Lab Dissection Back in School

Banned from schools in the late seventies, dissection of animals and plants are making a come-back within the realms of the A-Level course from 2015, according to one of Britain’s biggest educational boards. This inclusion is piece of a broader change to the structure of the A-Level syllabus. The new, tougher course will include at least 36 experiments divided between Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. The board examiners said the practice was discontinued around 30 years ago because of squeamish students and improper laboratory discipline leading to safety and health concerns.

The new course published by the OCR board on 30th June comes after repeated concerns by universities that students signing up for laboratory-based courses at degree level weren’t competent enough to perform even the most basic lab procedures. As a result, they often lag behind in course-work or simply get disheartened and drop-out of the course altogether.

The OCR Input

The OCR Input

OCR chief believes practical work to be more beneficial than theoretical

The chief executive of examining body ‘OCR’, Mark Dawe noted that it has been recognized widely throughout education lately that the United Kingdom is in need of a workforce adept in scientific skills. By providing students with the opportunity for hands-on, active scientific experimentation, Dawe believes that we will be supplying children with a broader range of learning, and he further argues that practical experimentation has a way of sticking in the mind unlike any amount of reading and writing. The main features of the new syllabus can be condensed into three broad changes compared to the old course:

  1. Currently, the A-Level students are performing only four experiments per science subject that rely heavily on reports and referencing to experiments, rather than actually performing them themselves. The new course triples the number of experiments needed to be performed.
  2. The practical portion of the course will no longer count towards the final marks, however, questions would be asked in the exams relating to the experiments that the students had performed.
  3. The theoretical portion of the syllabus will fortify the students’ knowledge in scientific methods, and emphasise on safety requirements in a laboratory environment.


The Concerns

There are some concerns, however, about the new syllabus that have been voiced by several teachers. They are of the opinion that by disengaging the practical assessment marks from the main course would lead students to marginalise their practical work and concentrate only on the theoretical part. This concern has been generally dismissed by saying that since the experiments themselves, though are not marked, their results and the student’s experience would be questioned in the final exam. The critics remain unconvinced saying teenagers are notorious in finding loop-holes.


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