Aiming low or how I came to hate teaching today

This is a rant. Sorry but sometimes I have to get things off my chest and this is one of those times.

There's not many things that wind me up but when it comes to teaching I find that, like in many jobs, decisions that affect everyone tend to be made by morons.

In this respect I am referring specifically to the new GCSE syllabus and even more specifically to the Edexcel 360 shite that I presently have to teach.

Over successive years pupils and teachers have had to put up with the accusation that GCSEs are being dumbed down and, for the most part this has been true but not quite so blatant.

It seems that this time though, edexcel have pre-empted this accusation and decided that if people were to accuse them of dumbing down the GCSE anyway they may as well go ahead and do it anyway. There has been no pretence of keeping the new science sylabus in any challenging.

As a result, these days I find myself teaching a science course that has virtually no content in it whatsoever, with very little for me or the pupils to get their teeth into.

In their infinite wisdom, the bods at Edexcel have decided that the youth of today are quite incapable of engaging with abstract concepts and have reacted by pulling out anything that does not have a modern-day obvious context.

Their approach is based on the idea that the pupils need to have context laid out first, then have the science explained later.

Much later.

So cue a lot of trite questioning on mobile phones and text messages (Real example question from the textbook - "How many text messages were sent in the UK in 2004?" - WHAT is the learning point of this question!?) which is somehow supposed to link in to the topic of electric current, resistance and magnetic induction of current.

The link is tenuous to say the least.

I am all for context but this new approach with prescribed context and seemingly unrelated content is not going to do anyone any good.

It is surely up to the teacher to define the context that the content relates to so that pupils can then apply their knowledge of the science to any context at all. In this sense abstract knowledge is surely a much better tool than vague contextual understanding of a single application.

To test pupils on a single application of a scientific principle is to ask them to study the narrowest area of a wider field of knowledge, for which they will end up knowing very little about very little.

And further to this, the 360 syllabus has taken out pretty much every decent topic with good practicals in. In with the dross about texting and out with the magnificent unit on pressure and transformers.

The bright kids have subsequently lost interest because they can see how easy this whole thing is and because it's totally dull and the weaker kids now have the impression that science is an easy option. Worse still, a lot of people I have spoken to who have to teach this drivel find themselves turned off by it too, myself included.

Are we really creating science access for all here? I don't think so.

If this really is the future of science teaching at GCSE, it is a future that I can't see myself heavily involved in. Teaching double page spreads with no content in at all is embarrassing, and really lets our pupils down. We are supposed to think that they are capable of rising to challenges set by the examining bodies, but Edexcel have effectively taken away any form of challenge.

As teachers we're supposed to inspire and excite, but the 360 science course has very few elements of inspiration and excitement and is so prescriptive and stifling by it's use of context that there is little room to introduce our own excitement.

This course is a disaster and I think that by the time Edexcel finally stand up and admit they have made a serious error of judgement, many GCSE students will have already lost interest in science and, if my viewpoint is shared by as many people as I think it is, they will have been responsible for no small amount of teachers leaving the profession too.
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