Jim Knight wants more 'Flash and Bang'

The just released 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) has seen England rise to fifth position after the four yearly study looked again at the quality of the science education of fourteen-year-olds around the world (BBC report: England's Pupils in Global Top 10).

English students are beaten only by those from Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, with all of Europe trailing in their wake. Jim Knight is clearly pleased at this validation of Labour policies on the world stage, but he can't bring himself to ease the political pressure off over-burdened schools, even if they have done all he asked of them.

Party Pooper

Knight has looked and looked, and he managed to find some bad news in the report. That's right — science teachers up and down the country can stop partying, under the impression that all was well in their subject and a pat on the back was due.

Children are enjoying science less than they used to! There has been a 21% drop in 'positive attitudes' reported by the pupils, and Jim is not happy.

Teachers, go and sit on the naughty step.

Must Do Better

Being the best in Europe and the industrialised West is not good enough if a few far-eastern nations with fantastically well drilled children are better.

Knight says in the press release:
This shows we are on the way to being world class but as we move towards this goal we need to make sure every child has fun in the classroom as well as achieving good results.

I am determined to make maths and science more exciting subjects to teach and learn, and I want every school to have access to the most innovative and effective teaching methods. I want more action in the classroom and more problem solving and ‘flash and bang’ to enthuse our pupils.
A new OFSTED target, perhaps? Inspectors could report:Your lesson on nuclear power was well taught and the children learned well, but there wasn't enough 'flash and bang' for the lesson to be rated any good.'

Squeezing the Pips

Other countries to suffer from reduced student positivity included Singapore and Hong Kong — both in the top ten alongside England. Jim Knight seems to think that league table rankings and pupil enjoyment are independent of each other, but teachers have complained for years about the curriculum and targets straitjacket that they have to operate in, and the effect on the enjoyment that classes are able to have.

The government has squeezed children hard so that they achieve their potential, but the pips are squeaking now. If he was serious about restoring awe and wonder to school science lessons, then Knight and Balls would be cutting the testing and accountability burden.

Freeing teachers to impart some of their love for their subjects, though, would risk a slip in the rankings. And that would never do, would it?

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