Dynamic dialogue

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Science is a natural subject area to embrace andextend citizenship studies, says Daniel Sandford Smith

Science Year aims to increase the engagement of pupils with science so that they will be motivated to continue with it post-16. This will be achieved by enriching and enhancing the science curriculum in schools. However, even the most optimistic among us do not expect that all pupils will continue to study science beyond the age of 16. Will the aims of Science Year pass them by?

As Science Year ends, a new challenge (or should we say opportunity?) will arrive - the citizenship curriculum, which becomes statutory in September 2002. Is citizenship a new subject? There are elements of citizenship that may need to be delivered in a discrete fashion but much of it can and should be delivered through other subjects including science.

So, as well as trying to help make Science Year fun and stimulating, the Association for Science Education will be working with the Department for Education and Skills and the Wellcome Trust to produce resources to enable teachers to deliver citizenship through science.

Much of the rationale for why citizenship and science should be linked can be found in the House of Lords report, Science and Society (House of Lords Committee on Science and Technology, Session 1999-2000 3rd Report, Science and Society). Interestingly, this also identifies engagement as a key issue but in this case, the term refers to the interaction between society and science.

It is vital that this interaction is dynamic and leads to genuine dialogue if we are going to be able to take full advantage of the advances that science makes. The ASE believes that this dialogue can and should start in schools and that it should feature in the citizenship curriculum.

So who is going to teach citizenship? Perhaps you are already doing it - do you use news clippings as a stimulus for your science lessons? Add some discussion of the way that science is portrayed in the media and you are teaching citizenship. Do you teach about the environment? Yes, well you are teaching citizenship.

Pupils know that science has a tremendous effect on their lives, but at times this is a one-dimensional view. Do they know that science can clear up pollution as well as causing it? Do they know that it is science that warns us about damage to the environment? If we are to teach citizenship well, we will need to engage pupils in appreciating how advances in science can affect them as individuals, and as part of a community. They will need to understand the types of question that science can answer and the ones it cannot.

As citizens they will need to reach their own views about the ethical, political and economic questions that science cannot answer. Once they understand this then they will be in a position to truly engage with science. It is this interaction between citizenship and science that provides a rationale for all students to study science to the age of 16.

For more information about Science Year visit www.scienceyear.com For draft key stage 3 schemes of work for citizenship see www.standards.dfes.gov.ukschemes

If you would like to be involved in the work on science and citizenship please e-mail me: sandsmith@ase.org.uk

Daniel Sandford Smith is director of curriculum support at the ASE, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts AL10 9AA. Tel: 01707 283000E-mail: ase@hgtelme.comWeb: www.ase.org.uk

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