Monday, October 16, 2006

Science education

Simon Jenkins has filed this (
0,,1921286,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=8) counterblast to Sir Richard Sykes and others over the new science GCSE. We have all the scientists we need, he says.

In some ways he's quite wrong. I'm plagued by innumerable innumerate journalists who can't see a story for the figures, and we're all plagued by the same journalists who seem incapable of understanding a statistical truth (only the truth that it can be bent to their ends).

He's right, though, that the new GCSE at last starts at the right point - 'what are the answers to the questions we're all asking', rather than 'name the parts of a flower'. It does the job of engaging interest, which the former GCSE was extremely bad at. Where it misses, I feel, is in linking that back to the science. An argument about creationism between pupils who have no scientific understanding is so much hot air - it has to be pushed back to the underlying understandings and methods. That's where Sykes is right - the disassociation of entrancement and hard graft does not work. Let us be rid of hard graft with no entrancement - and of entrancement with no hard graft - and get them working together again.

Would have posted this on the Guardian site - but they've banned me from contributing.


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