Keep it real

England is making science attractive to more pupils by relating it to topical and historical issues that interest young people.

York University's Robin Millar will outline attempts to broaden the parameters of science teaching south of the border when he addresses the annual conference of the Association for Science Education in Scotland tomorrow in Crieff.

Professor Millar, along with the Nuffield Curriculum Centre in London, was involved in developing Science for Public Understanding and Twenty First Century Science, an AS-level course - roughly equivalent to Higher - aimed at pupils who may not go on to study physics, chemistry or biology at A-level.

The course focuses on topical issues such as global warming, the human genome and GM crops. It also places science in a historical context, so that, for example, pupils look at changes in how the understanding of infectious diseases or the Earth's place in the solar system.

Since a two-year pilot began in 2000, the number of pupils choosing the course has risen from 300 to 2,000. It is hoped that the number will grow further if pupils are given the opportunity, as planned, to take the subject on to A-level from 2008.

Twenty First Century Science was designed to make GCSE science more flexible. It is standard practice in England for pupils to do a general science GCSE before branching out into physics, chemistry or biology A-levels.

Twenty First Century Science ran as a pilot from 2003 to 2006, and was taken up by 1,000 schools this school year.

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