Examination of Witnesses (Questions 207
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
Thank you for coming. Brian Iddon will ask the
207. In this last session we are going to try
to pick up a few issues we might have missed. Perhaps you can
tell me first of all what you think the key issues were that came
out of the survey on GCSE science?
(Sajad Al-Hairi) First of all, from the data we gathered
the things which really stood out were that 80 per cent or more
or all students studying the different subjects found they were
exam-led and it was all you needed to know to pass the exam. Secondly,
again 80 per cent found that practical experiments helped them
significantly pass exams. Only a few per cent of people found
that they did not want to know about ethical or moral issues which
were to do with science, so in that sense the links with other
areas were helpful. Also many triple students wanted to study
the more controversial issues, because once you get on to triple
science you will be learning a lot of facts, so if you could have
a bit more room to manoeuvre and look at different issues that
would help. A lot of the single students just wanted to get the
facts, pass the exam and get it over with. From that we got a
few conclusions. Firstly, you needed the GCSE to be something
that helped and was accessible to any student who is coming from
primary education or Key Stage 3 education, because when you get
to university you are taught the same basic foundation course,
but when it comes to GCSE you do have different level students
but it does not make a difference when you get the foundations
taught, so a lot of students start at a disadvantage and that
does not help their course and they tend to go off it.
208. Does that fit with your own personal experience?
That is the survey but does that fit with your personal experience?
(Sajad Al-Hairi) Very much so.
209. Do you fit in with that?
(Ashwin Reddy) I found my personal experience was
that most of the topics we learned were exam-led. The teaching
was not in general teaching, to the best of my knowledge, it was
so we could get a good mark in the exams. I would prefer to see
more topical issues being brought up so we could avoid the stupid
hysteria about things like cloning and MMR, because really it
is not a huge deal and people only see one side of it. There are
two sides to any argument. People ignore the advantages of it
because they simply cannot see how it could be used.
210. Lucy, did that description apply to you
or have you got some other ideas?
(Lucy Ferguson) I agree totally there should be greater
flexibility within the syllabus to include points of interest,
which would make science more enjoyable. I personally was put
off science. I did the triple award but did not study it at A-level,
despite loving science all the way up to GCSE level. There was
nothing which interested me so I was not motivated enough to study
it later on.
211. What would have kept you at science? Is
there one thing or certain things that would have kept you in
(Lucy Ferguson) Less maths and I would have liked
greater flexibility so I could do stuff I enjoyed, stuff that
actually interested me.
(Kayleigh Goddard) I really enjoyed studying science
and that is why I am continuing it now. One thing that happened
was that we always seemed to get sidetracked, and we used to discuss
things like cloning in greater depth, and so it was more interesting
and we got on to more controversial issues as well as having the
syllabus, so I really enjoyed science and that is why it has made
me do it now.
213. When I am sat in the audience I might be
thinking, "Is somebody going to mention that?" Is there
anything that we really ought to know this afternoon that no-one
has mentioned so far, including yourselves?
(Sajad Al-Hairi) When talking about the dissection
issue, what people really want to do is have a touch of the apparatus,
a touch of the equipment and do it for themselves and have the
feeling that there is an answer that they know. With a lot of
experiments you know what is going to come out, you know the result
and what the conclusions are going to be. If there were a range
of experiments that gave you a different approach and helped you
experiment and research more, that would help.
(Lucy Ferguson) More hands-on experience, but it could
also be less clinicalclinical is not a good wordbut
less structured. It could be better and more encouraging for pupils'
self- discovery if they could explore science for themselves and
go down different avenues. That has got to be within some sort
of framework so you can test it at the end, but greater flexibility
with learning could be better.
214. There was a challenging statement that
somebody said earlier, I forget who it was, that you only stick
with science if you want to carry on with science. We study history,
geography and RE, a whole range of topics, that we do not necessarily
want to carry on with, so why should we not study science even
if we do not want to carry on with it?
(Kayleigh Goddard) Science is very important. With
controversial issues such as cloning in the news if people do
not have a basic understanding of science they will not be able
to understand things, and they will not be able to make judgments
for themselves about things if they do not have a basic understanding
215. You must have done my syllabus because
that was the answer I was expecting!
(Ashwin Reddy) Science is essential for our well-being.
If you do not know history, unless you want to do something in
that field, you are not going to miss much. A lot of people need
to know about the dangers of things like smoking and alcohol and
that is taught in the science syllabus.
(Lucy Ferguson) I studied both of the subjects we
are talking about and I do not necessarily want to do them, but
what I learn there will relate to what I want to do, which is
law, and that will relate to it, and science at the moment has
nothing in it like current issues that I can link to what I want
Dr Iddon: Lawyers deal with a lot of scientific
issues, as you will learn.
Mr McWalter: I was struck when you asked your
question about what it lacks and Sajad said that you wanted to
see what I thought was more open-ended enquiry, and my colleague
Brian said more hands-on experience. Those two things are very
different. That was the bit that you wanted, open ended enquiry
which Yasmin mentioned as a key desiratum as well. You then say
you want to study law. Law is very factual and very dry and you
have got to learn loads and loads of stuff before you get anywhere.
Are you not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire?
Chairman: You get money out of it!
216. Is it the money?
(Lucy Ferguson) Partly.
217. That was a question I was going to raise.
How important is the salary of a potential career to you when
you are considering what you are studying? Is there a perception
that scientists are not very well paid and lawyers, solicitors,
vets and dentists are fairly well paid?
(Lucy Ferguson) There is probably less scope for a
career. I have not been taught much about careers as such in science,
having never really had an interest in it, but there was never
very much information given to us about careers in science, so
we were more likely to opt for something which we knew had higher
218. Have you got a feel for how much people
earn in their careers?
(Lucy Ferguson) Not very much at all.
219. Would you like to know that?
(Lucy Ferguson) It could influence it. You may go
through life saying, "I want to be an author", thinking
they all get great pay but then realising you only get that if
you write a successful book.