More tests don't mean standards will rise;Letter

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
NO DOUBT the drive for improved standards in S1 and S2 science will mean more testing.

The current 5-14 environmental studies guidelines, which incorporate science, are broken down into six strands, only one of which is knowledge and understanding and four of which are skills. National tests cannot possibly test students' abilities in all the skills being developed as many can only be assessed in a practical classroom situation.

Thus the tests would lean towards the testing of knowledge, which would almost certainly mean that course work would then be directed towards the teaching of knowledge to the detriment of the skills, many of which will be far more important to a student in terms of employment.

As for Standard grade, if teachers were given the time to teach skills without the pressure to prepare for national tests, that would be more important than trying to measure school against school and student against student with criteria that are at best limited and at worst those which will be least important for their future and that of British industry.

The idea of national tests in science is all the more astonishing given the lack of resources for schools to implement the 5-14 environmental guidelines. Higher Still for all the criticism at least comes, in theory, with all the necessary resources.

Yet all across Scotland primary and secondary teachers are reinventing the wheel trying to create the same science course, and this for a cohort far larger than for Standard grade or Higher.

It is teachers grappling with Higher Still who are also trying to create suitable S1 and S2 courses to match the environmental studies guidelines.

To be told to alter courses to fit national tests may be the straw to break the camel's back.

Findlay Rush, Lathro Park, Kinross

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