Education Bill a step in the right direction

27 January 2011

The government is right to demand that school standards in England and Wales are compared against those internationally, says the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The society has for four years now pointed with dismay to the widening gap between attainment in science and mathematics by pupils in the UK with those in places like China and India.

RSC director of science and education Jim Iley said that the Bill promised "to halt the UK's decline in slipping down the international league tables."

"Today's Education Bill  focuses attention on ensuring that student performance in schools in England and Wales bears comparison on the international stage. A recent report prepared for the RSC and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council highlighted that the chemical sciences contributed 258bn to UK economy, 21 per cent of GDP, in 2007. It is therefore essential that our education system not only produces a scientifically literate population, but also nurtures tomorrow's innovators. Participating in international comparator studies is one step in helping to achieve this."

Prof Iley warned that it is essential for Ofqual, in carrying out their new duty to compare UK exam standards against the highest performing systems abroad, to conduct their reviews using experts independent from the awarding organisations.

"Since Ofqual lacks subject expertise, the RSC proposes that Ofqual engage with professional bodies and learned societies to ensure such comparisons are undertaken by independent panels of expertise. Ofqual's revised role is to ensure consistency of attainment levels and the maintenance of standards; the RSC would like to see Ofqual being much tougher with awarding organisations to ensure that the GCSE examinations comply with regulations."

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