Thursday, November 27, 2008

Royal Society of Chemistry lament state of education system

The Royal Society of Chemisty has delivered a petition to the Prime Minister lamenting the "catastrophic decline in school science exam standards"
"Armed with the first hard evidence of a catastrophic slippage in school science examinations standards, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has launched a Downing Street e-petition calling for urgent intervention to halt the slide.

And tomorrow morning a devastating RSC report demolishing the myth of record-breaking science education performance will land on the desks of all Members of Parliament.

The RSC report, also being supplied to industrialists and educationalists, raises major concerns over the disappearance from schools science examinations of vital problem-solving, critical thinking and mathematical manipulation.

Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the RSC said: "The target of our campaign is a failed education system, not the youngsters it's supposed to serve."

The petition reads:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Prime Minister to reverse the demonstrable decline in school science examination standards that is destroying our competitiveness. Science examination standards at UK schools have eroded so severely that the testing of problem-solving, critical thinking and the application of mathematics has almost disappeared.

Even bright students with enthusiastic teachers are being compelled to "learn to the test", answering undemanding questions to satisfy the needs of league tables and national targets. The RSC has powerful evidence of the decline in standards, adding to the revelation that students are able to receive a "good pass" with a mark of 20%.

This system is failing an entire generation which will be unequipped to address key issues facing society, whether as specialist scientists or members of a wider scientific community. The record-breaking results in school examination passes are illusory, with these deficiencies having to be remedied at enormous expense by universities and employers. This is compounded by key sections of the education community being in denial.

Unless addressed, we will see a continuing decline in our international competitiveness, reduced prosperity for ourselves, and limited career prospects for our children.

Urgent action is required before it is too late."...

"We are witnessing an illusory Great Leap Forward in education, where achieving contrived targets has become the end in itself. The proof lies in the enormous expense to provide remedial mathematics and even remedial science classes at university, and the lack of skills of graduates highlighted by employers.""

The petition has attracted 2442 signatures already including a collection of high profile scientists like Susan Blackmore, Steve Jones, Jon Crowcroft and numerous others. The rot sets in in primary schools, continues through secondary 'education' and the university sector is, very sadly, not immune to the "maths is too hard so best avoided" meme. The kids that performed so badly in the RSC trials are perfectly capable of doing well in such tests if they have been appropriately prepared. Edison said success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Maybe we could interpret that axiom as success is 1% intellectual capacity/potential and 99% perspiration? Today's children have every ounce and more of the intellectual capacity of earlier generations but the education system is failing completely to facilitate the development of the potential of the 1% in everyone.

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