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Last Updated: Monday, 28 June, 2004, 02:53 GMT 03:53 UK
School science exams 'too narrow'
pupil with pipette
Curriculum experiments too predictable says report
Scientists have criticised school science exams, saying they make lessons boring and irrelevant.

The Royal Society warns that the exams fail to prepare pupils for future careers and studies.

Science at school or college is too narrow, with pupils learning by rote or doing experiments with predictable results, a report says.

It says science should be more relevant and linked to skills needed by employers and universities.

The Royal Society, the UK's national academy for science, is calling for more on-going assessment and fewer examinations.

"The pressure on teachers to deliver exam results is immense," Professor Mick Brown from the society said.

"Their professional skills and time must be better utilised to teach and assess science in a way that helps pupils succeed in science careers and as informed members of society as well as in exams.

"This means encouraging analytical skills and using an exam as a tool to help pupils learn and become enthused rather than simply as a means to a qualification."

'Difficult issues'

Academics are worried science is not appealing to enough children.

The number of undergraduates opting to study science at university is falling, as is the number of pupils taking science A-levels.

Michael Terry, the head of science at Alexandra Park School in the London Borough of Haringey, said existing methods of assessment were failing many of the young people studying science.

There was too much emphasis on learning facts and not enough on investigation, he added.

"Science teaching should be about equipping young people with an understanding of the subject so that they an engage intelligently with difficult issues like global warming, stem cell research and GM foods as well as inspiring those with an aptitude to science towards further study and careers," Mr Terry said.

"If we do not address the key issue of assessment we will find it increasingly difficult to achieve these objectives."

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