Plan for biology is 'disgraceful'

12th March 2010 at 00:00

If the aim of school is to train pupils for employment, then a narrow syllabus, dealing with applications and theory of direct relevance to the chosen vocation, is what is needed: the draft syllabuses in Higher biologyhuman biology do indeed fulfil these requirements, albeit in a rather verbose and over-prescriptive manner.

But how might students reach such a decision? How and when will they be given sufficient depth of teaching about the wider subject of biology to know that the narrow fields of the new syllabuses are what they want? And how might they pursue further the study of other important topics, such as evolution or ecology (to mention but two that are glaringly missing form the drafts)?

If the purpose of our efforts in school is to provide young people with a meaningful understanding of the most significant aspects of subjects, a different approach is needed. Most candidates for Higher biologyhuman biology do not go on to be professionals in these fields, and many have no qualification in chemistry. Of what worth or interest would the study of the details of DNA be to such candidates?

The content of the draft syllabuses for Higher biologyhuman biology does not serve the needs of the school population, higher and further education, or society.

Eoin McIntyre, principal teacher of biology (retired), Culross, Fife.

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