Every member of the public in this coming generation will have the experience of being a scientist-in-training. During the formative years of secondary education, it is compulsory for all children to study the three core science fields: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. This is not designed to be an educational form of childhood trauma, but is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to instill in the general public a clear idea of what modern science is about.
As someone who has always had an inherent interest in biology, my personal experience of science education could be summarised by the phrase ‘sticking with it’. Modern GCSE and A-level courses do not exactly inspire open minded discussion, the thrill of discovery or the possibility of the unknown which I feel underpins science. Equally, how scientific research can translate into advances in related fields such as medicine and technology is underplayed. It is in these areas that there are key misunderstandings in the public opinion of science. Our education system has a duty not only to get kids through their exams but also to inform them about the role of science in modern society.
Our education system has a duty not only to get kids through their exams but also to inform them about the role of science in modern society.
As scientists, we can take a lead in visiting schools and talking to kids about the importance and relevance of scientific research to all aspects of modern life. Companies like ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here’ (http://imascientist.org.uk/) are helping improve links between working scientists and interested students. But there is a huge amount more to be done to in this respect and only a joint effort between invested third parties and government can bring about the change that we need. Everyone has been a scientist at some point in their lives, it is up to us to show them what that really means.