Letter: Science has little allure for graduates

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The Independent Online
Sir: The concern at the shortage of students passing A-levels in science subjects reminds me of my own experience 50 years ago.

Having obtained eight General School Certificates (equivalent to O-levels) in a wide variety of subjects, I had to select those to be studied for Higher School Certificate (today's A-level).

The main choice was between 'Science', comprising Physics, Chemistry, Pure and Applied Maths, and 'Arts', comprising English, Latin, Pure and Applied Maths. My decision was made easy. The Engish master who was also in charge of cricket, informed me quite forcibly that he did not expect to see any of his cricket team 'go into the laboratory to make stinks'.

Well into my 'Arts' course, and with two GSCs to keep the pot boiling, I was asked by the headmaster about my long-term ambitions. I said I would like to be an engineer. Aghast, he replied: 'You merely have a small boy's desire to make the wheels go round.' Then the war and RAF service intervened.

Can it be that this pre-war perception of engineering/science as, in some way, inferior to other disciplines, persists and that careers officers are still, mistakenly, directing their brighter pupils to more 'respectable' pursuits?

Yours faithfully,


North Stifford, Essex

22 August