Science teachers seek radical overhaul

14th October 2005 at 01:00
The science review group has been urged by Scottish science teachers to carry out a "radical overhaul" of the curriculum and to resist "short-term fixes".

The Association for Science Education Scotland has called on the 3-18 science review group, set up under the report A Curriculum for Excellence, to set an extended time-scale for the review process and to be bold and ambitious in its approach. It suggests a phased introduction of changes over the next seven years.

"The chance will not come again in our working lifetime," the ASE submission warns.

Many of its key points echo those made by Scottish academics in their submission to the review group. Their Stem report (School to University Transition in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) complained that an assessment-dominated curriculum is stifling what is learnt and how it is taught. A "science for citizenship agenda" pointed to compulsory science education for all pupils, they argued.

The latest salvo has come from the ASE Scotland committee, which includes primary, secondary, local authority and higher education representatives.

It warns: "There will no doubt be a call for minimum change from defenders of the status quo, evident perhaps more in the secondary sector. However, we believe that there is a sufficiently large critical mass in favour of taking a brave and radical way forward."

While Scotland has a record of providing "a stream of talented and stimulated scientists passing through higher education", the ASE argues, it has done so "at the expense of so many disenchanted students for whom the diet of pure science for scientists has resulted in a view of science as outdated, uninteresting and irrelevant".

A science for citizenship agenda would be characterised "not by equations, memory and the traditional physics, chemistry and biology content", but by a broader appreciation of how science works.

This would include "stories of mankind's struggle to understand some of the cornerstone big ideas, the first hand experience of the messy and uncertain nature of scientific investigation and the joy of the journey towards finding out".

A new curriculum would aim to give pupils "the confidence to engage with those current science-related issues, mainly environmental and human in their impact, facing all of us and which appear so frequently in the media".

The ASE says that the review needs to "take a hard look" at assessment models. "Currently we teach what we can assess and that is so often a factually based curriculum." It adds: "The high stakes examination system acts as the single greatest impediment to progress, change and innovation in teaching and learning."

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