The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is studying the meaning and aims of science teaching. It will look at science syllabuses, national curriculum tests and GCSEs.
Researchers at Leeds University have been commissioned to look at scientific literacy and outline what the building blocks of science education should be. The review could lead to a new basic skills curriculum which could reduce the time given to science from its present 20 per cent.
Martin Hollins, principal subject officer for science at the QCA, said science had to justify its compulsory status in the curriculum. "The question has been asked as to why all pupils should be forced to do science post-14," he said. The current curriculum has been critcised for being too academic and aimed at the few students who go on to degree level.
Derek Bell, chairman of the Association for Science Education, said:
"Eighty per cent of children will never follow up their science education but they do need to have that grounding. The curriculum needs to be modified to be more appropriate to all children but at the same time build in opportunities for those who wish to study in more depth."
Genetic modification, food safety and an emphasis on biological science such as the study of the brain and genetic engineering are likely to play a significant role in the future. The review follows changes to the national curriculum last year and the Beyond 2000 report, commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation, which calls for outdated science teaching to be brought in to the 21st century.