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Schoolkids need science, says Royal Society prez

Scientific reasoning a 'critical skill'

By Lucy Sherriff, 27 Oct 2004

The president of the Royal Society has told the government that scientific reasoning must be a core part of school education up until the age of 19. Lord May of Oxford said that he was alarmed that the government had not explicitly committed to tackle the crisis in science in the proposed diploma system for 14 to 19 year olds.

The Tomlinson report, which proposes a four-level diploma qualification, says that core standards must be reached in Maths, English and Information Technology, but makes no explicit mention of science. Lord May said there was a "widely acknowledged crisis for science and mathematics in our schools and colleges". Indeed, this year's entries in science subjects were down as much as 34 per cent on those from 1991.

"The dramatic long-term decline in these A-level subjects will have two deeply damaging effects on the country if we do not act to tackle the problems that these trends reflect," Lord May warned.

Scientific reasoning is a critical skill in everyday life, he argued, giving examples of weighing up the risks and benefits of immunising children, or evaluating the environmental impact of different methods of transport: "It is hard to think of something that might be considered more 'functional' - to borrow a term from the Tomlinson report - than science," he noted. ®

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