PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 March, 2009, 12:00am

IB much more relevant than A-levels to students looking to further their studies

I would like to comment on your article on February 28 ('IB 'scuppering' entry to top UK universities') regarding the concern of British parents about switch to an IB programme by the English Schools Foundation.

I have three children and all have been educated at/are attending ESF schools. My oldest son, now 19, graduated from Island School under the traditional A-level system.

While he received an outstanding education, especially in his A-level subjects, the A-level system is entirely unsatisfactory as it forces the student to narrow his/her studies at age 16. While it enables students to choose subjects in which he/she will do well, it allows them to bypass subjects that might be more challenging for them. The result is a less than well-rounded education.

The IB is very challenging but upon completion, students will have been educated to a high standard in a full complement of courses in the arts and sciences, including a requirement to achieve some degree of competency in a foreign language.

The British system is in my view an outdated concept that does not educate students to be well rounded. Your article noted that in one ESF secondary school only 40 per cent of students went on to the UK for a university education; one would assume that this would be much the same in all ESF schools.

As the majority of students opt to go to universities outside the UK, it is appropriate that ESF students be prepared for the wider world.


Let's nourish children's innate desire for inquiry

What is the primary purpose of our schools? From kindergarten on we stream and manipulate the learning process to a set point of view, a set 'belief' system, dictated by whoever is in power.

The structure of public education today is not about giving all children an opportunity to explore and develop what comes naturally - their innate desire to learn, explore and inquire. Instead it produces a controllable labour force who have limited or little ability to think independently.

Learning occurs best when the curriculum and methodology promote inquiry and debate, not just simply spoon-feeding a narrow point of view.

If I want my students to become passionate about what they are learning, give them the opportunity to tap into what should be natural for them: inquiry and debate of ideas related to alternative theories and beliefs.

Concerning the theory of evolution, they could investigate what makes evolution the 'accepted' theory. Moreover, they could evaluate the similarities and differences of various beliefs; they could look at them from a scientific approach and publish their arguments. This is not to promote an alternative view as much as it is to promote inquiry and thus a stronger sense of learning.

It is interesting that when 'scientists' say they are open-minded, they get very paranoid when an alternative view is presented. They will use the 'world is flat' argument against any view outside their own. I have to remind them, the best minds of that era thought the world was flat.

It took a few 'alternative views' proposed by thought-provoking individuals who were brave enough to stand up for their beliefs to change that world view. Through inquiry, students may see the many similarities between creationism and evolution, but neither can be proven. They both require faith in that belief.


Scientists must resolve holes in Darwin's theory

The latest battle in the religion-versus-non-religion war running in your newspaper over the past three weeks has, as with previous installments, been quite interesting. Yet perhaps the most significant piece on the topic, human origin, was your February 7 editorial.

In contrast to many of the public submissions your fairness was refreshing and probably prescient.

The 'intelligent design' movement is not going away. A vigorous exposure of the flaws in the theory of evolution has been needed for a long time, and intelligent-design proponents are just the tap on the first domino.

To be believable, the theory requires a mind-boggling length of time for the evolutionary changes, and it is arrived at through the assumption that radioactive decay rates have been uniform throughout the ages. But recent research by scientists who do not accept the theory has shown the assumption of uniform decay rates is untenable. The clicking of the dominoes has begun.

For the time being the masses will be shielded from these new facts by the mainstream scientific establishment. But their fingers cannot remain in the dyke holes forever.

It will not be too many more decades before those who cling to the amoeba-swamp thing-apeman-human explanation of origin will be only pitiable variations of 'The Emperor's New Clothes'.


Untestable creationist is a matter of belief

Proponents of creationism like to claim it as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution. But it is no such thing. In fact there is no conflict at all between these two ideas because they occupy different magisteria (to borrow the terminology of Stephen Jay Gould). Darwinian evolution and all of science are a matter of evidence and deduction: verifiable postulates often labeled as 'theories'.

Creationism (and it's cretinous sibling 'intelligent design') like all faith-based stories is a matter of belief. It is entirely untestable and unverifiable. This is the whole point of religious faith - it is based on one's ability to believe despite a lack of evidence. Science, on the other hand, requires evidence.

If one is to choose to believe in the literal truth of the Bible in its entirety, then why not just believe that all the observations in support of evolution are a ruse of the Almighty?

In any case, such belief has no impact on science and is of no relevance to the teaching of science. Creationism is certainly not an 'alternative explanation' for evolution within biology.

It is therefore disappointing to find that the Education Bureau responding to imaginary demons and orchestrating a conflict between science and religion ('Scientists urge excluding God from biology'). Their mandate that alternative explanations to evolution could be discussed, should not in the context of a science classroom be taken as an invitation to creationism.

Creationism is not science. Of course such ideas should be discussed but as part of a class on ethics or religion. Moreover, I hope that the principals of two local schools were misquoted in saying that they either do not approve of evolution or that creationism offered a counterbalancing theory. Neither of these views is commensurate with a proper understanding of science.