Jekyll and hidebound

27th November 1998 at 00:00
School science is boring, divorced from real scientific enquiry and cut off from the issues of the day, says Professor John Durant. He is not the only one.

Last week saw the publication of Beyond 2000: Science education for the future, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. It reports the views of leading science educators on the scientific needs of all young citizens - rather than those who will train as professional scientists (a minority whose requirements nevertheless dominate current syllabuses).

This report, too, concludes that school science should cover less but uncover more: the big ideas of science rather than knowledge assembled fact by fact; the strengths and limitations of scientific enquiry; and the contribution ofscience to our culture.

In an age of microelectronics, genetic engineering, Aids and concern for the environment, we daily become more dependent on - and affected by - the products, methods and discoveries of science. School science often seems to ignore this public dimension; yet it is of intense interest to pupils.

With the review of the national curriculum now promised, Beyond 2000 prompts us to go further than another nip-and-tuck exercise to examine the purpose of compulsory schoolscience. It may prove to be the most important document on science education we have seen in a decade.

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