...a blog by Richard Flowers

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Day 2124: Take the Test


I am a FLUFFY elephant; this is a FURRY elephant.

I think we must be related!

Speaking of taking test, you can also try the homework set to Mr Stephen Smith, Science Student for the Newsnight Show.

Daddy Richard was very relieved that he got the answers right (Uncle Alan did the marking); what is more amusing is seeing the people who scoff at how easy these questions are and then proceed to get the answers wrong. Pride comes before making yourself look a dipstick, as I often remind myself after letting Daddy post my diary…

This is all because of a report into the decline in numbers of science students in schools. Apparently, studying science is just NOT POPULAR any more. Business and industry leaders are warning it could have a serious effect on competitiveness and innovation

(Actually, this is the usual CODE from "business and industry leaders" that they want something doing and they want the government – i.e. the rest of us – to pay for it because they certainly aren't going to. See also transport infrastructure, long term health care and nowadays pensions!)

In fact there are many MORE people doing generalised science courses – like the 21st Century Science course that I told you about before – but this means that fewer and fewer schools are offering the traditional three separate science courses of "Exploding Things"; "Electrocuting Things"; and "Pets".

[R: What?]

So although this means that young people are given a background briefing on the things that they need to know to understand the news and to make more informed decisions, the ones who would be passionate about the subjects are not getting the early start necessary.

The quandary for schools is that it is difficult to provide the separate science courses when they are short of teachers to teach them. And that shortage of teachers ALSO means that there are fewer pupils INSPIRED to study the sciences, and so fewer people WANTING the separate courses.

When the Institute of Physics looked at this, they saw that recruitment and retention of clever physicists into teaching was a BIG problem. They make the point that schools NEED to get subject specialists and that they NEED to train them to become "inspirational" teachers - whatever that means - and then to hang on to them.

But, basically, with a physics degree it is possible to get a good job somewhere else that (a) pays more money and (b) does not involve standing in front of a bunch of rioting children eight hours a day only to be told you are a lazy layabout with sixteen week holidays by the rest of a society that has been conned into abandoning the respect due to the teachers to whom it entrusts its children.

Between them, Mrs Thatcher and teaching unions spent a lot of the Eighties undermining that respect by playing politics with the classroom and forgetting about the children. Add to that the enormous cost of repaying Lord Blairimort's STUDENT LOANS (that he promised not to bring in and then, whoops, brought in) and the current Tabloid WITCH HUNT for classroom paed-a-lows and you would have to be mad, bad or have a genuine VOCATION to consider teaching.

Mr Jeremy Paxo wanted to know why we even need to produce our own scientists rather than importing them from other countries. I suppose that there are many broadcasters out there in India and China (to use Mr Paxo's example) who could do JEREMY'S job just as well as he can and for less money. Perhaps we do not need to produce our own JOURNALISTS and should outsource the Newsnight Show to India as well!

The LIBERAL answer to Mr Paxo, of course, is that we are here to maximise the OPPORTUNITIES for the people we hope to represent. That means giving THEM the chance to be great scientists, not just an UNDERCLASS in an economy that relies on bought in talent from the rest of the world!

So good luck with the test and the science studies. If you discover you are a GENIUS then please have a go at saving the British Economy for the rest of us. Thank you.

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