Comment »Posted on Thursday 15 January 2009 at 10:50 pm by Jacob Aron
In Education

Sometimes you read a news story that you simply can’t believe. Not that you find it impossible, mind – I don’t mean news of the “Elvis ate my baby” variety – I mean news that you just can’t accept as true.

I’m actually referring to the government’s recently released figures on GCSE results, which (according to the Guardian) show that “[h]alf of pupils leave secondary school without a basic qualification in science”. When I read that this morning, I think I gasped. It just couldn’t be true that half of the country’s 16-year-olds were failing to achieve a GCSE in science, surely?

Well, the good news is that the Guardian were overselling just how bad these results are. If you read the report from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, it actually shows (on page 17) that 50.3% of pupils gain two or more A*-C grades in science.

For those who don’t know, science GCSEs work like this: pupils can either take “double science”, a general course covering a range of topics from biology, chemistry and physics, or opt for a GCSE in each subject individually. Thus, pupils are normally expected to gain two or three GCSES in science.

Whilst these results mean that half of pupils are getting at least Cs, it doesn’t follow that the other half are getting a science GCSE at all, as they are awarded from A* to G. I’m not saying a G in science is fabulous achievement, but the Guardian are stretching it a bit to say pupils don’t have the qualification.

Still, the results aren’t great. When considering my options post-MSc, going in to some sort of science education policy has often been at the back of my mind. News like this pushes it a little further towards the front – something must be done to sort out science in this country.

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