School science becomes the Internet's dull cousin;News

24th December 1999 at 00:00
THE SCHOOL science curriculum cannot compete with the Discovery channel and the Internet in inspiring students with the wonder of science, teachers say.

Pupils regard school science as "dull and uninspiring" compared with informal sources of science education, teachers told researchers from King's College, London.

They are also concerned that the curriculum's aims do not tally with the skills pupils will need in the world of work. They believe school science is overloaded with content and restricts opportunities to make lessons exciting, a new report by Dr Jonathan Osborne, of King's, says.

In a follow-up study to his report Beyond 2000: Science Education for the Future, focus groups of 30 teachers argued that many pupils would benefit from an alternative curriculum including topics on the history and philosophy of science, technology and society, as well as more argument and discussion.

The report, published last year, recommended that the science curriculum contain a statement of its aims - making clear why the study of science is valuable for all young people and what they should gain from the experience.

Dr Osborne argued that science teaching should give children the skills to understand a greater range of scientific methods and practices. His follow-up work found that many teachers supported his view.

Dr Osborne said science teachers were sympathetic to change, particularly favouring anything to reduce the factual emphasis and offer more diversity.

He argues that today's science education is based on traditions which "have little logical justification in contemporary society".

However, he found that teachers tended to echo the establishment view that the problem with public understanding of science is their lack of knowledge. "Their notion of a critical thinker is that of an informed thinker - someone who is knowledgeable about science. This finding reinforces previous work that science teachers see science as a body of knowledge characterised by its content rather than its processes," he said.

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