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How can we encourage new scientists?

10:40 UK time, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Scientists in the Royal Society say A-Levels are "not fit for purpose", and are recommending a baccalaureate system to give pupils a greater breadth of subjects before university. Is this the way forward for education?

Schools minister Nick Gibb says the government's move to include mathematics and science in the new English Baccalaureate would drive up participation rates and attainment in these subjects pre- and post-16.

Chair of the Royal Society Education Committee Professor Dame Athene Donald said it should be a top priority for the government to reform England's education system.

How can science take-up be encouraged? Do you work in the field of science? Would you welcome a Baccalaureate-style qualification?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Comments

Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    How to encourage science?

    By letting kids do fun experiments. Let them blow things up, let them give themselves electric shocks, let them play with van de Graaf generators and light bunsen burners with their fingers. My chemistry and physics teachers did the above, and I loved it. Nobody ever, ever got hurt.

    Science can be fun, but all too often it's not allowed to be.

  • Comment number 2.

    As funding for university places is causing problems all round at the moment, I think I would make the places for courses which train people for jobs where they are actually needed free - the sciences would be one such area.

    As for A levels and GCSEs - I'm afraid this confirms my own view that education has been too dumbed down. I'm not complaining for myself. I'm complainng for the children who have been failed by such a system.





  • Comment number 3.

    Science "take-up" could be encouraged at University level simply by increasing financial aid to Science students and discouraging "mickey mouse" subjects from being taught in so many Universities.

  • Comment number 4.

    Of course the scientists are right. Nowhere else in the world are young people allowed, indeed encouraged, to narrow their education and choose arts or sciences at such a young age, nor are school leaving qualifications taken over so few subjects. A qualification like the International Bacc would be much more fit for purpose and would command much greater international respect. As it would also require bright young people to take both arts and sciences to 18, the inevitable consequence would be more young people opting for sciences at uni.

    Of course, this stupid government has muddied the waters by calling a broad range of GCSEs the 'English bacc'. The Baccalaureate is an age 18 qualification in international terms, not an age 16 qualification.

  • Comment number 5.

    Postscript to #4

    It's also worth noting that there have been many signs in recent years that top universities are losing confidence in A levels and increasingly using their own tests/interviews. Also a recent report has emphasised the benefits of sciences to all academically minded young people as a good training of the mind, whatever one goes on to study.

    All more weight to the arguments in favour of a broader based age 18 qualification.

  • Comment number 6.

    The 'English Baccalaureate' at GCSE level is a start in providing a decent foundation to scientific studies. However, for those students wishing to progress further with the intention of becoming 'a scientist' A-levels fail in not providing sufficient depth and rigour, particularly in mathematics.

    Science is poorly presented to young people long before the time to make course choices. It's exciting, it's fascinating, it can be rewarding, there are both commercial and academic opportunities depending on individual interests... so why does it appear dull and difficult, with little opportunity or reward for the effort it entails?

    My daughter (who is 14) went on an 'Aim Higher' visit to a Jaguar plant yesterday. Instead of coming home buzzing about the practical applications of science to the craft of car manufacture, she said they'd looked round the factory floor, seen a few robots but learned nothing about them, and been allowed to climb into some full-scale model cars. She said that she'd seen a sheet of metal placed in a press to make a car door, but was not told basics like the pressure involved or how it was applied.

  • Comment number 7.

    All depends on what this baccalaureate teaches and how relevant it is. For years now politicians have pushed the need for degrees to progress, ergo children and employers have been brainwashed in the need for degrees. The children know science degrees are hard so opt for the 'softer' degrees to try and ensure they do not waste their time at Uni. Unis on the other hand find training scientists is less profitable than providing 'soft' degrees due to the need for more expensive raw materials so reduce the provision of science degrees, which in turn makes it harder to get on one as the qualification requirements become so high.
    Bringing in the baccalaureate will make no difference unless it is accpted by Unis and the places are provided by Unis. I may be in a minority here but to qualifications are often irrelevant it is education that counts but politically it is easier to measure education by simple grades without considering in what those grades have been attained and how difficult it is to attain those grades.
    Until someone makes a clear decision as to what is needed, how then it can be provided and accepts not everyone is academically brilliant and they too need training for the future in some other field then nothing will improve the present mess.

  • Comment number 8.

    It doesn't matter what exam system they use so long as they don't move the exam grade goal posts all the time. That way an A grade in 1 year will be at the same standard as an A grade 10 years down the line.

    But HOW will a baccalaureate system drive up participation rates? If you don't make sciences interesting and if you don't remove the perception that sciences are harder then it wont do anything at all unless they are compulsory.

    When we live in a world driven by quick gains for as little effort as possible, is it no supprise that the harder subjects (ANY harder subjects, not just sciences) are losing out to those perceived as being the easier option or at least less intensive?

  • Comment number 9.

    The International Baccalaureate was introduced when I was doing my A-levels in an effort to 'broaden' the education of A-level age students. I wouldn't have had a chance of getting into a good university to study if I had completed that course. The time taken out for general studies, languages and humanities would have meant that I could only have studied a single A-level in Mathematics - when double Maths (Pure and Applied) were required for almost every good university course in either Maths or Physics.

    Instead I dropped out of the Int-Bac to focus my studies and get into one of the better universities for Mathematics in the country.

    Anything that improves the understanding of maths and science subjects has to be a good thing, but if a broader understanding comes at the expense of the specialism necessary to win a good university place then that could mess up the whole university admissions system.

    I hope this idea (if adopted) isn't used as justification to lengthen degrees in order for students to gain the necessary level of specialisation!

    And if we want more scientists in the country how about not charging students £9,000 a year to study at a good university and become a professional? Why not invest, through tax breaks and government funded research, in indusitries that would employ the highly skilled scientists that would be produced? I have friends with advanced degrees in physics and biochemistry that haven't been able to find work in Britain in their chosen fields.

    Just a thought.

  • Comment number 10.

    My view is that the main problem in the education system is the teachers and their unions.
    From my experience many are blinded by the dogma's and ideologies of the last century and refuse to see the reality of the 21st century and the UK's role in it.
    The education system is NOT educating OUR children with the education and life 'tools' required for the success of both the individual and OUR country.
    Until this problem of poor teaching and their over protective unions is tackled and the incompetent teachers removed, any attempt at real reform and improvement of OUR children’s education will be like 'pulling teeth' and blocked (as it is at present) by the left and their union dinosaurs

  • Comment number 11.

    Certainly A levels are far too easy. They do not stretch or test the student. A level maths are of a standard not that different from the old GCE O level maths of 50 years ago.

    The problem with the Baccalaureate is that the subjects are very diverse and the student must do well in all subjects. Not everyone is good a maths, English, foreign languages and science subjects to the level as is required by the Baccalaureate standards. I could be wrong but my understanding is that France operates a selection process (similar to our old 11 plus) and only those who pass this and go to selective schools get the opportunity to take the Baccalaureate. And not all students pass this difficult examination!

    I think that our GCSEs should have three levels of difficulty - Foundation, Intermediate and Higher. At each level, students should be encouraged to take a wide selection of up to 10 subjects at GCSE. 16 to 18 year olds should be offered an Advanced level education with options that vary between vocational, an introduction to skilled working (mechanics, bricklayers, plumbers etc etc), and academic (including science and art as well as classics) dependent upon their GCSE results.

    Opting for an English Baccalaureate may not work for us.

  • Comment number 12.

    Allowing students to opt out of more challenging subjects like science early in their academic career will inevitably reduce the take-up of those subjects perceived as "difficult". Free or subsidised university places for scientists would encourage this as a career path whilst improving the country's economic future. Likewise, worshipping the cult of celebrity a little less and raising the status of scientists (and teachers, nurses, fire fighters, the police,...) in the public consciousness a little more would help make such a profession more appealing to youngsters.

  • Comment number 13.

    Subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry and so on are far too difficult. And as such pupils might not get very good grades in these subjects. And if they get poor grades it might upset them, so it's better for pupils to study easy subjects where they will all get an A* grade. That way the Government can claim that it spent billions of pounds reforming education and that as such standards in education have been greatly improved, after all, the grades speak for themselves, don't they ?

    Oh no, hang on, I thought I was a member of the previous Labour Government for a minute there.

  • Comment number 14.

    1) Introduce cutting-edge ideas early.

    For all the bangs and smells, there’s no way of avoiding the fact that to get to the new stuff, you have to learn all about the old stuff - a scientific education is always going to have to be about assimilating the accumulated knowledge. The only way to get past this is a view of where it’s all going – if I’d known about CERN while I was rolling little wooden trucks downhill it would have made it seem a lot more worthwhile

    2) Introduce the scientific method along with the facts
    When I was at school our ‘experiments’ were simply exercises in measurement and observation. Coaching children in formulating hypotheses and designing experiments to test them gives them more of an idea of the thrill of scientific discovery. At the very least it will set them up to be rational, sceptical thinkers in everyday life which can’t be a bad thing.

  • Comment number 15.

    Scientific discovery is vital to a nation's economic and defensive well-being. E.g. the wealth, and safety created by the information age. If I were in charge, I would place scientific discovery at the very top of the nation's agenda, beginning with interesting science classes at an early age. My science classes were appallingly bad - copying off the blackboard for hours on end. We must inspire people from an early age. Imagine finding the cure for cancer, and AIDS....

  • Comment number 16.

    Put a heck of a lot more money into scientific promotion.
    I'm a technologist not a scientist. I'm interested in applying science not exploring it. But without science technology is nothing. Without technology our economy is nothing.
    I find it quite disturbing that the country that gave the world so many important scientists and their discoveries is now completely disinterested in promoting science in the future. I have a friend who is in her final year of Ph.D. in chemistry who tells me that she is really concerned that their will be no job for her when she gains her qualification. If you know about the ever decreasing number of UK born science post grads then you should be shocked that the few we do turn out can't even get jobs?
    Sorry to sound pessimistic but I know India is one of many developing countries who invest for more than we do in research science and it seems likely the future belongs to them;
    It doesn't help that science literally does not get a mention in the media unless they are grossly misrepresenting some medical risk like MMR or now the Cervical jab.

  • Comment number 17.

    Only good teachers can make this subject intresting for todays pupils, but they are few and far between in our schools today. Much better wages in the private sector for them in the U.K. there is a dire shortage of scientist in many fields and research .But without them the U.K. will fall way behind, the rest of the world

  • Comment number 18.

    Any subject is exciting if it is taught correctly. Drawing public attention to subjects in a positive way will increase the uptake.

    I took GCSE science and I had an interest in physics and chemestry. But what they taught was boring, had little use in the real world and by the end of it any good times were drowned out by boring.

    I still ahve an interest in physics and sciency subjects. But my interest was lost in school. Why would I continue with it further?

  • Comment number 19.

    How can we encourage new scientists. By giving them the status and rewards that scientists duly desrve. Scientists are the ones that lay the foundation of our prosperity, they are the ones that open up new venues of enterprise. Scientists should have status higher than celebs and bankers. Children seem to latch onto celeb culture and our brightest people gravitate towards financial greed. If you can create an atmosphere where science is truly appreciated then our young people will aspire to become scientists. Our society is too fixated on making money at this time and science is taking a back seat. Science is being attacked by fundamentalism of the religious Right Creationists and deniers of Global Warming.

    Back to the question science should be made fun and interesting from the earliest of ages, along with engineering and computing. If we want to prosper and feel that we as a society have a place in the world then this is the path to take. We have done it once, in the 19thC, and we can do it again. But I suspect the bankers will want to keep the funding to a minimum with their short sighted greed and their increibly deep bonus holding pockets.

    Most of all keep religion out of science it has no place in our future.

  • Comment number 20.

    What on earth did we expect? We've allowed a culture to develop where the most successful people in this country are morons. It's not a brain you need to get ahead these days, it's a big mouth, or big breasts.

    Our brightest brains earn a pittance, and receive no plaudits. But our media is daily full to overflowing with the stupid antics of vastly overpaid idiots with no interest in anything beyond their own instant gratification.

    It's the media's fault: instead of chasing after these idiots and hanging on their every monosyllabic grunt, why not make stars of some our most intelligent people instead. Promote a culture of study = rewards, and you'll get one.

  • Comment number 21.

    Obviously to be a top scientists one needs to understand basic maths, I know a senior lecturer in Chemical Engineering who has had to change all his notes to accommodate dumb downed students, just like in all forms of engineering, it not students fault its the system which does not give an in depth understanding of Maths, when my son got his A levels a pass was a C grade and above a C grade without a calculator just a slide rule, a C grade was a pass mark of 70%.

    Its not just encouraging science its much more than that!

  • Comment number 22.

    More years ago than I care to admit I took HNC Electrical. This was a five year course which, if you passed some major companies accepted this qualification as a degree. It was not popular amongst younger people as it kept you out of the earning occupations for a long time.
    Now the degrees or whatever they are called are more streamlined and put you out into the wide world in three years. The students are still not appreciating that science or Engineering degrees are needed now. The industry, particularly the electrical industry are suffering a twenty to thirty year void of trained personnel.
    Possibly the reluctance of major companies to take on and train potentially bright students is the cause of this shortage of skilled folk.
    I believe that the "soft" degrees that students think will convince employers that they have the ability to learn are the major problem.
    They can get one of these degrees in three years, possibly part time, and be out with their friends again with virtually no prospects.
    Can't the larger companies sell the idea of proper degrees and sponsor the students rather than winge that there are no decent science qualifications or engineering degrees about to employ.

  • Comment number 23.

    We encourage scientists by paying them a decent salary - along with other clever people.

    Unfortunately this society rewards those with the biggest mouths rather than the biggest brains.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think that some of the contributors on here haven't actually listened to Prof. Donald. She has specifically distanced herself from any criticism of 'A' levels, other than that they do not offer sufficent breadth of knowledge, not depth of knowledge as some contributors seem to think.
    What I do know is, that 43 years ago I did 3 'A' levels and without any great effort achieved decent grades. Today's 18 year olds are expected to put much more effort into schooling than in the "Golden Years".
    And anyone who tells you different is either too young to know or very very forgetful in their old age.

  • Comment number 25.

    First of all get rid of all funding to students doing non degrees or other stupid non subjects. We immediately have the funds available for proper education for our kids.

    Second get rid of the interfering politicians. We immediately have more funds available for proper further education for our kids.

    Third get rid of the no-win no-fee leech lawyers who encourage the stupid parents of little Johnny to sue the school because he had a cut finger when doing "dangerous" experiments. We immediately have more funds available for proper further education for our kids.

    Fourth and probably most important get rid of the incompetent local town hall civil servants and counillors living in their ivory towers creaming off funds in "ADMINISTRATION" costs.

    We now have ample funds available to make our education system a real envy of the world.

    It will never happen of course but if it did think what we could do with the NHS and the incompetent MoD.

  • Comment number 26.

    Scientists could earn more respect if they did not make nonsensical predictions about climate change.

  • Comment number 27.

    We already have too many scientists: youg people of today should be encouraged to do more worthwhile things like becoming reality TV stars or X-Factor wannabees.

  • Comment number 28.

    I became a scientist after passing 5 Highers and 2 "S" level papers at a Scottish state school. Now in my eighties I am still grateful for my Higher Latin as it makes understanding the latinised names of plants easier to remember. I have also been glad of my Highers in French and English when my children were young and i gave hospitality to French students to help them learn English. My Highers and "S" levels in Science and Maths helped me get my scientific Qualifications to do research but the broader education helped me to a fulfilling life outside work. I agree entirely with this suggestion, speaking from experience, and can only wonder why the Scottish system has not been adopted before. It cannot be that Scotland has not delivered the goods - there are scientists and engineers from Scotland all over the world.

  • Comment number 29.

    Give them free University places and make the people that take waste of time courses like Art and Media studies pay extra to cover the costs involved.

  • Comment number 30.

    Rubbish.

    'A' levels like GCSEs have been dumbed down. Going to an even more general system like a baccalaureate would just make matters worse.

    The biggest problem with the higher education system is that it is run for the Universities not the students.

    With focussed 'A' levels most degree courses should only take 2 years. Why do the colleges need 3 years. It is a scandal that students will become increasingly aware as the costs of supporting their 3 year studies grow.

    I suggest this policy is at best missing the point and at worse the first shots to maintain the current unsustainable degree system.

  • Comment number 31.

    As some have already mentioned short-termism and instant gratification seem to be the order of the day. Get the largest amount of money in the shortest possible time with the least amount of work appears to be the new career choice and when youngsters see bankers, politicians and celebs doing just they they see it as an easy option. Lead by example for once.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why does Britain want more scientists? There are no higher educational prospects for them and no jobs when they graduate.

    I would like to think that science is a critical way of thinking about ourselves and the world, constantly demolishing tired old theories, and striving towards enlightenment. But we don't need that do we? All the answers have been discovered says the tired old bunch in the Royal Society and the government advisors. Hawkings and Dawkin have put an end to religion, so nothing new to add there, and the neuro scientists have discovered all that can possibly known about the brain, and so on. Why bother to enter this profession?

    Anyone want to talk honestly about A levels. Over twenty years experience told me that there was little correlation between A level grades and degree results. Cannot check this now as everyone has to have the uniform two As and a B, or two Bs and an A.

    But obtaining these A levels - and the same might be said for any other entrance requirement - actually destroys any thirst for knowledge. Result, bored and aimless undergraduates who are burnt out when they reach university.

    Time for a re-think. Anyone thought of restoring University lecturers to a professional status, like medical doctors? Or are our universities to remain forever, as meeting factories where research and the thrill of imparting knowledge is a punishable offence?

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    #1 hit the nail on the head. let kids experiment!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    You cannot keep a system where everyone gets an A.

    It might look good for teachers but it gives a totally false idea of ability, and fails both those who are brilliant as they don't stand out as they should, and those who aren't so gifted because they are led to believe they are far more talented than they actually are.

    Time to make our GCSE and A level exams a lot harder, and let's get some realism in place of PC non-competitive thinking.

  • Comment number 36.

    Science is amazing fun as well as educational. The trouble is, that some students find disruption even more fun and it makes some teachers wary of taking risks. Risk taking is necessary in science but only under controlled, risk assessed conditions. Get my drift?

  • Comment number 37.

    Create some jobs that need scientists, or is that too simple.

    There are just under 3000 job vacancies at present requiring a science degree, how this equates to number of jobs available annually I don't know, but guess less than the 10,000 who will leave Uni. So increasing the number of students will only provide more competition, not forgetting the ones who will be losing their jobs this year.

  • Comment number 38.

    If you go to university to do a science degree(and finish it) should not have to pay anything just up the feees for media studies and other mickey mouse subjects

  • Comment number 39.

    What this story doesn't say is that the Scottish "Highers" system is praised and it is suggested that England should try to emulate it.

  • Comment number 40.

    You can talk about "systems" all you want, the real issue here is that the work, and the exams are neither broad enough nor hard enough.

    If we stopped sending people to university to keep them off the unemployment lists for another 3/4 years, and concentrated on providing a better means of assessing real potential across the mid/late teens then universities and employers would be fed more intelligent, higher achieving, higher potential, though fewer, students. Mind, it would put the universities under pressure too for right now there are far too many unis/colleges/lecturers for the proportion of the population we actually should be educating to that level.

    We don't need more people studying sciences at university. We do need those studying science ( and everything else) to be better, brighter, more motivated and have more knowledge as they come in. What the Royal Society are saying is that currently this isn't happening and they are right.

  • Comment number 41.

    26. At 11:48am on 15 Feb 2011, Edwin Schrodinger wrote:

    Scientists could earn more respect if they did not make nonsensical predictions about climate change.

    -----------------

    I really hope that doesnt deter people from the sciences. The political messing which caused a lot of damage to a lot of credabilities of real scientists needs to be highlighted, appologysed for and made obvious that it had nothing to do with science and the scientists.

    That way the factual results can be published with less skepticism.

    Scientists are the way forward. Removing them from politics would improve their standing so much more.

  • Comment number 42.

    13. At 11:31am on 15 Feb 2011, HaveIGotThatWrong wrote:
    Subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry and so on are far too difficult. And as such pupils might not get very good grades in these subjects. And if they get poor grades it might upset them, so it's better for pupils to study easy subjects where they will all get an A* grade. That way the Government can claim that it spent billions of pounds reforming education and that as such standards in education have been greatly improved, after all, the grades speak for themselves, don't they ?

    Oh no, hang on, I thought I was a member of the previous Labour Government for a minute there.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Grades had been improving for some years before Labour took office in 1997. But I guess that didn't fit quite so neatly into your "analysis".

  • Comment number 43.

    Science was SO BORING in school. I am 23 now and looking back, I cannot believe how a school renders such an exciting subject into something so mundane. I just copied from text books for the majority of the time.

    They need to make the subject more appealing to kids in school. It is too late for me to go into anything science related because I don't have the right qualifications and/or knowledge.

  • Comment number 44.

    How to encourage more people to do science?

    Well as a scientist with 2 children who are also scientists, I feel free to comment.

    Firstly salary - I have a BSC (Hons) and a PhD - I earn less than a bus driver - (honestly).

    Career structure - there is none.

    Security - most jobs are fixed term. That means that you get a 2 to 5 year contract and at the end of it you leave. Redundancy paid in academic science is as little as the university can get away with.

    After one contract as you go up the pay scale, it is cheaper to employ someone with little experience and so you can't get another job without taking a pay cut. Currently, one of my daughters has been unemployed for over a year (it's difficult to even get an interview when you're overqualified) the other one will be made redundant in approx 6 weeks time. There are very few jobs to apply for and many labs are now full of foreign graduates (I have no problem with this other than the fact that they do no better/worse a job than anyone else, and I can't see why our own graduates should not come first).

    At present there are job cuts in research in the pharmaceutical industry and unemployment is rife in science (much research is charity funded). It used to be possible to go from a research post into teaching, but these posts are few.

    So in short, if I knew then what I know now - neither me or my children would be scientists.

    Parents and children are much more savvy now than they used to be. No one is going to want to spend thousands of pounds on a career with the problems I've outlined above.

  • Comment number 45.

    Not often I say this, but I agree with the minister on this one.

    We need a general overhaul of the A-level system anyway, to ensure higher standards and do away with grade inflation.

    I would welcome the introduction of a 'baccalaureate' style exam, including maths, English, and science, and a foreign language, as a pre-requisite for university entry.

    If the exam was marked as rigorously as A-levels were in the old days, it would help raise the standard of undergraduates, and probably halve the number of people trying to go to uni.

    It would also help ensure higher standards at university, and re-establish the value of degrees. At the moment, we seem to be sending too many people to uni who would be better off doing vocational education elsewhere - and we really should be ensuring that we have good vocational training as a matter of course.

  • Comment number 46.

    I loved science at school, particularly visits to places like Jodrell Bank and one off 'lectures' given by visiting scientists, who very successfully inspired me to find out more. The trouble was that, despite claims from teachers to be keen on developing that interest, as soon as the visit/lecture was done it was back to ploughing through the syllabus regardless, with little reference to the real world and no time allowed to explore areas of interest. It all became dull and boring again.

    Some years later I did a government TOPS course and the lecturers at the local Tech re-kindled the interest, such that a couple of years later I did an OND and then went on, rather to my surprise, to do a degree.

    I don't know whether a baccalaureate would have made a difference or not as I have no real idea what one is, though having failed three 'A' levels at the end of my school career I do believe they are not the best route for many. Much talent is lost through them as 'A' levels are about the ability to pass exams, not understand the subject.

    What was more relevant was that the lecturers taking the TOPS course, and subsequently the OND, were Engineers and/or Scientists who had come from industry after many years experience. They had a profound knowledge of their specialism and, importantly, and a good knowledge of how their chosen subject fitted in with other science in the real world. They had no teacher training in those days.

    I not attempting to draw any conclusions from my experience, but would make this observation : The OND course, on average, saw 85% of students, many of whom didn't even have the required exams to even start the course but were accepted by the course leader after an interview, go on to graduate, while the 'A' level department of the same collage only managed about 15% or so.

  • Comment number 47.

    i do not understand the question,"to include maths and science"??? they already "should" be part of the advanced students needs in is study of the sciences,surely.by all means have inventive teaches give them scope to make "all" subjects intresting but one needs to have the basic skills in th arts, history, sciences and the rest.if one want to be an artist he needs the ability to draw,sketch and paint.school will give him the education to enquire after knowledge of oils,water coulor tempers etc...
    same principles in the sciences.why the question is being asked implies this not the case at the moment..i do not understand???

  • Comment number 48.

    26. At 11:48am on 15 Feb 2011, Edwin Schrodinger wrote:
    Scientists could earn more respect if they did not make nonsensical predictions about climate change.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------

    The subject is "How can we encourage new scientists" ?
    Please write the following 100 times - I must answer the question asked, not the one that I prepared the answer to earlier, and will continue to trot out ad nauseam, whether or not it is appropriate.

  • Comment number 49.

    How do we encourage new scientists?

    Same way as we encourage new bankers or chief executives of companies/councils: pay massive wages and huge bonuses to scientists.

    Or does this supposed "market forces" rule only apply to certain sectors?

  • Comment number 50.

    In my opinion this just proves how much of a disaster the GCSE changes have been. Dumming down the 16yo exams has causd the 18yo exams to deteriorate too. Go back to the older 'O' level style which encouraged learning and excellence and maybe young people can achieve more.

  • Comment number 51.

    as someone who works in a university, i can say quite fairly that the ability for even straigh A students to think and write critically is somewhat questionable. students seem to leave school with the ability to pass exams but little else. the amount of text talk I see in emails and assignments is worrying.

    An education surely should prepare students for life after school; either in work or in university. if you asked employers what they though, I'm sure their experience is similar to the universities. the system clearly does need to change. with regards to grades, we could never use that as the sole assessment tool for admission. so many other things have to be taken into account and these can often only be established by interviewing them

  • Comment number 52.

    The question is how science take-up can be encouraged. There are many ways to achieve this. Just off-hand:

    1. give tax-breaks for companies who sponsor young people through university.
    2. reduce university fees for science students from UK.
    3. teach science correctly from an early age.
    4. make the science curriculum more vocational.

    I'm sure there are countless other ways, but they all require us to be proactive, and that's not something Brits are good at.

  • Comment number 53.

    What a fascinating and thought-provoking question!

    Don't they teach science, physics or biology in schools any more? When I was a lad, my secondary modern establishment did so, and in those days they involved practical experiments and enquiring minds were encouraged. Report-writing entailed the use of mathematics as well as English.

    What on earth is going wrong with the education system today? Fiddling around with computer keyboards alone is not going to give youngsters hands-on experience. They need to get their hands dirty.

  • Comment number 54.

    1: not always. I was carrying a beaker containing a chemical back to a desk once - that we'd been warned not to get on our hands - and the classroom was so crowded that someone bumped into me and we did get it on our hands. I washed it off pretty quickly, let me tell you.

  • Comment number 55.

    Could I just point out
    a) that Pfizer announced 2400 redundancies and the closure of their research facility at Sandwich a couple of weeks ago
    b) that the pages of the Guardian are still awash with public sector non-jobs.

    In 20 years in the chemical industry I survived a restructuring at the rate of about one every 3 years. Finally they got me and I was made redundant. The sad fact is that there are not many jobs for scientists and many of those that exist are insecure.

    I love science and worked in the field. Society badly needs an amount of core science. But, unless you can get a job as a University lecturer or government advisor, you would be mad to be a scientist these days.

  • Comment number 56.

    A-levels are being used for 2 purposes, University entry and a school leaving exam.
    Split them, give (selected) universities the role of specifying the syllabus and grading a public university entry exam (aka (Northern Universities) Joint Matriculation Board) while some other organisation can specify and mark a school leaving exam.
    Cancel any politically motivated equivalence between exams such as a B-TEC being 2 A Levels.

  • Comment number 57.

    by giving scientists same salaries of a football player , a super model without a brain , and actress that just "looks good" , and Business men who cant work unless they meet in 5 stars hotels around the world.

  • Comment number 58.

    Hmm. The government could spend more on research in UK universities, meaning that more post-docs have the opportunity of securing work that is not based on a constant round of research grant applications?

    But, no, they're going to cut funding to universities instead.

    Nice one, Dave.

  • Comment number 59.

    By the way, can I support comment 33. Where is HYS when you need it ie when a public sector institution is proven to be flawed?
    Public sector - criticism - of course. The BBC won't allow it. In other situations it's called censorship.

  • Comment number 60.

    Pay them £500,000 a year.

  • Comment number 61.

    We dont need greater breadth of subjects, we need better quality subjects studied and exams. Whats the point of a Business academic learning about science ?

    Its wastes time and effort in the same way teaching me French, German, RE and Music wasted my time and the teachers.

    In my 16 years of work I have never used any of these. What would have been useful is lessons in mortgages, loans, plumbing and carpentry. i.e. real world skills.

  • Comment number 62.

    58. At 12:43pm on 15 Feb 2011, potatolord wrote:

    Hmm. The government could spend more on research in UK universities, meaning that more post-docs have the opportunity of securing work that is not based on a constant round of research grant applications?

    But, no, they're going to cut funding to universities instead.

    Nice one, Dave.

    ----------------------

    Why dont you fund a uni? Make donations etc?

    There is no money in the collective pot so this is your opportunity to do it yourself. If you really cant afford it then why assume the gov can?

  • Comment number 63.

    Encourage scientists? My suggestion will put the cat among the pigeons:

    Women with science degrees should have several children and stay at home to rear them in their own enthusiasm. That way the children can encounter magnetism, prisms and spectra, capillary action with celery, eqilibria, levers, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics (paper aeroplanes) etc as part of their natural environment.
    What better way could there be to introduce children to science and fan their enthusiasm?

  • Comment number 64.

    How can we encourage new scientists?
    Scientists in the Royal Society say A-Levels are "not fit for purpose", and are recommending a baccalaureate system to give pupils a greater breadth of subjects before university. Is this the way forward for education?
    Schools minister Nick Gibb says the government's move to include mathematics and science in the new English Baccalaureate would drive up participation rates and attainment in these subjects pre- and post-16.
    Chair of the Royal Society Education Committee Professor Dame Athene Donald said it should be a top priority for the government to reform England's education system.

    Oh dear, I do smell a rat here!
    First Labour dumbs down subjects in education and also the GCSE exams as well, Tories say that the curriculem subjects should be reduced to concentrate on Maths and English - forget history, we now have Scientists in the Royal Society saying A-Levels are "not fit for purpose".
    The vast majority of people in the UK knew that A-Levels are "not fit for purpose" anyway when the dumming down of exams and grades by the former Labour mandarins were exposed.

    Yes, Britian does need more scientists, more people to get through university with degrees in Science, Engineering and Maths, there is just one little problem here - The cost of going to university in the UK is totally out of reach for the vast majority of ordinary peoples children.

    Only Bankers, Millionairs, Blair and the Elite will be able to afford to send their children to University, I cannot imagine many students wanting to take on a debt that will exceed £50,000.00 before even starting a career (That £50,000.00 is made up of £27,000.00 fees (£9,000.00 pa), £3,000.00 to service the loans - probably much more (interest) £10,500.00 accomodation and associated costs, £9,500.00 food and drink, that is before entertainment and any course study related field trips are taken into account over the average three years of a degree course.

    Klegg has a lot to answer for so has the Nasty Party.

  • Comment number 65.

    As many posts have pointed out, there have been huge job losses amongst the employers who would normally be taking on new science graduates.

    With a glut of experienced scientists on the job market, it is really irresponsible to encourage lots of extra students to study science at university only to have them discover the lack of jobs at the end.

    So, yes, an understanding at GCSE level is good and perhaps the new qualification will provide a broad base but anyone entering science now will need to go higher - MSC PhD and even then it will be tough.

  • Comment number 66.

    well considering i work in science ill tel you exactly why nobody wants to do it anymore!

    there's no money in it!

    a plumber will earn about twice what a lab analyst will earn per year.
    whats harder, a plumbing course or a science career?

    yet people in labs are on less than binmen, carer's and so forth.

    the biggest mistake i ever made (and a lot of other people in labs say the same) was getting into science.

    why spend all that time studying learning and doing experiments when you could have done a plumbing course for example.

  • Comment number 67.

    33. At 11:59am on 15 Feb 2011, PETERJMARTIN wrote:
    THE ONLY WAY I HAVE TO COMMUNICATE WITH "HAVE YOUR SAY" IS VIA ANOTHER POSTING SITE. I WANT TO PUT A POST ON THE NHS ELDERLY STORY, BUT I KEEP BEING SWITCHED TO RADIO 5 LIVE SO I CANNOT POST MY THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES ON THIS ISSUE. I AM NOT INTERESTED IN RADIO 5 LIVE.

    ================================================


    I know - I think something has gone wrong with it, but it's incredibly difficult to report things like this now.

  • Comment number 68.

    It totally depend on what kind of science they should be encouraged. Some of them have prospect and some don't because not all sciences are created equal. At this current trend, the more likely candidates guarantee for success are genetics, molecular biology, environmental science and/or engineering. Alternatively if you want long term stable income, try to get into medicine, therapies and alternative medicines.

  • Comment number 69.

    42. At 12:17pm on 15 Feb 2011, Mr Cholmondley-Warner wrote:
    13. At 11:31am on 15 Feb 2011, HaveIGotThatWrong wrote:
    Subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry and so on are far too difficult. And as such pupils might not get very good grades in these subjects.
    Oh no, hang on, I thought I was a member of the previous Labour Government for a minute there.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Grades had been improving for some years before Labour took office in 1997. But I guess that didn't fit quite so neatly into your "analysis".

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Grades yes the quality no, the students recently qualified cannot even write a report, let alone perform simple tasks which many of us learnt at school. Its easy to get an A these days at GCSE or A Level.

  • Comment number 70.

    53. At 12:38pm on 15 Feb 2011, milvusvestal wrote:

    What a fascinating and thought-provoking question!

    Don't they teach science, physics or biology in schools any more? When I was a lad, my secondary modern establishment did so, and in those days they involved practical experiments and enquiring minds were encouraged. Report-writing entailed the use of mathematics as well as English.

    What on earth is going wrong with the education system today? Fiddling around with computer keyboards alone is not going to give youngsters hands-on experience. They need to get their hands dirty.

    ---------
    kids know where the money is made and it id defiantly not science.

    we keep getting people from other countries with science backgrounds now doing the work for low pay meaning it push's everybody Else's wage down = whats the point just pick something easier and more profitable.

  • Comment number 71.

    I took 5 A levels in 1978, in the old days when they were reputedly as hard as nails. Well I did fail the further maths but I did get the Maths Physics Chemistry and 'General Studies' ones. Ironic that the Further Maths turned out to be the same as first year university mathematics. So do we need a wider breadth of subjects or is it just that the schools are failing to teach enough A levels? Given that everybody gets an A* these days I suspect it is the latter.

  • Comment number 72.

    How about scientific and engineering employers paying their staff £100,000 bonuses for simply doing their job each year, just as the banks do
    That would provide lots of encouragement!

  • Comment number 73.

    Possibly we already know the answer to the "problem" being discussed.
    We have politicians who have outdated, "them" and "us" views.
    I am past retirement age, and was (thank god) educated before politicians took it into their heads to interfere with schooling.

    I went to a local state Primary: (Every kid knew how to read and write properly by the end of the first year, and all had to know the "times tables" as a grounding for the arithmetic they had to do in this excellent school.
    I passed the 11 plus, and as a result got the opportunity to learn French German and Latin from the first year onward in an excellent Grammar School environment which encouraged high standards and insisted on discipline, (we were inspected at morning assembly and were the smartest kids in town and proud of it).
    Looking at the slovenly attire of some schoolchildren today, one can only surmise that their school is not keen on discipline, which may affect how maths etc is taught.
    My son holds a Doctorate in Mathematics, but wild horses would not get him to go into teaching. His friend, who is a French teacher, is of the opinion that teaching would be great if the teachers were in charge, not the kids!!
    The liberal left has destroyed schools in my opinion.
    Grammar schools were attacked as "elitist", by the elite, and the comprehensive was born.
    In approx 2004, an attack on A levels began. Later they were apparently, made easier. (Could it be coincidence that this was at a time the last Government introduced "targets"??)
    Despite what is said about education, teachers are still possibly as good as they were,although with the PC "equality" nonsense now in vogue, primary school kids do not get the chance to compete as we did. With the onset of the Labour idea that "No-one should lose or come last", there was ushered in the idea that perhaps maths and science were "too hard".
    Good thing that Isaac Newton was never brought up with that concept!
    Perhaps we should look at India and Sri Lanka, where learning and excellence is highly prized.
    Whilst we are allowing "Faith Schools", little Sri Lanka BANS completely the teaching of any religion, in order to concentrate on the maintainence of the 98% literacy and numeracy rates of which they are rightly proud!
    Politics being allowed into schools has ruined them.
    Under Labour, we were exhorted to allow "domestic violence" to be taught, and for Islamic Mullahs to be able to access schools to generate "Understanding between communities".
    Better accentuation of maths, science, physics and English may have been more realistic topics to cram into impressionable young minds!!
    Now we have to have "Remedial classes" in Colleges, where young people who have not been able to master the simple facts of reading and writing, and who cannot comprehend language as effectively as my son could when he was 3, are being taught the basic they should have mastered by 5 years old.
    Believe me, if we allow still politicians to trump teachers, in 20 years we will have the most backward school leavers in the EU!!
    Get it right before kids are 6, and teach them about complicated subjects EARLY, and the child will grow to learn easily the things that present day kids are finding "too hard".
    Of course, our media culture also does not help with its continuous banality. But that is another story!!

  • Comment number 74.

    I don't know, but I'm sure cutting the scientific research budget and university funding will be more than compensated for by including maths and science on the baccelauriate!!

  • Comment number 75.

    Stop listening to cranks that say that evolution is "just a theory" and that global warming is just a "big liberal conspiracy".

  • Comment number 76.

    There are two issues here:

    1) Scientists are under valued. Science is a rewarding career, but not financially. To be rewarded financially one has to be either a banker or the CEO of a local council and apparently neither requires common sense or morals. Perhaps if it was accepted/promoted that bankers could not make money without science/technology then we could re-distribute the monet more equitably.

    2) A level Grades are meaningless. We need to go back the system where only the top few % attained As irrespective of the mark achieved . That way the dumbing down of the paper is overcome. Well until they all get 100% for getting their name correct.

    Try France or Germany and see how engineers or scientists are respected. Try here - the most famous engineer is Kevin on Corrie (today's average person is far too busy and important to say Coronation Street)

  • Comment number 77.

    All I can work out so far is that they are going to make it compulsory in this new system. Fair enough I suppose, that would increase up take.

    But in the article...

    "It [The Royal Society report] says many students would welcome being able to take a wider range and number of subjects at A-level"

    But what is stopping them now?

  • Comment number 78.

    69. At 12:53pm on 15 Feb 2011, Slave to the System - I am not a number wrote:
    42. At 12:17pm on 15 Feb 2011, Mr Cholmondley-Warner wrote:
    13. At 11:31am on 15 Feb 2011, HaveIGotThatWrong wrote:
    Subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry and so on are far too difficult. And as such pupils might not get very good grades in these subjects.
    Oh no, hang on, I thought I was a member of the previous Labour Government for a minute there.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Grades had been improving for some years before Labour took office in 1997. But I guess that didn't fit quite so neatly into your "analysis".

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Grades yes the quality no, the students recently qualified cannot even write a report, let alone perform simple tasks which many of us learnt at school. Its easy to get an A these days at GCSE or A Level.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    And you know this how? How many student reports have you read? Which "simple tasks" are you talking about and how do you know that students today can't perform them?

  • Comment number 79.

    I did Computer Science at Uni (in the 80's) and the main draw for me was the prospect of an exciting/interesting career, with a good company, and of course at a good salary. The place was awash with Companies coming in to try and sign up graduates.

    Over the years I have seen the number of new graduates/trainees tumble, the number of British high-tech companies dwindle. The companies I have worked at in recent years have had a high proportion of foreign engineers on work permits and a lot of work has been outsourced.

    For me, the issue is for companies to support and nurture British youth and talent. This will then feedback into the education system as kids will see the prospect of good/interesting well paid jobs and take up the sciences.

  • Comment number 80.

    How about leaving education alone for a bit?

  • Comment number 81.

    Try ensuring that educators are fit for purpose. That they are able to spell, form coherent sentences and engage their pupils. Secondly, stop sending everyone and his dog to university. Provide training, and of course jobs, for the able but un-academic, instead of churning out masses of third-rate graduates who still don't know how to spell 'tomorrow', or when to use an apostrophe. Stop using Teaching and Classroom Assistants as cheap teachers... in fact, stop using them at all and make teachers do their jobs properly. Sack inept head teachers and those who fail to support talented staff. Stop conjuring up silly, and virtually worthless, qualifications that have no academic value.

  • Comment number 82.

    Science and Engineering are increasingly unpopular with young people because they cannot see the link with everyday life and many (not all) teachers turn them off of these areas/careers.

    Maybe better incentives for those of us in idustry to go into education? I know i'd certainly like to do it but there isn't a tangible incentive for me, sure, i'd might get a warm fuzzy feeling but tbh i get paid more being an engineer.

    Like post #1 says - it needs to be engaging; i remember not being allowed to do experiments due to safety and a curmudgeon of a teacher - it sucked and did not add to my education or enjoyment.

    Lastly, like so many before me - why are we paying our brightest and best so little?! there is little incentive for kids to work for the NHS - long hours, poor pay, complaints all day every day. what's science? get paid a few quid for moving test tubes around?

    modern society has put an emphasis on sporting, entertainment, generic 'business'. where is all the propaganda that shows who designs aircraft, furthers medical technology, give us anwsers, deevlops communications?

    no one wants to be a nerd... but, everything would be better if you put the science and engineering brigade in charge. We practically fix everything and give you new toys, treatments and discoveries for little thanks, praise or publicity! Maybe a little help from the BBC?

  • Comment number 83.

    More government funding for science would be a good place to start, for a nation which has produced some of the greatest scientific minds in history we are woeful in our current financial support for science.

    Another big step would be to relax the stringent school syllabus on science, which teaches kids the minimum that they are expected to know (i.e. enough to pass a series of tests), and encourage them to ask more questions about the world around them. The more inquisitive their minds are the more they will turn to science for answers.

  • Comment number 84.

    As a PhD chemist from the Scottish education system I have a few comments.

    Firstly in Scotland a teacher needs to be degree qualified in their subject, this is something that is being diluted in the English System, non scientist teaching core subject, and even scientist teaching anothers discipline, (ie biologists teaching physics), this must have the effect of disengaging the pupil as they are not being taught by someone with a depth of knowledge about the subject or the enthusiasm for that subject.

    Second, the broad based higher or IB approach works best, for all numerate degrees in scotland the university will require higher maths and another science subject, this is a great way of promoting uptake in secondary school.

    Third, It is important that everyone and I mean everyone has a basic grounding in science or technology to be able to have a view on what is happening in the world, from new technology, to climate change, a reasoned debate will move things forward. Knowing nothing about science will only only stifle debate and let the media manipulate the masses.

    Fourth, Yes there are few jobs out their for scientist in the uk and the wages are poor, I myself have had to leave chemistry and pharmaceuticals behind to pursue an alternative career but still using my skills gained in studying. So don't write off the benefits of a science education especially at a higher level.

    I think the question of where science and science teaching goes next in the UK is of utmost importance and deserves a larger platform

  • Comment number 85.

    Pay scientists bankers salaries.

  • Comment number 86.

    Make it fun by having more practical work and seeing how science benefits the real world. Then they'll start to appreciate the theories behind it.

  • Comment number 87.

    Science can be a lot of fun. Rigid academic teaching can really bore you though.

    My science classes were filled with lots of bland experiments where we already knew the results and we sat through mixing chemicals waiting for the right reaction to turn up or looking at something under a microscope. When something went wrong we didn't have time to investigate why, we'd have to hurry along to the next experiment in the book. That was the biggest problem. It wasn't science but busy-work.

    You can memorise the periodic table by heart but it wont tell you anything about science itself.

    Though people disagree about the definition of what a strict scientific method is one of the underlying principles is that we're looking for rational answers to that one big question - Why?

    Why does an apple fall?
    Why is there lighting in thunderstorms?
    What are diseases and how can we cure them?

    The joy of science is not only in discovering the reasons and wherefores behind why these things occur but in asking new questions, posing new theories as prove or disprove more about the mechanics of the universe we live in. Not to mention the incredible technologies we benefit from and world problems we can solve as a result!

    A man educated in science will return from his teachings with an entirely new way of looking at the world.

    The North American science fairs are a great example of applying scientific principle to real life and even uncover a few good surprises:
    http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/blogs/boy-discovers-microbe-that-eats-plastic

    The second part of encouraging people to become scientists is to have a good wage when you get there. My uncle earned his degree in pharmaceutical biochemistry only to find that the jobs he could get had massive competition and were paid less than the people that mopped the floors at night. He had to emigrate to the US for a decent wage.

    We need to get our UK scientific industries providing a real meritocratic pay system where the brains that provide the very technologies/sciences upon which they make their profits are rewarded for their expertise and their efforts.

  • Comment number 88.

    Easy - invest in quality education in those subjects.. something that the LIECON alliance seems to want to reduce.

  • Comment number 89.

    I remember my GCSE science lessons. They were interesting but all too often they were more about passing the exams than taking part in interesting and exciting experiments. That probably put a few people off taking the subject further. It's probably a sad indictment of the times, but I would guess that if you wanted to encourage more people to take up science, you would need to incentivise it.

  • Comment number 90.

    Several things:
    a) Put fun back into science and engineering - that means stopping the ridiculous 'can't do anything in case little jonny hurts themselves' culture. Sacking a teacher for taking kids sledging - a lesson that could have taught them about friction, forces, acceleration, experimentation... was just so stupid it was unbelievable.

    b) The BBC needs to employ some scientists. Its ridiculous that TV programs are broadcast with glaring mistakes (there is no need for an atomic clock to make your email work as one program claimed) but even more a glaring lack of coverage. How many decades of coverage in 'news' programs are there for the death of some author/playwrite/actor or perhaps the 'nominations' for an award, and then the award itself (several different ones a year)... compare that to the nanoseconds of scientific coverage.

    c) Science jobs need to pay - frankly you get paid more cleaning Tesco's toilets than as a DR of science doing research. And I'm not joking - just look in New Scientist and your local job centre. We pay 'stars' for bad acting and kicking footballs around massive amounts more, and 'bankers' even more for gambling recklessly.

  • Comment number 91.

    [1] the public understanding of science (the search for the fundamental processes that make the natural world what it is) is generally very poor. This makes it quite difficult for parents to communicate its importance to their children.

    [2] the teaching of 'science' generally revolves around bite size chunks of 'knowledge' concerning popular issues like climate change, rather than understanding fundamental principles and processes, which requires aptitude and competence in maths by the teachers as well as the pupils - both sadly lacking

    [3] science is not understood by politicians and policy makers - they persistently confuse it with technological development and require a utlitarian approach before funding is given. We need many more trained scientists in parliament and government who understand the hypothetico-deductive method and the fact that most major breakthroughs have come through allowing scientists the freedom to explore interesting ideas

    [4] science is perceived to be 'hard' because important facts and principles have to be learnt properly and understood at a deep level. This conflicts with the current belief that 'success' in life can be achieved without effort

    [5] the rise of pseudoscience and the antagonism of religious groups towards well-established scientific facts in faith schools is detrimental to a proper understanding of the scientific method.

    Proposals:

    [1] greatly improve the training of all teachers in the scientific method

    [2] close down schools which are philosphically opposed to science or who teach pseudoscience or deny universally accepted scientific facts

    [3] make the three main scientific subjects compulsory thoughout education

    [4] provide incentives for the study of scientific subjects at University

    [5] greatly improve the funding of basic scientific research

    [6] improve salaries and job security for young scientists and provide incentives like national awards that are presented on prime time television

  • Comment number 92.

    1. At 11:00am on 15 Feb 2011, oglidewell wrote:
    How to encourage science?

    By letting kids do fun experiments. Let them blow things up, let them give themselves electric shocks, let them play with van de Graaf generators and light bunsen burners with their fingers. My chemistry and physics teachers did the above, and I loved it. Nobody ever, ever got hurt.

    Science can be fun, but all too often it's not allowed to be.


    Hear hear. Recommend.

  • Comment number 93.

    Best chance, short term, open immigration to science qualified people from countries where sciences are important. Our own has been going quietly downhill for years. It will take a generation to recover if it is recovered at all. Of course they could offer science degree places for free, but that won't happen. As everyone needs some sort of degree to demonstrate ability then achieveing an arts degree is by far the easier & safest bet as a precursor to a management job. So not much will chagne.

  • Comment number 94.

    //66. At 12:52pm on 15 Feb 2011, scotty1694 wrote:
    well considering i work in science ill tel you exactly why nobody wants to do it anymore!

    there's no money in it!

    a plumber will earn about twice what a lab analyst will earn per year.
    whats harder, a plumbing course or a science career?

    yet people in labs are on less than binmen, carer's and so forth.//


    Well, I'm not sure being a plumber is all that easy. And no offence, but the English in your posting suggests a poor level of literacy.

    That would back up the argument in favour of a baccalaureat, involving a wide spread of subjects, and with high standards.

  • Comment number 95.

    As a scientist working in the private sector I'd like to echo what others have said. PAY US MORE.

    There is a glass ceiling in science careers and it's low, very low. You'll get paid sweet FA, you'll be treated like pond scum by every other department in your organisation and there is absolutely no career progression.

    If I'd known what I do now I'd have done a business degree so I could get rich off the efforts and intellects of others.

    Kids, don't bother with science, it's a thankless and unrewarding career.

  • Comment number 96.

    I keep hearing how kids avoid the harder subjects. Why is this? I took subjects because they were hard. It's like JFK said, paraphrasing: "we go to the moon (or study maths, or probe the ocean depths) not because it is easy, but because it is hard". Where is the ambition, where is the desire to understand? Our kids have lots of potential. Now is an incredibly exciting time to be alive. They should be thinking of reusable space vehicles, moon stations, mobile technology and the exploration of the universe through telescopes.

    I appreciate teenagers are generally more preoccupied with Hollyoaks, Big Brother, X-Factor or whatever it is (a lot of the time to fit in with the others in their class). I appreciate these subjects seem daunting. There is a psycological barrier that needs to be overcome. Some teenagers don't have the self confidence (low self esteem) to take on the tougher technical subjects, because of the reputation they have. We need to remove, or address, that.

    We can't shy away from tackling the harder subjects head on. We can't try to pretend that there is an easy route to becoming proficient in those subjects other than hours and hours of hard work. We must tell our kids that they are equal to it and can achieve great things. It's extremely important for the future engineering, technology and medicine.

  • Comment number 97.

    The content of science A-levels has moved on considerably from when I was a student. In chemistry, for example, there is course content at A-level that I didn't cover until the first year of a degree.

    I wonder what the hidden (or not so hidden) agenda of the Royal Society is. Russell Group universities already give a greater weighting to the IB than A-levels in their entrance requirements. Coincidentally, the IB has been taken up enthusiastically by private schools. Another means of engineering social exclusion in higher education?

  • Comment number 98.

    18. At 11:37am on 15 Feb 2011, in_the_uk wrote:
    Any subject is exciting if it is taught correctly. Drawing public attention to subjects in a positive way will increase the uptake.

    I took GCSE science and I had an interest in physics and chemestry. But what they taught was boring, had little use in the real world and by the end of it any good times were drowned out by boring.

    ---------------------------------------------------
    Here's a newsflash, you go to school to be educated not entertained.
    Who cares if it's boring? You're supposed assimilate and understand what's being taught. You claim to have studied chemistry but can't even spell it. Was English and learning to spell too boring as well?

  • Comment number 99.

    I am a scientist and would say to all would-be/ wannabe scientists, you will get paid poorly, you will struggle to get funding, you will be expected to work long hours with little reward for your efforts. However, if money is not the be all and end all in your life you can have a fantastic and exciting career.

  • Comment number 100.

    "75. At 1:09pm on 15 Feb 2011, Dominic wrote:

    Stop listening to cranks that say that evolution is "just a theory" and that global warming is just a "big liberal conspiracy"."

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    Indeed, and another merit of the Scientific Method here. Checking your sources and looking for repeatable experiments so that those theories stand up to rigorous scrutiny.

    An unfortunate problem with the human condition. People will more readily accept an answer to a question if it fits with their own pre-conceived view of the world and especially if it's a more convenient truth to them.

    Tell a man in the pub that he doesn't have to give up his car, that CO2 isn't a problem and it's all just a scam because Volcanoes contribute to 99% of the atmospheric CO2 increase each year. He'll believe you. In fact you'll get this (with varying numbers) quoted by a lot of AGW deniers.

    The truth is that human activity combined emits roughly 100 times more CO2 than volcanoes. (Multiple sources available backed up by legitimate peer referenced research and numbers, can google this if you don't want to take my word for it).

    If people are going to discount theories they should try to back up the weight of their argument with facts.

 

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