Allow UK pupils to learn to think, RSC tells Government

15 April 2011

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) today urged the Government to foster enlightened teaching in schools and not to crush pupils' hunger for linked-up learning.

The RSC plea that students be allowed to 'learn to think' comes on the day that, in partnership with other UK science organisations, it submits evidence to the Government on the National Curriculum.

Professor David Phillips, RSC President, said: "We cannot over-emphasise the need to encourage learning by allowing pupils to think and to make links, and not merely to cram facts." 

SCORE*, the 'science alliance' of Learned Societies, submitted its response to the Department of Education's call for evidence for the National Curriculum Review, with contributions from the RSC, the Institute of Physics, the Society of Biology, the Royal Society, and the Association for Science Education.

In the submission the societies jointly urge the Government to develop a curriculum for the sciences that will be 'cultured, coherent, consistent and authentic' and they stress the importance of fostering scientific thinking, encouragement of laboratory work and 'progression without needless repetition.'

The 47,500-member RSC is also calling on the Government to build modern, well-equipped school laboratories to ensure that young people have access to practical work and experiments in inspiring surroundings. 

Professor Phillips said: "If this can be achieved, along with dynamic professional training for teachers, the UK will be able to match the best in the world.

"But, if we fail now, by reverting to old-style learning-by-rote, by dampening pupils' enjoyment though grim laboratory experience, and by allowing teachers' skills to atrophy and stagnate, then we will stumble and fall back. 

"We need to raise our game in Britain to meet urgent scientific challenges, including combating climate change, finding new energy sources, providing healthcare and protecting food and water.

"Our science risks stalling on the hard shoulder while other nations, such as China and India, which cherish science through high investment, roar past us on the busy road to discovery and prosperity.

"We have an opportunity to blend enlightened teaching with practical learning in a potent way that will result in preparing young, talented people for the workplace and for life itself.

"Not only will they be able to practise chemistry, or other careers in which their skills will be highly-valued; they will also be able to make the vital links between science and society, between science and world challenges and between the past and the present, which is what culture is all about."

*SCORE: Science Community Representing Education

Related Links

Link icon SCORE's evidence submitted to the National Curriculum Review
A downloadable PDF of the evidence submitted by the Science Community Representing Education

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