Curriculum and Attainment
8. Between the ages of five and 16 all pupils
study science as part of a programme of general education. These
science courses make a major contribution to the public understanding
of science through focusing on key scientific concepts and on
the applications of the sciences in society. All courses have
clearly defined content (knowledge, understanding, skills and
attitudes), are extensively supported by advice to teachers about
matters such as teaching and learning approaches, assessment,
suggested learning activities (to develop practical and problem
solving skills), meeting pupils' needs and health and safety.
All courses promote a balanced approach to teaching and learning
of theory and practical work. An investigative approach is taken
at all levels. All major concepts are covered at an appropriate
level and the examples are chosen because of their relevance eg
Standard Grade (SG) physics includes topics on health physics,
space physics and telecommunication.
9. SG courses in biology, chemistry and
physics are offered at two levels, Credit and General. SG science
is offered at three levels, Credit, General and Foundation.
10. Between the ages of 14 and 16, all pupils
study one SG science course from biology, chemistry, physics and
science. About 25-30 per cent of pupils also study an additional
one or two science subjects. Throughout the 70s, 80s and early
90s there was steady growth in the uptake of these science courses.
Over the last two or three years this has stabilised. The long-standing
tradition of biology proving popular with girls (3:1 in favour
of girls at 2001) and physics with boys (2.5:1 in favour of boys
at 2001) has proved very difficult to shift. Chemistry is equally
popular with boys and girls (at 2001).
11. Between 1993 and 2000 the number of
pupils taking SG sciences saw small variations between subjects.
Biology was up 3.4 per cent to 34.9 per cent, Chemistry remained
steady at approx. 36 per cent. Physics dropped from 33.4 per cent
to 30.1 per cent over the same period.
12. Between the ages of 16 and 18 the uptake
of Higher Grade (HG) courses in the sciences is high. After English
and mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology are the third,
fourth and fifth most popular HG subjects (at 2000). Between 1974
and 1994 there was steady growth in the uptake of HG science subjects.
Between 1994 and 2000 there was a decrease in the number of pupils
taking HG sciences. Chemistry was down from 10.8 per cent to 9.5
per cent of the school roll. Physics was down from 10.4 per cent
to 8.7 per cent and biology was down from 7.6 per cent to 6.8
per cent. The drop in biology has been offset by the uptake of
the new Higher Grade course in Human Biology. If Human Biology
is added to the figures then Biology/Human Biology combined had
over 8,600 presentations as at 2000.
13. About 50 per cent of pupils who leave
school with HG passes include at least one HG pass in a science
23 per cent had passed one HG science subject.
19 per cent had passed two HG science subjects.
7 per cent had passed three HG science subjects.
14. In S6, the uptake of Certificate of
Sixth Year Studies (CSYS)/Advanced Higher (AH) courses in the
sciences has increased steadily over the last decade. The per
cent increase over this period is about 20 per cent for physics,
17 per cent for chemistry and 83 per cent for biology. These courses
have proved popular with pupils in giving them a sound foundation
for higher education.
15. The Higher Still (HS) programme began
implementation in schools and Further Education (FE) colleges
in 1999. All of the new National Qualifications (NQs) (arising
from the HS programme) in the sciences is available for use in
FE colleges. In S5 and S6, courses are offered at five levels,
namely Advanced Higher, Higher, Intermediate 2, Intermediate 1
and Access. Almost all courses are made up of three 40-hour content
units and one 40-hour assessment unit. Courses have been organised
as two-year packages although pupils may decide to take only one
year. These courses have been designed to articulate with S3/S4
provision at SG as follows:
16. Courses will be offered at all levels in biology,
chemistry and physics. Access courses are designed to meet the
needs of pupils with special educational needs. In addition, new
applied courses have been introduced in areas such as biotechnology,
electronics, geology and managing environmental resources (MER).
Pupils will be able to take units from these courses or complete
courses to complement their studies in more "mainline"
areas of science. Hopefully, this new provision will lead to enhanced
understanding at each level. Furthermore, more pupils should leave
school with qualifications in the sciences.
17. The most popular subject combination of pupils taking
five Higher Grades in S5 is English, mathematics, biology, chemistry
and physics. This combination is taken by around 700 pupils per
year. Many also take English, mathematics, two sciences and one
other subject. The most popular subject combination of pupils
taking four Higher Grades is English, mathematics, chemistry and
physics (around 700 pupils) followed by English, mathematics,
biology and chemistry (around 400). This reflects the popularity
of science subjects at school level. It also indicates the important
role that HE courses in the pure and applied sciences, including
medicine, veterinary medicine and engineering, play in promoting
the study of sciences at school.
18. The new NQs should help to promote interest in the
sciences since all levels of provision from Access to Advanced
Higher will be available for use in FE colleges, either working
on their own or in partnership with schools. This in turn should
feed into higher levels of provision in FE and HE. This should
help some universities where there may be local shortage of science
19. The primary aims of the science curriculum for this
age group (14 to 18) vary depending on the course level. For example,
at the Intermediate stage, the National Course Specification (NCS)
course details for Physics explains that the course will "assist
candidates in making their own reasoned decisions on many issues
within a modern society increasingly dependent on science and
technology". Whereas, at Higher Grade, the NCS for Chemistry
explains "a grounding for the future study of chemistry and
chemistry-related subjects in higher education is provided for
candidates who wish to pursue a career in a science-based area".
Essentially, the impetus and goal to pursue a future career in
science grows as the student advances through the levels and the
balance between education for life and education for career switches.
20. Within the curriculum for Physics, Biology and Chemistry,
practical work forms an important integrated component. Practical
work is designed in co-ordination with theoretical exercises and
should therefore create a bridge between mental analysis to actual
experimentation and then explaining within their theoretical knowledge
the findings of their experimental procedures. This creates a
50/50 split and synergy between practical and theoretical. Not
all practical work is assessed but there should be assessment
based around illustrative experiments, techniques and investigations.
Practical abilities are assessed internally throughout the duration
of the course, whereas theoretical understanding is assessed through
21. At SG, about 50-65 per cent of pupils presented gain
Credit level awards in the separate sciences each year. About
25-40 per cent gain General level awards. The remainder gain Foundation
level awards. In SG science about 5 per cent of pupils gain Credit
awards, 55 per cent General awards and the remainder Foundation
22. At HG the proportion of S5/S6 pupils presented and
achieving awards is as follows:
| ||"A" awards (per cent)
||"A-C" awards (per cent)
23. In summary, at SG and HG, consistently high standards
are continuing to be achieved. However, it is hoped that at SG
more pupils achieve better grades and at S5/S6 the implementation
of Higher Still provision will lead to even higher standards across
all levels of award. The main problem regarding the relevance
of the science curriculum is that more fashionable courses such
as computer science, psychology and business studies are being
seen as more desirable and useful than the conventional educational
sciences. The last five years have seen a drop in Scottish universities
for applications to these courses: chemistry27 per cent
drop; physics19 per cent drop; biology8 per cent
|Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) levels:
|Level seven||CSYS at A-C; Advanced Higher at A-C
|Level six||Higher at A-C
|Level five||Intermediate two at A-C; Standard Grade at 1 - 2
|Level four||Intermediate one at A-C; Standard Grade at 3 - 4
|Level three||Access three Cluster; Standard Grade at 5 - 6
24. The table above sets out the Scottish Credit and
Qualifications Framework levels and read across to the National
Qualification levels and grades.
25. New National Qualifications: Intermediate 1, Intermediate
2 and Higher were introduced in 1999-2000. Advanced Highers were
introduced for the first time this exam year 2000-01. Courses
are made up of internally assessed units and an external examination.
Courses are awarded at A-C or Compensatory.
26. Awards at A-C are regarded as passes (but see note
below on Compensatory Awards). Pupils who pass the examination
but are not registered as passing all the units are included in
the number of presentations (but not a course pass).
27. Compensatory Awards: Pupils who narrowly fail to
achieve the required standard for Intermediate 2 are awarded a
compensatory Intermediate one qualification. Those narrowly failing
to achieve the required standard for Higher are awarded a compensatory
Intermediate 2 qualification. Those narrowly failing to achieve
the required standard for Advanced Higher are awarded a compensatory
28. Standard Grade is certificated at three levels: Credit
(grades 1 and 2), General (grades 3 and 4), Foundation (grades
5 and 6) with a grade 7 being awarded to those who complete the
29. Data for Higher exams includes the new National Qualifications
Higher award. An award at A to C for both types of Higher is regarded
as a pass.
30. A CSYS (Certificate of Sixth Year Studies) course
is awarded at A-E with awards at A-C regarded as a pass. This
type of exam has now been replaced by Advanced Highers.