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Those who can should teach, ICE urged


ENGINEERS SHOULD be encouraged by their institutions to switch into teaching, education experts have told the ICE.

Speaking at the ICE's education conference last month, Daniel Sandford-Smith of the Association for Science Education said: 'Such is the dearth of physics teachers in the UK that I believe that you should be encouraging your members to make the switch into teaching.'

The conference was organised by the Education Alliance, a pan-institution voice on education consisting of the ICE, Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), the National Association of Teachers & Lecturers (NATL), and the Association for Science Education (ASE). It gave teachers the chance to offer their views on the failure to attract science students.

Conclusions from the conference will be submitted to the government in an attempt to influence the forthcoming education green paper for 14-19 year olds: Extending opportunities, raising standards.

Students do not abandon engineering because of any future career trends, claimed teachers, but instead they choose the subjects they are likely to enjoy. And without an engineering background it is difficult for teachers themselves to carry any enthusiasm for the subject, they added.

It was agreed that a greater depth of engineering knowledge for physics and design and technology (D&T) teachers was needed, and that the government-led Engineering Ambassadors scheme should be more widely adopted.

'I personally would be keen to spend time in an engineering office, as I feel that I am losing touch with industry, ' said one D&T teacher.

Delegates also warned that the new engineering GCSE - to be introduced in September to a handful of schools as a vocational subject - could damage the elitism of engineering.

Those future design engineers who are expected to go on to further studies were thought to be better served by developing broad ranging abilities such as business and language skills.

Replacing science as a core subject with D&T was rebuffed by many delegates. CIBSE president Max Fordham stressed the importance of science for future engineers. 'I fully support the wider adoption of D&T - but not at the expense of science.'

ICE president Mark Whitby sought support for an engineering A level, possibly under the guise of applied physics. This proposal met a cool response from the audience, who believed existing physics modules already offer sufficient variety.

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