An opportunity to save science

6th October 2006 at 01:00
Of course teachers are the answer to making science more engaging for pupils ("Teachers must save science", TES, September 15), but before getting too gloomy about science teaching in the UK, some international comparisons would be worthwhile.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) compares both attainment and interest of students in different countries. In practically every developed country in the world, the story is the same: declining interest in science at a time when it is more important than ever to the economy. In fact, in the last comparison in 1999, the UK did rather better than many other developed countries when students' interest in science was compared. Japan, for example, scored just about lowest in the world for students' interest in science attainment, yet highest for attainment. Could it be that some of the same factors that bring high attainment in science tests - revision classes and exam preparation that squeezes out practical work - are also contributing to declining interest?

Crucial decisions about future study are usually made during key stage 3.

The KS3 curriculum is being revised for 2008. This is a great opportunity for QCA to free teachers to be more creative and inspiring, with a lighter assessment touch and no more centrally created schemes of work.

What we need is an examination and assessment framework that gives teachers more freedom to inspire and that ties them less rigidly to the grindstone - and this is true at all levels, not only KS3.

Professor John Holman

Centre director

National Science Learning Centre

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