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#1 AmandaL

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 20:30

........about science in the UK, how and what is taught at GCSE and what the implications are for the future of science the UK.

In this case specifically physics. Physics should not have become yet another 'media debate' GCSE subject, and yet this is what the new syllabus has turned it into. No longer is it about studying how particles and matter make up, interact, and even govern the Universe we live in, it is now about meaningless discussions which have no substance or even a requirement for the pupil to understand the science behind them.

We need to stop the endless dumbing down of the curriculum - and the possibility that the younger generations might actually revert to believing in a flat-Earth and the Sun being the centre of the Universe dry.gif

Two links worth reading Here (a physics teachers statement on the issue) and Here (what the government says)

No silly comments please, this is a very real and serious issue faced in school education.
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#2 notmusimum

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 21:09

After the horrendous experience of GCSE Music this year. We hoped it woudl get better in year 10.

Can only say Maths teaching desperate and Science not much better.

The government really needs to look at the effect that insisting all students get 5 GCSE's is having. Many schools are putting the worst teachers in the top set so the less able get there quota of GCSE's.

Don't get me wrong I do believe everyone should reach their full potential but that means EVERYONE.

One very disillusioned parent.
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#3 clavicembalo

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 00:00

QUOTE(AmandaL @ Dec 31 2009, 08:30 PM) View Post

........about science in the UK, how and what is taught at GCSE and what the implications are for the future of science the UK.

We need to stop the endless dumbing down of the curriculum - and the possibility that the younger generations might actually revert to believing in a flat-Earth and the Sun being the centre of the Universe dry.gif


If you were to have armed yourself with a magnifying glass, you might have caught sight of the annual Royal Institution Christmas Lectures hidden away on More4 over the Christmas break.

I recall, back in the 1970s, watching David Attenborough deliver the series one year, Lewis Wolpert another, Richard Dawkins in the '80s to name too few - remember Eric Braithwaite on Magnets or The Physics of Musical Sound by Professor Taylor of Cardiff University?

There were only 3 channels available on TV and BBC2 didn't start until midday at the earliest. The lectures went out mid-morning, 10 a.m. say, so many children bumped into them, so to speak, even if they hadn't specifically switched on to watch them. Now, fat chance of that happening.

Every year I would return to school in January and ask who else on the staff had watched them - blank faces all round!

When I started at the school 24 years ago, the Maths pass-rate was some 40%. For the last few years it has topped 80%. Yet still, all is geared towards raising exam performance. Creativity (of the staff) has been stifled in the process - Can I afford to spend an afternoon investigating the mathematics of knots, of polyhedra, the Four-colour Problem, Fibonacci, The Golden Ratio, or should I take the opportunity to tick off another topic on the exam syllabus? Why am I made to feel guilty when I follow topics off the beaten track?

Maths was always a passion, but teaching did its best to beat it out of me. I packed it all in to devote my time to music. I still work at the school, the staff, the environment, the students good reasons for doing so, but I have not once regretted abandoning the maths classroom.

Dumbing down is everywhere, it's like a virus; why, oh why, has it infiltrated the science syllabus; I see all around me bright sparks who can cope with difficult content, who thrive on it. That's why I continue to deliver my R.I. Mathematics Masterclass (An Introduction to 4-dimensional 'solids').

Maybe it will improve next year - oops, it's nearly begun!





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#4 Maizie

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 12:10

QUOTE(clavicembalo @ Jan 1 2010, 12:00 AM) View Post
If you were to have armed yourself with a magnifying glass, you might have caught sight of the annual Royal Institution Christmas Lectures hidden away on More4 over the Christmas break.

I've watched them every year since I can remember. Regretably, I only managed about 10 minutes of this year's first programme...because the woman lecturing was just talking down so much. The joy of the RI Lectures is that it always was someone talking to you about Proper Things in a Proper Way!

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#5 heslop01

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 12:43

When I did GCSEs in 2007, I thought myself there were flaws in the curriculum. My English teacher for example had to spend a lesson (1 hour) teaching half of my class - there, their and they're.

My physics and chemistry teachers (both with doctrates in their subjects) said to us on our first GCSE science lesson - listen and learn for your exams then forget it all because this is all a load of codswallop.


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#6 Fran*Piano

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 13:15

Oh gosh, I thought physics was just terrible in my school because our teacher is certainly not the brightest of the bunch! We are studying separate sciences and therefore have to complete an extra module, and you'd think he'd want to help us to do the best we could possibly do...it has got to the stage where the head of science (a very old-fashioned biology teacher, who has always said that if you revise, what he teaches in lessons should be enough for you to pass your exam to the best of your ability without extra revision sessions with a teacher) actually organised for another physics teacher to teach after-school revision. While I admit to not being the best at physics, I was getting D's in my mocks before this, however, after revision sessions, I was getting largely A's and even managed to scrape an A* on one paper! Despite there being other very good teachers at the school, he was put in charge of an A-level class-however, a friend from this class has told me he more often than not has to ask a pupil (yes, a pupil) if his logic and reasoning looks right to her. How disgraceful is that?!?
So I'm very relieved that it's not just our school that's like this!
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#7 Aeolienne

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 13:43

I have to say I agree with the teacher who started the petition about the excessive emphasis on climate change - even though I'm not a climate sceptic by any means. It's important that students learn about the scientific principles behind the hype and doom-mongering, not just take it all on authority. Otherwise you might just as well be preaching religion.

Interesting that physics is considered the appropriate place to teach about climate science. 20 years ago I was one of the guinea pigs for Nuffield Co-ordinated Science GCSE (which faced its own criticisms of dumbing down). Our school had opted for this because it was one of the few options (if not the only one) for combined science that nevertheless maintained separate classes for the three sciences. Global warming (along with those other 80s causes celèbres, acid rain and ozone destruction) did make an appearance, but only in the chemistry syllabus.


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#8 Wombat

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 14:28

QUOTE(Aeolienne @ Jan 1 2010, 01:43 PM) View Post

I have to say I agree with the teacher who started the petition about the excessive emphasis on climate change - even though I'm not a climate sceptic by any means. It's important that students learn about the scientific principles behind the hype and doom-mongering, not just take it all on authority. Otherwise you might just as well be preaching religion.

Interesting that physics is considered the appropriate place to teach about climate science. 20 years ago I was one of the guinea pigs for Nuffield Co-ordinated Science GCSE (which faced its own criticisms of dumbing down). Our school had opted for this because it was one of the few options (if not the only one) for combined science that nevertheless maintained separate classes for the three sciences. Global warming (along with those other 80s cause celebres, acid rain and ozone destruction) did make an appearance, but only in the chemistry syllabus.


Ah, the Nuffield Combined Science. I was unfortunate enough to be in the first GCSE year to do the combined science award. This left me so behind when I went to take Physics and Chemistry A-Levels. I was completely all at sea.

My son did however watch the Institute Lectures this year as they have been studying plant cells at school and he found it quite interesting.
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#9 anacrusis

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 14:50

We've had experience of lousy maths tuition, with a dire textbook, sadly co-authored by one of the staff in the school: the emphasis is on only one right method of getting an answer for a problem, and comprehension is not a part of that either - in fact, in the maths department booklet we were emphatically told not to teach our kids a certain method for coming to an answer. The result is that kids plod through rafts of fractions without ever understanding that they are actually division sums, and never learn why it is that decimals and fractions (and percentages, come to that) are doing the same thing: they learn that the way to find this angle in that shape is this way, without ever being shown the working from first principles, and they are told a set of rules for solving algebra without understanding that the equals sign symbolises balance between the two sides of the equation, and therefore that as long as you do the same thing to each side of the equation, it remains an equation: these are things I've found myself explaining to my kids because the maths department didn't. I've heard that there was a chemistry paper which asked kids to give the energy source processed by a solar panel: that is as much a matter of knowing our language as it is of knowing science.
Every year, results come out, every year we have complaints about how the system is drooping in its demands, followed by outraged complaints from teachers and the kids sitting their exams that they have all worked very hard and been very stressed, and it's just envious resentment which occasions our grumbling: yes, they do work hard, but ultimately if they work hard at a load of tosh, then we are not equipping subsequent generations adequately, and that is tragic sad.gif
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#10 clavicembalo

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 15:28

QUOTE(anacrusis @ Jan 1 2010, 02:50 PM) View Post

We've had experience of lousy maths tuition, with a dire textbook, sadly co-authored by one of the staff in the school: the emphasis is on only one right method of getting an answer for a problem, and comprehension is not a part of that either - in fact, in the maths department booklet we were emphatically told not to teach our kids a certain method for coming to an answer. The result is that kids plod through rafts of fractions without ever understanding that they are actually division sums, and never learn why it is that decimals and fractions (and percentages, come to that) are doing the same thing: they learn that the way to find this angle in that shape is this way, without ever being shown the working from first principles, and they are told a set of rules for solving algebra without understanding that the equals sign symbolises balance between the two sides of the equation, and therefore that as long as you do the same thing to each side of the equation, it remains an equation: these are things I've found myself explaining to my kids because the maths department didn't.


What a dire state of affairs!

For a second I felt like coming out of 'retirement' as 'Mathman! - the caped crusader', but I'm too busy enjoying composing a piece of music for my niece to don the requisite attire!

I know I had a rant earlier, but even within the confines of exam tunnel-vision there is scope for variety of approach whilst supporting understanding by explaining the underlying principles involved, unless, that is, the Head of Dept feels that dictatorship is the only way (s)he can maintain control. He/she doesn't happen to be called Noah by any chance, holding on to cubits for dear life?

I've seen a lot of sparkling teaching in my time and fortunately my place continues to supply it. The depressing thing is what comes down on tablets of stone from on high, taking the wind out of your sails and leaving you sapped of energy when that is the particular life-blood required for a healthy profession.

THREEDOM OF THOUGHT

Three Wise Men brought presents,
Three gifts were received,
Three attending Shepherds left their flock, it is believed,
Mary, Joseph and her Child, a threesome thus achieved.
And lo! The three-times Stable was conceived!

One of mine I'm afraid and a week late I know, but I no longer have a black white-board on which to present it to the class! (Oops! I hope you don't consider it dumbing-down!)


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#11 AmandaL

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 16:33

QUOTE(anacrusis @ Jan 1 2010, 02:50 PM) View Post
Every year ..... outraged complaints from teachers and the kids sitting their exams that they have all worked very hard ........ yes, they do work hard, but ultimately if they work hard at a load of tosh, then we are not equipping subsequent generations adequately, and that is tragic sad.gif
agree.gif And pretty much sums up the current academic curriculum as a whole. It's very possible to have a string of A* results at GCSE and not know anything about the subjects per se.

I was one of the last round of the O Level exam pupils and a few days ago I dug out a couple of the mock papers we'd been given at school. The questions on those papers are challenging, possibly requiring the same level of knowledge required by current AS/A Level students. No wonder universities now have to offer one year 'foundation courses', so that students can catch up on the knowledge they will require to take a degree in maths, science or engineering.

Amongst other things, I'm involved in science outreach work - as part of a team running a course called Protons for Breakfast and individually delivering GCSE revision classes in nuclear and radiation physics. What I find depressing is the shockingly large number of pupils who still think science is really some sort of 'magic trick'.
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#12 pikkoloflautist

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 18:41

I tutor maths as a favour for some family friends, and I am currently working through the Year 9 syllabus with their two daughters. I have found so many flaws with the way mathematics is taught in this country (I was educated at an international school in the USA) and I frequently find myself going back to teach basic things such that should have been covered in primary school.

The other day, one of them asked me what 'volume' was so we spent 5 minutes with a tub of lego. Similarly, a friend of mine who is currently doing AS Maths recently asked me if she was present for the lesson where we covered the basic rules of algebra because she doesn't understand "what you can and can't do".

In reference to the "there, their, and they're" post, my GCSE English teacher was dyslexic and frequently asked me to correct his spelling, as well as 2 years of me pointing out spelling and grammatical errors on material that he had handed out to the class. Don't get me wrong - he was an utterly fantastic teacher, but it seems bizarre that such a person was allowed to teach English, of all subjects.

However what really concerns me is that out of a class of 20 sixteen year old students, I would place money on the fact that less than ten percent of them could correctly identify a noun, verb, preposition, adjective, and adverb when placed in context.


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#13 Aquarelle

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 19:20

QUOTE
QUOTE(AmandaL @ Jan 1 2010, 05:33 PM) View Post

No wonder universities now have to offer one year 'foundation courses', so that students can catch up on the knowledge they will require to take a degree in maths, science or engineering.



It will be no consolation to know that the general trend in France is to put specialisation later and later and later in the school life of pupils. The government says this is so that everyone can have a much wider experience on which to base their final choices. Everyone concerned with education knows the real reason.
Dumbed down curricula mean that it takes longer and longer to get the basics in place.

Lycée students work extremely hard here. But as anacrusus so rightly said, you can flog yourself to death learning a load of tosh.
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#14 Jacobi

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 19:45

QUOTE(pikkoloflautist @ Jan 1 2010, 06:41 PM) View Post

However what really concerns me is that out of a class of 20 sixteen year old students, I would place money on the fact that less than ten percent of them could correctly identify a noun, verb, preposition, adjective, and adverb when placed in context.


Well I am older than 16 but will still not be able to do that! But that's because I never went to a School that taught grammar. I can speak English with no problems but I don't know how!

This also made learning languages quite interesting since you are forced to learn how you speak English first!


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#15 Tortellini

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 20:16

QUOTE
I would place money on the fact that less than ten percent of them could correctly identify a noun, verb, preposition, adjective, and adverb when placed in context.


I am now an English teacher and a linguistics PhD student so yes, I can correctly identify them but when I did my GCSE I couldn't. We didn't learn any grammar terms at school. This was especially problematic when it came to learning German - I always remember my German teacher to tell me just to "take a stab" when I was getting frustrated about not knowing which case endings to use. All you had to do to get an A was learn "useful phrases" parrot fashion.
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