Norm Geras writes:
If there’s a long-term decline in the number of pupils studying science, is it a good idea trying to remedy this by making science exams easier? The Royal Society of Chemistry doesn’t think so.
Nor do I.
It benefits society the more people understand science. If exams are dumbed down, and as a result, more people study science, there will be more people with science GCSEs, but each of them will know less science. But that doesn’t help society; we need people to have a greater understanding of science not a lesser.
Managing groups of people is in principle very simple: to decide what you want people to do, and what you want them not to do, and you provide incentives for them to do the things you want, and disincentives against doing the things you don’t want. This principal holds whether you’re managing a small number of people within an organisation, or managing a whole country. (Of course, the devil’s in the details).
In this case you might ask how do you incentivise kids to take science at GCSE and A level? Well you could stipulate that science exam passes count for more than non-science subjects for getting in to university, or you could offer a bounty for each science GCSE or A level passed, or you could say that every child in a year at a school gets a rewards for each child in that year who passes science exams (this might encourage a co-operativre spirit). Or you could try other incentives — no doubt some would work better than others, and it’s hard to tell in advance which would work best.
But if the government isn’t prepared to provided incentives for school students to study science then they are giving out a message loud and clear that they don’t think it is important for science to be studied. And every speech they give saying the opposite is, without incentives, a lie pure and simple.