The good news is that after an overall decline in students taking chemistry at Higher level over the past few years, numbers are up this year: with 10,047 young chemists sitting exams. When compared to last year, 1.4 and 2.3 percentage points more pupils achieved an A grade in Highers and Advanced Highers respectively.
However, the long-term picture is still concerning in terms of chemistry’s popularity. Using 2014 as a reference year, which was the first full year of National 4 & 5 qualifications following the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, chemistry as a proportion of total entries has gone from:
- 6.2% to 5.1% at National 4 and 5
- 6.0% to 5.4% at Higher
- 11.9% to 10.5% at Advanced Higher
Danièle Gibney, interim education policy manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry said: "First of all – congratulations to everyone in Scotland for all your hard work, whether you studied chemistry or not. While it is positive to see some recovery in terms of the number of potential future chemists studying in Scotland, and encouraging to see that it is still the second-most popular subject at Advanced Higher, the long-term picture is still a worry.
"And this is not just a concern facing chemistry since the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, and the new national qualiﬁcations. The number of candidates pursuing STEM qualifications has dropped over the past five years as the options presented to students have been narrowed. This could have implications for the level of scientific literacy in Scotland’s future workforce."
The Royal Society of Chemistry recently expressed concerns about the breadth of education available to students as part of the Learned Societies' Group response to a parliamentary enquiry, the outcome of which is expected in autumn 2019.