Science for life

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

They need to be convinced of what this means: that all economic activity must meet the ultimate criterion of conserving the ecological base on which every social and economic system depends. They require sufficient understanding of science to evaluate scientific evidence and combine it with insights from other areas of experience, such as moral and ethical issues.

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

In both curriculum areas, the approach of teachers is key. So the prior question is how far their education gives them, and through them their students, "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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