Why science is a must-have

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.

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