Chinese school examination papers online to encourage science standards debate


19 June 2009

Today, for the first time in the UK, full examination papers in chemistry and mathematics set for 16-year-old school pupils in the People's Republic of China are to published in English and made widely available.  

The Royal Society of Chemistry has succeeded, through its recently-established network in China, in getting hold of examination papers in chemistry and mathematics, taken last year by pupils in China studying at the same stage as England's GCSE students.

The RSC arranged for the papers to be translated and is posting them on its website, inviting comment from the education establishment, businesses and the general public.

The 46,000-member society gained access to the two papers in the wake of growing concerns in England about falling standards in science GCSE, and the diminishing application of mathematics in science teaching, particularly in state schools.

Since the publicity about the erosion of standards in science GCSEs a range of at least five separate task forces, from industry, government agencies, political parties and the government itself have been trying to address the problem, to ensure this country has the right skills for the future.
 
Paradoxically, the Department of Children Families and Schools is not directly leading such investigations, but just recently acknowledged for the first time that science examinations were not demanding enough, after years of 'celebrating' what has been trumpeted as ever-increasing standards.

Dr Richard Pike, RSC chief executive, said today: "Our view is that the Chinese chemistry paper is more interesting and demanding than our own GCSE papers. But we are asking people to look at the questions, and those in the mathematics paper, and to let us know via our blog whether or not they agree. 

"In China there is a tremendous rush by the young to take up science, mathematics and engineering courses and this explosion of interest is driving the country forward. We need to rediscover our enthusiasm for these subjects and make courses more exciting, and from that will flow greater career opportunities." 

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