Dubious facts are not real science

9th May 2003 at 01:00
Philip Pullman's Oxford literary festival lecture, prominently reported in The TES ("Free the caged minds of young teachers", TES, April 4), may come to be seen as a landmark in education. What he says about English teaching sounds very relevant, even to a non-English specialist like myself.

As a primary science tutor in higher education, who has seen the changes from 1960s to now, the story for English is mirrored in science. I was part of a team in the 1970s that was actively promoting a risk-taking, fun-loving primary science programme that encouraged curiosity and interest in the subject.

The current regime of testing corrodes young minds. As Pullman states, it asks the wrong questions, and requires one-directional answers.

Back in 1998, science educators at King's College, London produced an influential report on how science education should develop post 2000, with 10 action points for work in schools.

One of these centred around the telling of "explanatory stories" in science to help children gain a greater appreciation of an idea or discovery, without getting immersed in so much detail they missed the point. Using Pullman's language, the science "must be worth doing".

Regretfully, the Government did not act on this advice, and we are still stuck with a post-2000 science curriculum full of dubious facts for a majority of our children. I can only assume that the reason why primary science has been a success story is down to the qualities of primary teachers, not what is in the curriculum.

English is not alone in having a system in need of revision - the whole system is corrupt. Let's hope that we banish the bureaucrats and test mentality and bring meaning back to teaching.

David Mancey 6 Templars Close Wheatley Oxford

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