The UK’s Science Teaching Farce

In an open letter to AQA a physics teacher bemoans the new Science curriculum in the UK. I read about the plans a few months ago in the Guardian and was appalled by what I read. I thought that things couldn’t possibly turn out as bad as the article made them sound; it was a comment piece. It turns out I was wrong.

The new science curriculum is based upon a plausibly laudable aim. There is a view that scientific understanding in the UK is low. Following from this, it is put forward that we need a change in science education. It appears one of the criticisms of science teaching was it is too, well, science-based. God forbid!

A quote from the author of the open letter illustrates the new approach:

	In this course, pupils debate topics like global warming and nuclear power. Debate drives science, but pupils **do not learn meaningful information about the topics they debate**.

[emphasis original]

In a misguided attempt make science lessons more interesting, the lessons are being reframed to emphasise “discussion of issues”. There is obviously a case to discuss how what is being taught impacts the wider world, but placing this centrally is a huge error. It changes teaching of science into merely wrote learning of arbitrary points of view, a complete antithesis of scientific ideals. I am angry about this; if I was a parent I would be livid.

The approach is akin to doing English lessons by discussing Shakespeare’s plays without actually taking the time to read the plays. If anyone suggested this they would be laughed out of the room. Why was the same not done for this ludicrous approach to science teaching? I’d be interested in the numbers of actual scientists who were involved in this decision, and wouldn’t be surprised if the number was low.

The whole thing seems like a rushed through set of ideas that destroys any possibility of a more scientifically literate society. A change borne from the desire to push through a government-promised change to science teaching to make it look like something was being done on the issue. A rushed, botched screw up is the result.

Discussion of anything without knowledge of the underlying principle is pointless. This approach would have destroyed my interest in science lessons: I wanted to learn the whys and hows of the endlessly fascinating world around me, not rehash debates I could hear on the radio any time I wanted to. I really hope this curriculum is fixed before it destroys interest in science.

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