Why science is a must-have

31st May 2013 at 01:00

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) and the Learned Societies' Group on Scottish Science Education responded to the General Teaching Council for Scotland's proposals on entry requirements to teacher education programmes in Scotland. While it is proposed that applicants to primary education programmes should have a Higher or equivalent in a language, we are concerned at the absence of any requirement for a science qualification.

The 2012 report from the Science and Engineering Education Advisory Group highlighted the relatively poor performance of Scottish primary science and maths education in international surveys. We believe that those entering the primary profession should be required to have at least one science at Higher level or equivalent. As they stand, the proposals send an alarming signal about the relative importance of science in comparison with languages.

We also need to be more ambitious in mathematics education. A firm grounding in the subject is important in its own right, but also essential to make progress in other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects. But the point relates not only to those who will need maths to continue to STEM areas, but also the crucial gap we have in mathematics among the general population. That is why we called for a raising of the bar to require those entering primary teacher education to have mathematics at Higher level or equivalent.

If we are to have effective preparation in primaries, which engenders enthusiasm and learning, teachers need a proper background of relevant knowledge that can underpin their teaching. We also need to consider the continuing professional development requirements of teachers who are already in our schools who do not have the science and maths qualifications that we believe are necessary.

Change of this kind will take time, but it will give primary teachers a much greater status, sense of achievement and, crucially, confidence in what they are doing.

Professor Sally Brown, convener of the RSE education committee and chair of the Learned Societies' Group on Scottish Science Education.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today