Switch on with a sense of wonder

24th May 1996 at 01:00
Richard Dawkins's views on biology "How to develop the biorhythms of a Prime Minister" (TES, May 3) are interesting and worth further consideration. However, I think he does the cause of promoting science and scientific literacy little good in comparing it to Latin.

I have long campaigned that science should not be taught as a mere collection of facts and that it should be studied also for the interest it arouses, Dawkins's "sense of wonder". We must recognise that, even allowing for the need to increase uptake in post-16 science studies, science is not about merely educating young people to become scientists and technologists.

The allowance in Sir Ron Dearing's reforms for a national advanced qualification that must include science is still not enough. The mere fact that science is lumped together with mathematics, engineering and other related subjects devalues its worth. In providing for future generations that are scientifically literate we must create a rounded curriculum. Dawkins's proposal to just study biology is not the way forward. Chemistry, physics and Earth sciences have all the aspects that he ascribes to biology. The trick is producing a science curriculum that combines all of the elements; basic facts, the human face of science, the sense of wonder and the moral and social dimension.

The Association for Science Education is currently looking at just these issues. Its Science 2000+ project is in its consultative phase at present and is asking practising teachers and all those interested in science education to look at some fundamental questions, such as "what is science?" and "why should we teach it? Our present curriculum is flawed in many ways and, although we have a further four years of promised stability, it is important that we look to the future and that our curriculum is based on a sound educational basis.

Science 2000+ is the opportunity for science teachers to put their views on what we should be teaching future generations, rather than have imposed from above a mediocre curriculum that neither satisfies the need for the minority of students who wish to carry on in science nor the majority who quickly lose interest and switch off after a bad science experience.

JAMES D WILLIAMS Head of science The Beacon School Banstead, Surrey

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