Memorandum submitted by the Engineering
1.1. The Engineering Professors' Council
(EPC) is a national body whose members are Professors and Heads
of Departments in engineering higher education. The Council's
mission is "promoting excellence in engineering higher education".
It has 1,200 members active in engineering teaching and research
across all engineering disciplines.
1.2. The EPC's aim are:
to make the excellence in engineering
higher education more widely known;
to enable engineering higher education
to secure adequate resources for
engineering higher education.
1.3. The Council welcomes the inquiry into
Science Education from 14 to 19 which are related to EPC's current
objectives. These include:
to enthuse young people to study
to work with others to promote engineering
nationally and internationally;
to enhance the flow of qualified
research workers into engineering higher education.
2. SCIENCE EDUCATION
FROM 14 TO
2.1 There is a tendency in both maths and
science teaching in schools for the curriculum to be driven by
subject specialists. One example is the decoupling of the A level
syllabi in applied maths and physics. In our view this is unwise
and is to the detriment of students' learning in both subjects.
2.2. The level of preparedness in science
subjects of students entering engineering courses varies widely,
and has in general declined in recent years. For engineering,
physics (and for some disciplines chemistry) are the basis of
understanding the behaviour of engineering artefacts and processes.
Students must have a thorough grounding in the basic principles,
the ability to apply theories and techniques without having to
stop and think, and the ability to apply them to unfamiliar problems,
Missing foundations at school level must be addressed at HE level
if output quality is to be maintained and additional resources
must be provided to maintain standards, without additional resources
it will be necessary to increase courses' length. The cost of
addressing missing foundations within HE is much greater than
if they are suitably addressed beforehand.
2.3. Double science at GCSE, and in particular
the lack of subject specialist teachers at this level, has a knock
on effect. While this is difficult to quantify exactly, prior
to the double GCSE students took three separate science O levels,
in preparation for the separate science A levels. Now they generally
take (effectively) two thirds of that for the same three A levels.
This certainly leads to a weaker grasp of essential principles
in individual science subjects. It is also frequently the case
that double science GCSE is a mask for the individual sciences
to be taught by non-specialists. This also leads to the poor grounding
of students in the basics.
2.4. We recognise the tensions between the
dual purpose of the school science curriculum to provide both
for specialist education at higher levels, and to provide a basis
for the well-rounded, scientifically informed citizen. It is also
necessary to maintain career options for as long as possible for
the brightest school students, whatever their eventual career
path. We would not wish to see earlier specialisation.
2.5. We recommend that there is further
revision of the maths curriculum to ensure validity, correct emphasis
and viability for entry to a range of higher education subjects.