Evolution ‘taught wrong way round' in schools

Professor Alice Roberts said teaching children about genetics would help their understanding of evolution.

Teaching schoolchildren about genetics will improve their understanding of evolution, according to TV presenter Alice Roberts.

The anthropologist said evolution was being taught the wrong way round in schools partly because there was no guidance in the National Curriculum.

Prof Roberts was speaking at the University of Bath on Friday at the launch of the Milner Centre for Evolution, a research facility for biology, health and education.

The star of Time Team and Coast said a study conducted by the centre showed teaching basic genetics in school led to an improvement in children’s understanding of evolution.

She said: “Genetics has joined traditional disciplines such as comparative anatomy, embryology and palaeontology to reveal more than ever about the way evolution works.

“It’s important to make sure that teaching and learning about evolution and biology is joined up, from primary through secondary school to university.

“But there’s a lot of debate about how best to teach the subject. There’s no guidance in the National Curriculum about whether to teach genetics or evolution first, for instance.

“So researchers at the Milner Centre for Evolution decided to tackle that question, working with schools to find the answer, and showed that teaching basic genetics first led to an improvement in children’s understanding of evolution.”

A free online course for teachers will be made available by the research centre from October 29, which aims to provide teachers with a range of resources to support the teaching of evolution in primary and secondary schools.

Prof Laurence Hurst, director of the Milner Centre for Evolution and lead educator of the course, said: “The public are hungry to understand evolution and we want to work with both children and adults to help answer these fundamental questions.

“Understanding evolution better can inform how to treat cancer more effectively, to develop better therapies, or to help tackle climate change.

“By combining pure science, applied science and outreach, we will endeavour to make discoveries and make a real difference.”

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