Doctor Who can help save science, says minister

… rather than technical and “boring” textbooks, according to the new science minister.

Malcolm Wicks, who was appointed in November following the resignation of Lord Sainsbury, believes that too many pupils are put off science during school.

He claims that popular television shows such as the hit BBC science fiction series provide children with an insight into real science that teachers can use to kick-start lessons. Science education campaign groups have warned, however, that shows such as Doctor Who often involve ideas that have little basis in science.

Mr Wicks said: “If you start a lesson with the chemical formulae you will lose 90 per cent of the class. If you start with something interesting or important, like something they read in the paper or saw on television, they will remain interested.

“It can be part of an entrée to some of the more technical, important but slightly more boring parts of the subject. If I was a teacher I would start with a chunk from Doctor Who and Billie Piper and say, ‘Actually, what was that all about and how is our textbook relevant to that?’

“Take R2D2 from the Star Wars films, for example. We are already doing that kind of stuff in robotics. I would show that, talk about how you would build a thing like that and its uses in the future in the home, in caring for people and for space exploration.”

Mr Wicks believes that it is essential to produce a generation of children who are science-literate so that they can go on to help in making the decisions Britain is likely to face on issues such as climate change and medical research.

However, Derek Bell, the chief executive of the Association of Science Education, said: “We all enjoy programmes such as Doctor Who, but teachers would need to be careful to make it clear which bits are science and which fantasy.”

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