Education Matters: Science Exams out of Touch, Say Experts

Article excerpt

School science exams are narrow, simplistic and failing to prepare pupils for their future careers and studies, Britain's leading academic body said today.

The Royal Society said secondary school and college science examinations were not testing the full range of skills and knowledge demanded by employers and universities.

In particular, it criticised 'rote' learning and 'standardised and predictable experiments'.

A report from the Royal Society called on the Government to make the way science is examined more motivating and relevant.

The comments come as the Government undertakes a major overhaul of the education system.

Professor Mick Brown, chairman of the Royal Society's steering group on assessment of school science, said: 'Getting pupils to learn to conduct overly simplistic practical scientific experiments, which never go wrong, does not give them a sense of the dynamism of real scientific research.

'We need a system of assessment that fuels pupils' enthusiasm for the subject by opening up this exciting world of problemsolving, discovery and innovation, while at the same time supporting their factual learning.'

In the short term, the society is urging the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exam watchdog, and the awarding bodies which set exams, to encourage testing of a wider range of skills in secondary school science.

The report argues for greater use of continuous assessment by teachers, so that pupils' learning needs can be identified and addressed.

It claims this can be achieved without imposing excessive workloads on teachers and pupils.

'The pressure on teachers to deliver exam 'results' is immense,' said Professor Brown. …