21st century science, the new UK GCSE programme, promises to develop scientific literacy in a societal context. Is the new teaching programme a good thing?

A Citizenship, as well as science, is an appropriate curriculum for showing how science enhances life. A free learning resource from the Chemical Industry Education Centre (CIEC) at York University does just this. It is widely accepted by citizenship teachers as a tool for engaging young people in informed dialogue on science issues. 

John Boler, co-developer of Molecules Matter

A Sciences at GCSE have to meet the needs of both the future scientist/engineer/medic and the requirement for a more scientifically literate populace. Hitherto the former has dominated at the expense of the latter. The new programmes provide a better basis for the full population whilst giving a more varied challenge for the intending specialist.

Tony Ashmore, registrar, RSC

A A curriculum based on encouraging pupils to debate science in the news is taking a back to front approach. Science should inform the news agenda, not the other way around. Before we can engage the public in an informed debate we need the scientists to do the science. And before the future citizen can contribute to the decision-making process they need to have a good grounding in the fundamentals of science and technology.

Richard Sykes, rector, Imperial College London

A The new suite [of GCSEs] will offer a greater range of options ... but success will only come from giving teachers adequate support and pupils proper advice about where certain combinations of science GCSEs can take them.

Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society