss science-based issues that may affect their own lives, the direction of society and the future of the world". In a world of rapid technological change, this is increasingly important. All this is a challenging list of qualities for any system to meet. Over recent years there has been an emerging consensus that science education in this country has not been meeting them sufficiently well.
The article goes on:
It has been said that [the new specification] amounts to offering students less "real" science or "dumbing down" the curriculum. The reality is quite different. Developing skills in applying scientific method to understand complex issues is more challenging than merely memorising facts.
For example, to develop and present the case for and against using the MMR vaccine, candidates require a real understanding of the immune system, of how the pharmaceutical industry develops, tests, and brings drugs to the market and of public health policy. They also require the ability to communicate a scientific argument.
In the new course, students considering MMR would not only be taught how vaccination confers immunity but also learn to understand the potential consequences for society of mass vaccination programmes.
Students need to have transferable skills to cope with changing demands: the ability to argue, to develop theories, to collect, evaluate, analyse and interpret data, to present information and model processes using appropriate ICT tools, to test scientific ideas and to ask the right questions.
Well, it should prove interesting to teach people "how vaccination confers immunity" (that's some fairly serious science teaching) and then offer up an understanding of "the potential consequences for society of mass vaccination programmes" whilst also covering "the ability to argue, to develop theories, to collect, evaluate, analyse and interpret data, to present information and model processes using appropriate ICT tools, to test scientific ideas and to ask the right questions."
All laudable stuff, but the reality will be a soundbite specification with little real science, and even less of these high order skills...
Oh, and largely taught by Biologists - because they can't recruit enough Physics or Chemistry graduates...
Link: Telegraph Education.