Move to test science grasp

31st March 2000 at 01:00
A NEW Higher Still course is being proposed as a way of improving people's understanding of science controversies such as genetically modified foods.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority is to undertake market research this summer with a view to launching the new Higher Still in a few years. It would be aimed principally at S5 pupils and adult returnees to further education.

A spokesman for the authority said that within the theme of applications of science would come topics of the moment from any branch of the sciences. He said: "It is early days yet, but the course might appeal to pupils who had not done much science. It would give them a taster of issues in several of the sciences and broaden their understanding."

The proposal was applauded at the Dundee conference of the Association of Science Education Scotland last weekend. Teachers deplored the trivialisation of scientific debates, including newspaper descrptions of genetic modification as leading to "Frankenstein foods" and "foods of the devil".

Sam Galbraith, Education Minister, discussing the future of science education, said: "All young people, not just those intending to follow a career in science, need to be scientifically literate. They need to have the skills and critical awareness to interpret and make sense of what they experience and read about science in the media."

David Hartley, professor of lifelong learning at Dundee University, said: "If we can teach children to think scientifically, they will be less open to gurus and quick-fix solutions."

Lorna Neill, principal teacher of physics at St John's High, Dundee, said that a new course might appeal to sixth-year pupils. "I know of pupils who did reasonably well - say, got a C pass in Higher physics - who want to go on with some science. This would allow them to be taught about what science is."

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