Getting youngsters hooked on science
An inflatable pool filled with enough custard to make 875 trifles, one Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, a Chief Scientific Adviser and a group of enthusiastic youngsters gathered in Edinburgh today to send out the message: Do something creative; do science".
A new advertising campaign being launched by the Scottish Government today aims to show young people that science can be rewarding to study and can open the doors to many careers, from sports medicine to fashion design.
And to prove that science can be fun, pupils from Trinity Academy, in Edinburgh, demonstrated a messy experiment when they took turns to demonstrate the non-Newtonian nature of custard - or rather run across a pool of custard without sinking.
Watching the fun unfold, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, said:
"As these pupils are demonstrating, science is not all about lab coats and pipettes. It's about finding out how life works and how we can make it better. That's what we want Scotland's young people to realise."
"Scotland has to get serious about science in schools and we need to do it in a way that showcases its subjects in a fun and attractive way. Science is a creative subject - and that message appears to be getting through at senior level where 10 per cent of Scottish pupils took Higher Physics last year, whereas this is only three per cent in England.
The campaign aims to challenge misconceptions about science, with recent research showing that many young people believe science is "dull" and "geeky".
The Cabinet Secretary added:
"Our young people must understand the importance of science in the 21st Century. Curriculum for Excellence provides the opportunity to reform and improve learning and teaching of science. Although our science performance is being maintained at P65 and S2, other countries are improving more rapidly. That needs a big effort by all who know that science is the future of Scotland.
"Although I have given an extra year for implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with the related qualifications coming on-stream in summer 2014, I expect as many schools as possible, particularly primary schools, to be implementing the science outcomes from 2009. Maintaining drive and momentum in implementing Curriculum for Excellence is key."
Professor Anne Glover, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, said:
"Science has the power to open up so many career paths for our young people. This campaign challenges the misconceptions around science and shows the huge creative opportunities that a science-based career can provide. It will stimulate debate and encourage our young people to find out more about the science in their everyday lives, much of which has been shaped by pioneering developments in Scotland."
Graduate employment research has shown that 58 per cent of science graduates are in full-time employment within six months of graduating, compared to business (50 per cent); sport, leisure and care services (38 per cent) or the arts (26 per cent). According to the Work and Hours Survey 2008, the best paid science professionals can earn an average of £72,515 a year.
In June last year, the 2007 Scottish Survey of Achievement in Science showed that too few young people were achieving expected levels in science in the classroom. Only 6 per cent of P7 children and 16 per cent of S2 pupils were achieving good levels in science knowledge and understanding. The 2008 HMIE report 'Science - A portrait of current practice in Scottish Schools' found that, in relation to primary level science, attainment was generally satisfactory up to P4 but declined through P6 and P7.
The TIMSS report focused on the performance of P5 and S2 pupils in 59 countries in 2007. It showed: in P5 science, 21 out of 36 countries scored above Scotland. Thirteen OECD countries scored above Scotland. In S2 science, 14 out of 49 countries scored above Scotland.
Recent Scottish Government initiatives aimed at realising the potential in science to make Scotland an innovative and creative country are: the launch of the Science for Scotland framework; the introduction of the Scottish Science Baccalaureate; £2.1 million pounds investment in Science CPD for teachers announced in June; the provision of £140,000 by the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser for a pilot scheme to allow 60 schools to develop science clubs; Scotland's science centres have received an additional £250,000 to help science teachers improve their professional skills.