'Forced' to study science? There's a reason for that ...

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Writing in the Telegraph recently, Christina Odone trolled scientists everywhere by decrying the fact her daughter is being ‘forced’ to study science. I know I probably shouldn’t feed this particular fire, but I feel there’s a really important point that has been missed, so forgive a little venting.

I suppose she saw this argument as fertile ground because we’re so used to hearing it the other way round. We regularly see the arts trashed as ‘easy subjects’ – an equally idiotic mantra. Nick Gibb makes no apology for protecting space for the EBacc subjects (which don’t include the arts) and Nicky Morgan keeps pointing out that ‘they just don’t lead to employment'. But pursuing the idea that sciences are of greater value is a dangerous road to tread.

What’s the purpose of our chemistry lessons? Do we only teach chemistry because that’s the only thing our pupils are interested in? Should we only teach those who are going to be scientists? 

Why do we teach all our pupils?

Well-rounded pupils, well-rounded education

It’s the skills they gain that are important. Our chemistry lessons are about exploring everything around us, helping pupils evaluate and draw conclusions based on evidence. They are about understanding why we do things in certain ways, how to research and test ideas we haven’t come across before. Most importantly we can find out how the world works. We teach skills that our pupils need in many areas of their lives. Essential? Absolutely.

And the arts are just as vital. They give our pupils balance, they provide another platform to improve our pupils’ skills. They help us develop our emotional intelligence and make sense of the world around us. 

We want to develop well-rounded pupils who can achieve their goals, and well-rounded pupils need a well-rounded education. 

Peter Banks is a chemistry teacher at the Purcell School, UK

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