Science: a catalyst for sustainability

THE challenge for science education is not primarily how to make it user-friendly (TES, August 2) but how it prepares children for sustainable living.

Children need to be convinced that all economic activity must meet the ultimate criterion of conserving the ecological base on which every social and economic system depends.

As citizens they require sufficient understanding of the processes and concepts of science to evaluate scientific evidence and combine it with insights from other areas of knowledge, not least those that illuminate moral and ethical issues.

The vital partner is design and technology. When engaged in designing and making, there is no escaping the issues thrown up by the social, cultural, economic and environmental context. The technologist is faced with a continual series of value judgments that have consequences for people's lives and for the sustaining of natural resources and eco-systems.

In both curriculum areas, the teachers' approach is key. So the prior question is how far their education gives them, and through them their pupils, "the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way we do things individually and collectively, both locally and globally, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future" (Panel on Education for Sustainable Development in the School Sector, 1998).

Ruth Conway 303 Cowley Road, Oxford

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