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Science to tackle real life

SCIENCE in schools will be made more relevant to pupils' lives, under planned changes to the national curriculum for 2000.

The new science curriculum will focus on real problems such as the BSE crisis and global warming to demonstrate both what scientists can explain and what they can't.

Science enthusiasts believe a simple rewording of the curriculum will produce a radical refocusing of teaching. Sections dealing with everyday life are to be moved to within the compulsory learning objectives for five to 16-year-olds.

Rosemary Feasey, chairwoman of the Association for Science Education, said:

"We believe it will change children's values, attitudes and their whole way of thinking about science and encourage teachers to use everyday situations more frequently.

"The proposals would see a reduction in the passive acceptance of scientific formulae and ideas and encourage children to apply their knowledge to the world around them," she said.

The role of science in everyday life, the importance of scientific ideas and the hazards of working with living things are already compulsory under the national curriculum.

But research by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government quango responsible for the review, found that teachers are failing to cover all these areas across the curriculum.

Sections dealing with everyday life are currently listed as an introduction to the national curriculum orders for each age group. The planned re-vamp would make them explicit areas of study.

Scientists have long criticised the curriculum's dry treatment of their subject. They argue that it only interests the tiny minority who go on to research science and fails to provide pupils with a good scientific grounding.

Beyond 2000, the long-awaited report from King's College, London, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, called for children to be taught the "explanatory stories" behind science rather than building up understanding fact by fact.

A spokeswoman for the QCA said: "The areas relating to everyday science, health and safety, systematic enquiry, scientific ideas and communication are compulsory anyway. But we saw that teachers were not using them across the curriculum. We are proposing that by integrating these areas they will be taught more consistently."

The formal consultation on the proposals will run from April until August and the final draft of the new national curriculum will be published from September.

The TESPfizer Science Teachers of the Year received their awards at the conference. They were presented by education junior minister Charles Clarke.

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