When you think of SQA's science qualifications, you might instinctively think of school qualifications in Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. While these qualifications are undoubtedly important, SQA offers a much wider array of qualifications in science for use across the whole of the learning system.
Science is an area of great importance to the Scottish economy — Scotland performs particularly well, and is competitive on a global scale in areas such as life sciences and marine sciences. This is why the Scottish Government has produced its Science Strategy for Scotland , which focuses on three areas: science education and careers; research; and knowledge exchange.
One of the most important areas for SQA is the proposal for a Science Baccalaureate , targeted at S6 learners, which will help to promote science as a valued and important area for study, and act as a bridge between school and higher education. This allows learners to choose from a range of science and related subjects, including Mathematics, Biology, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Geology, Human Biology, Physics, and a further nine technology courses. They will also have to complete an Interdisciplinary Project.
There is also a recognition in the Science Strategy that science in Scotland requires more than school and higher education provision, and that further education colleges have a significant role to play.
SQA offers a wide variety of science and mathematics provision in Higher National Qualifications — last year, there were 18,702 entries for Units that fall under this heading. As well as overtly scientific qualifications such as Applied Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and Bioscience, these Units also contribute to Higher National Qualifications in areas as diverse as construction, engineering, beauty therapy, sports coaching, and horticulture. This helps to demonstrate the overall contribution and importance of science to different areas of the Scottish economy. Such provision is essential to ensure that learners in different fields gain the scientific grounding that they require to function effectively in the workplace, and help to grow the Scottish economy.
Science also impacts on a number of other qualifications. For example, SQA has recently introduced a Skills for Work Course at Intermediate 1 level in Health, which depends significantly on science. Other Skills for Work Courses, such as Rural Skills, Creative Digital Media, and Sport and Recreation are similarly related to science.
SQA also offers workplace qualifications through Scottish Vocational Qualifications, National Certificates, National Progression Awards, and Professional Development Awards, many of which require learners to make effective use of scientific knowledge skills, and principles in the workplace. One example is the National Certificate in Pharmaceutical Sciences, which is recognised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain for those wishing to register as pharmacy technicians. This can then lead on to an SVQ in Pharmacy Services. Another similar qualification is the SVQ in Laboratory Science.
One theme that arises frequently when talking about science qualifications is that the numbers of learners taking these qualifications is declining. The graph below shows entries for Highers in the five most popular science-related subjects. As can be seen, there is no decline in entries for Mathematics, Chemistry, or Biology, with a very small decline in Physics entries, and a slight rise in Human Biology entries. There are similar patterns at other levels, suggesting that the numbers of young people undertaking science qualifications remain stable.
We are currently revising our science provision at both Higher and Advanced Higher levels, to ensure that the content of these courses remains suitable, and that these qualifications are as useful as possible for learners, employers, and further and higher education institutions.
Demand for science-related qualifications remains high throughout our qualifications portfolio. Entries in the more traditional science subjects remain healthy, and the wide diversity of provision that we offer will help to meet the diverse needs of Scottish learners, employers and the economy as a whole.