How to stop this scientific malaise

24th June 2005 at 01:00
Bill Bryson is not the first person to apply the word "boring" to school science (TES, June 10).

A recent study from Oslo university on English secondary schools found that students believe science is vital for their lives and future careers, and that everyone should study it - but also that they do not enjoy science as much as other subjects.

Stressing the "human story" of science is part of the answer, but a part may also lie in another story in your paper that spoke of Year 9 as "totally dominated by test preparation".

Test preparation leaves less time to show students the spectacular, contemporary and human sides of science, and the situation is not helped by a key stage 3 science curriculum that is, says the 14-19 white paper, "a long shopping list of facts to be learnt".

The Oslo study suggests we are not alone among developed nations in this respect.

Whatever the reason for the malaise, the answer surely lies with the science teachers, who hold the key to inspiring science. That is why the Department for Education and Skills and the Wellcome Trust have established a network of science learning centres to provide professional development to help inspire science teachers and, through them, their students.

Professor John Holman

Director, National Science Learning Centre University of York

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