Informing the debate
The Royal Society report, The Public Understanding of Science, published in 1986, urged that no pupil should be allowed to take only arts or science subjects, even after the age of 16, and that new approaches to continuing and further science education should be developed. It is against this background that the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) prepared their AS level syllabus, Public Awareness of Science, which has been given trial approval by SCAA. This enlightened initiative will be welcomed by some teachers of 16 to 19-year-olds, but for others there will be the time consuming quest for relevant and up-to-date information that can be adapted for use at this level.
This is where Studies in Awareness of Science comes into its own. There are four books in the series: The Student's Book, Teacher's Book and Options Book 1 were published last year (reviewed January 14, 1994). Options Book 2 is now available. This is a 56-page A4 photocopiable resource which contains three controversial option topics, "Are pesticides essential?", "Will new materials revolutionise transport?" and "Are we ruled by genetics?" At the start of each topic a useful section of Notes for Teachers contains suggestions on how each option may be used, and what other work in the series relates to it. Each double-column page has information, diagrams and data and numbered questions are scattered throughout which guide and facilitate written work or discussion. There are also suggestions for further study, references and answers to the questions.
The material for student use is demanding and has been written assuming a level 7 achievement starting point in GCSE in English, mathematics and science. The editor, Peter Hughes, has also designed the course and material to support classes of students following different course combinations. This makes it very suitable for the UCLES AS course, but some of the option units could also be used to provide background material for an A level course or to support work in sixth-form "minority time" or "general studies" courses.
The detailed content of "Are pesticides essential?" illustrates this flexibility. Here there is information and data on the types and number of pests and pesticides, toxic chemicals and the problem of pesticide resistance. This material will relate directly to biology A level courses, provide useful supplementary information for geography and chemistry A level and give unbiased data to inform the debate on environmental issues that may occur in any context.
Studies in Awareness of Science is an invaluable reference source for A level. Let's hope SCAA continues to support the UCLES initiative so that the Royal Society's 1986 indictment no longer applies in 10 years' time.
Jackie Hardie is deputy head of The Latymer School, Enfield.