Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by The Institution of Electrical Engineers

  The IEE is the largest engineering institution in Europe with a membership of almost 130,000 professional engineers representing a wide range of disciplines including power engineering, electronics, communications, computing, software engineering, and manufacturing. As well as accrediting first degree courses in these subjects, it has a long-standing commitment to the support of primary and secondary education.

  IEE puts considerable effort each year into educational activities. While a small proportion of that is aimed directly at students and their careers opportunities, the bulk of the effort is aimed at supporting teachers. IEE organises the annual Faraday Lecture tour which aims to demonstrate the context of science in everyday life while presenting teachers with opportunities linked to the curriculum. IEE also develops course materials including television programmes. The IEE Teacher Awards recognise excellence in the teaching of science, D&T and maths.

  IEE promotes and supports quality science and technology education for two reasons: because pupils studying science subjects today are the main seedcorn of the engineering profession and because the IEE believes that a broad understanding of science and technology is essential for all future citizens.

  A number of IEE members who are active in this work have contributed to the evidence submitted to the Select Committee by the Engineering Council. IEE therefore endorses the submission made by the Engineering Council, a copy of which is appended.[9]

  The following points highlight issues in that evidence that are of particular concern to IEE.

  It is important that the wider school population gains an understanding of the importance of science in a practical context and that engineers build on science to deliver the technology that supports all our activities. Thus science needs a context in everyday life for all students—this is one of the aims of the Faraday Lecture. A significant contribution to this can be made by a good relationship between schools and local industry where many schemes and opportunities exist. The IEE is increasing its support to SETNET and the Science & Engineering Ambassadors Scheme (SEAS).

  At the same time the system needs to cater for those who will wish to study in greater depth and to a higher level. One of the major concerns the IEE has is the supply of teachers of physics. In preparing our own strategy for work in schools we discovered that Council for Science and Technology research shows that many science teachers at secondary level are teaching science subjects in which they have no qualifications at "A" level or first degree level. In 1999 for instance, at key stage 3 37 per cent of science teachers were teaching Physics without an "A" level in the subject, 76 per cent had no related degree. At key stage 4 29 per cent were teaching without an "A" level, 66 per cent without a related degree. This must also be set against an ageing teacher population.

  IEE believes that there are benefits to be gained from interaction between science and design & technology. The area which concerns us is electronics which is taught via D&T and, therefore, strictly speaking outside this inquiry. However, electronics is a classic example of how engineering is applying science to develop technology and yet less that 20 per cent of schools offer the opportunity to study electronics. Key to this is basic training of teachers and their constant updating. Unless projects such as Marconi ECT (which is managed by the Design and Technology Association) become commonplace this will remain a weakness.

  IEE supports the need for good continuing professional development for teachers in science. This is particularly important given the relatively low proportion of science teachers with a qualification in the science subject they are teaching. Although figures for INSET courses may look impressive, the amount per teacher is inadequate. Most INSET time in schools concentrates on whole schools issues and administration. Too rarely do teachers have the opportunity to improve their subject knowledge base, which is vital in the fast moving area of science and technology.

  We would also support any efforts to increase the numbers of young women following courses in science and into engineering.

  The IEE intends to comment on the forthcoming DfES Review of the 14-19 curriculum and notes that the position of Science Education cannot be separated from that of education in total. The DfES has 50 per cent participation in higher education as a high priority and therefore many of their policies for this age group will be directed at achieving this target. IEE believes that science, technology and engineering should retain their share of the student cohort because engineering education leads to success in a wide range of jobs, in technology at various levels and also in management, finance and more. To achieve this it will be necessary to raise the expectations and motivation of potential students during 14 to 19 schooling. The shortage of mathematics and science teachers which is key to this should therefore be addressed as a matter of urgency.

February 2002

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