Science experiments in schools are being squeezed out, threatening the UK’s economic competitiveness and future capacity for innovation.
That is the conclusion according to a report – supported by the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics – published by NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).
A key recommendation in the report is a plea to national policymakers that unless a more hands-on approach to science is enhanced and extended in schools, there is likely to be negative consequences for future scientific research and public scientific literacy in the UK.
Karen O’Boyle, Head of science at Kingsway School in Oxfordshire, told Laboratory News: “The kids are just learning things verbatim and they are not getting a taste for exploration, or the excitement of scientific discovery.”
NESTA’s report, Real Science, claims that science experiments increase motivation, develop thinking skills and connect learning about science to the real world and that a more innovative approach to science learning has the potential to reverse the decline in young people’s interest in science.
Commenting on the report, Jonathan Kestenbaum, NESTA’s CEO, said: “In a highly technological society such as ours the ability of learners to analyse and question in a scientific manner is increasingly important. Scientific literacy now needs to take its place alongside general literacy and numeracy as a major part of the agenda to raise standards in schools.”
A number of leading scientists, including Nobel Prize winners Sir Paul Nurse and Sir Harry Kroto, have supported the report. Sir Paul Nurse said: “Science is all about exploring the natural world around us. Teaching in schools needs to reflect the excitement and wonder of that quest for knowledge.”