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Clear scientists' debts, says report

Science graduates who remain in teaching for more than four years should have their student debts written off, according to a report.

It also suggests more practical and out-of-school work, such as museum visits to motivate pupils and encourage them to study science at university.

The report, Science education in school: Issues, evidence and proposals, says the curriculum should be adapted to prepare pupils for adult life.

This would include changing teaching styles to include less written work, which is a turn-off for children.

"Students are being turned off science lessons, yet the same students are often engaged by science outside the classroom," the report says. "Science in museums, hands-on centres, zoos and botanical gardens are often seen as exciting, challenging and uplifting.

"Yet science educators tend to ignore the crucial influences that experiences outside school have on students' beliefs, attitudes and motivation to learn."

The report, from the Teaching and Learning Research Programme, suggests further study into how outside influences and activities affected pupil learning.

It also expressed fears that the lack of high-calibre science graduates entering teaching may affect standards. There was particular concern at the lack of physics graduates generally, and the low numbers entering teaching.

Professor Ian Diamond, chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, one of the study sponsors, said: "Writing off debts is not the only answer.

"Teachers need a clear career structure and good professional development to enable them to keep up to date with their subjects and at the cutting edge of science. This is how they will be able to impart enthusiasm for the subject to their students."

More information on www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

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