Physics - getting a raw deal in schools?

A British study, as reported by the BBC has found that physics is not only being taught less and less by those who specialize in the subject, but also not emphasized outside of a general science curriculum.

A British study, as reported by the BBC has found that physics is not only being taught less and less by those who specialize in the subject, but also not emphasized outside of a general science curriculum. While the research is focused on the UK, it brings up some far-reaching concerns about physics and other science specialties:

The research also shows that physics teachers are more likely to be concentrated in particular types of school, such as those which are high-performing, grammar, all-girl and faith schools.

The report's authors argue that physics has been pushed into decline by a drive for general science courses. They call for the subject to be supported in a way that protects its separate identity.

The government wants to promote science subjects such as physics and chemistry and has a target that 25% of science teachers will have a physics specialism by 2014.

Here in Massachusetts, a look at the MCAS physics test (MCAS is the state's set of standardized tests; this particular exam is still in its pilot phase) shows considerably less depth than that required by the biology exam (now a graduation requirement). Yet physics is a fundamental application of mathematics. Wouldn't it seem like a good idea to teach more than a cursory, "general science" approach to the topic?

I'm not suggesting that everyone should be taking an Advanced Placement physics test. However, the emphasis in our state has turned to biology to meet MCAS requirements. Apparently, the high-performing schools in the UK get a disproportionate emphasis on the subject, compared to their inner-London counterparts.

Yet physics not only feeds off of math, but feeds directly into chemistry, engineering, aeronautics, astronomy, etc. Let's not short-change physics, folks. Keep in mind that calculus was largely formalized just to prove what we observed in physics.

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