Anorak News | Physics Heel Thyself

Physics Heel Thyself

by | 21st, November 2005

‘WERE an apple to fall upon the head of a young Isaac Newton today, he’d most likely sure the tree grower for damages and get a quack to sign him off physical work for life.

Einstein taught Kerry Katona everything she knows

And who would blame him? The subject of physics is difficult. Most students drop it faster than that tree let go of its apple.

As the Telegraph says on its front page, physics is now so unappealing to students that it’s in danger of dying out in most state schools.

Over the past 15 years, the number of pupils taking the subject at A–level has fallen by 38 per cent.

And, according to a study, the fault lies with the teachers who are not skilled enough to teach their charges.

Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson of Buckingham University, who investigated the teaching of physics, call this one of the “most striking and disturbing trends in education”.

And there is a split between state and private schools. While 78 per cent of independent schools offer GCSE physics, only 20 per cent of comprehensives do likewise.

If physics goes, where will the next Boyle, Hooke, Babbage and Faraday come from, asks the Telegraph’s leader? Perhaps a kind of Physics Idol TV show could be created, a reality TV show for eggheads?

Well, something drastic needs to be done. Roger Highfield, the Telegraph’s science editor, seems right to say that behind every Novel Prize winner is a great teacher. But what’s behind the teacher?

Perhaps supporting the educators with money is the answer?

The Times says that the Institute of Physics is ready to offer bursaries to prospective students.

And the Department of Education tells the Telegraph “it’s doing huge amounts” to get people into teaching physics, like offering bursaries and “golden hellos”.

But perhaps the real problem is that physics is a hard subject, as Robert Kirby-Harris, the chief executive of the Institute of Physics, says.

So perhaps physics just needs to be made easier?

Or the students are right, and it should just be scrapped. Or given some invaluable celebrity endorsement…’

Posted: 21st, November 2005 | In: Uncategorized Comments (2) | TrackBack | Permalink