Boffins demand: Cull bogus A-Levels, hire brainier teachers
UK values sci/tech grads – very few forced into teaching
Today the Royal Society, Blighty's pre-eminent boffinry institution, has issued its "state of the nation" report into science education in the UK – and it doesn't make encouraging reading.
According to the report, there are far too few schoolchildren studying the correct combinations of subjects at A-Level in order to become science or technology undergraduates – and so develop into useful high-skilled citizens of the future as opposed to mindless drones qualified in the humanities or other soft studies.
The reason for this, according to the Royal Society, is that nowadays most sci/tech faculties prefer an undergraduate to be qualified in maths and two sciences at A-Level – and in general most students only expect to take three real A-Levels (General Studies or similar joke fourth subjects don't count).
Even where parents and teachers know enough to offer a kid the right advice (ie take Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A-Level – and Further Maths too if you can manage it – almost regardless of what you want to study at uni and do in life thereafter) it is often difficult to persuade teenagers that they should do so much more work than their idle chums taking English, Geography or whatever. And, to be fair, they may have a genuine interest in another subject well worth studying – for instance a foreign language.
That's where the A-Level system falls down compared to the Scottish "Highers" setup, which lets kids take five subjects as standard, according to the Royal Society. With this increased elbow room, many more Scottish students study sciences, and many more manage the crucial combination of maths and sciences (particularly maths and physics), without which nobody can really be said to be truly educated*.
Thus the Royal Society recommends a two-pronged attack on the current A-Level system.
Firstly, there should be an attempt to rein in the vast and continually burgeoning range of bullshit A-Levels which are easy and fun to do but no use whatever – and which tempt kids away from the true path. The report says:
The increasing diversity of A-level and equivalent qualifications provision (particularly in England) needs to be reviewed, and its impact on the numbers of students taking science and mathematics post-16 evaluated. Awarding organisations should make available detailed data on the participation, attainment and progression of students taking their specifications in science and mathematics.
Then, the rest of the UK should move more to a Scottish-style system which would permit kids to study more subjects at an advanced level.
In undertaking reforms to A-level qualifications in England, the Department for Education should consider modifying their structure to enable students to study a wider range and increased number of subjects than is usually the case now.
Of course, it's all too often impossible for kids – even if they have been correctly advised and have the guts or intelligence to go for a proper selection of A-Levels – to do so, because their school or sixth-form doesn't offer those subjects. This is primarily because the teaching profession is unable to attract the science and maths graduates needed to teach these subjects, leading to a "vicious circle" in which not enough people study them at university and even fewer are then available to become teachers.
Would be easy to make science more appealing at university level
One thing that would perhaps be useful to stimulate the study of useful scientific things at a university level would be to drop the tuition fees for those subjects. We don't really need more English Literature graduates after all, so ramp up the fees for the fluffy subjects a little further and they can subsidise useful science, engineering, maths and other degrees that require harder work but everyone assures us make a larger difference to the economy. Given how much the government seems to want to screw around with tuition fees anyway, they might as well take things a step further at this point as everyone already hates them so why not do something worthwhile among all the contemptible weaselling.
With that to attract people towards science subjects there would be more demand for science teaching on the way up to there, which might set things up in that part of the jobs market to attract better teachers.
Not gonna happen
Not in this country anyway.
1) You have to change the attitude of the senior / head teachers in the junior / senior schools away from the 'fluffy' ideas about the kids finding their own way through 'the learning journey' (tm). You have to convince these people that their job is to actually _TEACH_ the kids in their care.
2) You have to remove disruptive influences, including (or especially) disruptive students, from the classroom. How can a class of 30 to 60 learn anything when one or two of their number is running round being a total arsehole?
3) You have to get rid of the useless teachers. Now this is never ever going to happen. Once someone figures out how to properly evaluate a teachers performance, the whole teaching profession will shit themselves.
4) You have to convince the kids with the ability to attain these qualifications that they should actually _WORK_ to get the quals. Now that is going to be difficult when the kids see football or big tits, and the willingness to expose them, as their best gateway to fame and fortune.
5) You have to convince the hordes of middle class parents (who believe that their kids degree in media studies has equal worth as a degree in maths, science or engineering) that they are twats.
6) You have to convince the universities and HEIs (doesn't that give you a warm and cuddly feeling if 'insidership'?) that this country only needs about 1% of the media studies graduates that they currently churn out. And that most of these 'universities' are little but jumped up red brick colleges and they should go back to what they used to do so well. Teach technical subjects for those without the real ability for the 'pure' subjects.
7) And you have to convince the government, and those hordes of middle class parents whose kids were given^W^W obtained a media studies degree, that it is worthwhile for this country to pay for the harder, more salable courses.
There are countries who realise that the only way that you can give everybody an equal educational qualification, is to give everyone the lowest grade possible. Some people are brighter, more academically able than others. These people, the brightest of our children, need to be nurtured and helped to fulfill their potential. It means streaming kids into ability groups, it means harder work for the teachers of the higher groups. It means getting the very brightest kids into special schools so that they can be taught by the best teachers. It also means that the less able kids are grouped too. They should be helped to develop their potential just as hard as the brighter kids, but their needs will be different. And so on down the ability range until the very least able are helped in the ways that they need.
None of these thoughts are actually radical, nor are they 'consigning the less able to the rubbish heap'. If these brighter kids are from middle class or, heaven forbid, upper class families, perhaps we should be looking at what they are doing right and what the others aren't doing.
Thats complete bullshit.
"Dropping fees for science and engineering courses will produce more dropouts than new scientists. The reason is simple, more students will take the cheap option without having the skills required to study hard subjects, fail and quit".
Thats crap. Quite the opposite is true. Dropping fees for science and engineering courses will increase the number of applicants for a fixed number of places. The universities will then be able to chose the brightest students to fill those places.
There, fixed it for you.