Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-264)




  260. The international baccalaureate has been mentioned. James, have you some views on that as a substitute?
  (Mr Salmon) I have taught it now for 12 years. I love it, it is a balanced curriculum. They have to do six subjects, three at higher, three at standard, and the highers are equivalent to A-level. You have got to do a science subject, you have to do a foreign language, you have to do maths, you have to do your home language, English. For instance, in our school you could do physics, biology, chemistry for higher and then you could do English and a foreign language and maths studies at a subsidiary standard and you do get this broad and balanced education that we seem to want in this country and this seems to be where we are going.

  261. Where is the block on using that system in this country?
  (Mr Salmon) There does not seem to be a block. We have done it in my school now for about 20 years, we have had no problems, we love it.

  262. Have the other schools thought about it, no or yes?
  (Ms Strange) We have considered it. With the introduction of the ASs we hoped that was going to give greater breadth for the students. It has not always happened because we have given free choice and they have not necessarily gone for three sciences and a language, for example.

  263. If somebody said to you that young people get turned off science at a certain age or stage in their physiology or life, would that be true? Do you notice any trends in young people now in science or is it just the same as it has always been, in your experience? Are there any new trends in schools?
  (Ms Stevenson) Young people are motivated by science but they are not motivated by doing lots of boring theory work. They love to do the practical work. They get demotivated and some of them with poor literacy skills get even more demotivated when required to do great bodies of information and chunks of information. I would have a concern with the 14 to 19 curriculum if at 14 these young people were making choices that could later on bar them from scientific careers—not academic scientific careers but careers in science. I have a great worry about that. That ties in with the Connexions Service being properly briefed about the different and alternative pathways through. I think that is very important. I thought when I read the Green Paper, it is to 14 to 19 but science seems to stop at 16, it is not a continuum and I think the baccalaureate would be a very motivating thing. Perhaps we need to change what the exam boards require young people to do between 14 and 16.

  264. Do you think it is easy to examine practical work? It is always argued that it is hard at university level but is it hard at school to differentiate between the best experimenter and the worst?
  (Ms Stevenson) In the past—and I have been an adviser for nearly six years—that might have been the case, but teachers are now much more experienced in terms of differentiation and in terms of teacher assessment. It is important that is acknowledged and they can differentiate between your able scientist and your not-so-able scientist.

  Chairman: I am sorry it is over. It was concentrated but there were lots of good ideas. Thank you very much for answering our questions. You are very welcome to stay and listen to the next group. Thank you very much for your help, it has been very, very useful.


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