Science in schools: decline and fall?

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6924.284 (Published 29 January 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:284
  1. I C McManus

    Sciences are learning facts from a book and not thinking for yourself; I wanted to express my own ideas and think for myself. (A level student quoted in New Statesman1)

    The dog days of August are a difficult time: for journalists there is little important news, while for students at school the only news that matters is the results of their general certificate of secondary education (GCSE) and A level examinations. Not surprisingly, the two interests combine in newspaper articles claiming that standards are slipping (or perhaps improving), quality is rising (or perhaps falling), or, as last year, talk of a “decline in science” (Financial Times), a “science slump” (Times Education Supplement), a “continuing decline in [science] qualifications” (Nature), or “science... losing its grip on the syllabus” (Times). More recently an article in New Scientist headed “Classroom science goes into free fall” quoted John Patten, the education secretary, as saying that there had been a “neo-exponential decline” in students going in to A level science.2 Is there a flight from science? And how might it affect medical schools, whose principal import is school leavers with good science A levels?

    Although the number of entries for science GCSEs in 1993 …

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