By Hamish Johnston
The British media were talking about physics today, and I’m afraid the news wasn’t good.
The BBC was reporting on a study on the state of physics teaching in England by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University Of Buckingham.
Robinson and Smithers found that in 2007 just 12% of scientists accepted on teacher training programmes were trained as physicists — down from 30% in 1983. If this trend continues, it could be very difficult for the government to hit its target of having 25% of all science teachers specialising in physics by 2014.
The decline in physics teachers has meant that many education authorities have opted for “general science” teachers who cover biology and chemistry as well as physics. Indeed, the researchers found that half the schools in inner London have no teachers specialising in physics.
However, all is not gloom and doom for teaching physics in England. Last week we had our summer company meeting and Bob Kirby-Harris, chief executive, the Institute of Physics (which owns the company that publishes physicsworld.com) told us about how the organization was tackling the problem. The IOP has set up the Physics Enhancement Project, which aims to boost the physics expertise of trainee science teachers who don’t have formal qualifications in physics.
Most of our readers are outside of the England, so please let us know about the state of physics teaching where you are.