Prof. Brian Cox talks to the Guardian ahead of his live Q&A on Friday
18 November 2014
This Friday Guardian Teacher Network will be hosting our live-streamed Q&A with Professor Brian Cox as another way you can tune-in to watch along. They will be making this available so your students can watch along as Professor Cox takes questions with a few of our schools and gives his views on the importance of the field, how it is relevant to all young people and the array of possibilities they can look forward to. They’ll even have a chance for their question to be selected on social media – just use #S4SSTEM and #S4SLivetalks.
Ahead of his event, Professor Brian Cox took a moment to talk to the Guardian about why he’s working to inspire students in ‘STEM’ and how essential it is to his line of work. Focusing on the recent Rosette mission, he gives his view on how we can help young people see themselves as capable and ready to be apart of their generations amazing innovators and discoverers. See the full article below.
Brian Cox: Rosetta mission can inspire next generation
TV physicist urges government to capitalise on excitement over comet landing and enable children to become top scientists
The TV physicist Brian Cox has called on the government to capitalise on the excitement surrounding the Rosetta space mission and enable a generation of schoolchildren to pursue their aspirations to become world-class scientists and engineers.
Prof Cox accused ministers of being preoccupied by the short-term economic benefits of education and failing to recognise the long-term value of inspiring children at a young age who would then go on to be the space explorers of the future.
He said the Rosetta mission, in which a spacecraft the size of a washing machine landed on a comet for the first time, was a “profound scientific achievement” that could have the same impact as the Apollo moon landings.
“It has captured the imagination. It’s on the front page of every newspaper. It’s being discussed – or it should be – in every science lesson in every school. The next question [for schoolchildren] is: is it possible for me to do this?”
Too often, Cox said, children assumed it was beyond their reach. He blamed a lack of joined-up thinking between the Department of Education and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which he said acted as a brake on young people’s aspirations.
“They [the two departments] do not see it in as joined-up a way as they should,” he said. “When I go into schools and talk about working at Cern, a lot of kids have said: ‘I would like to do that but surely there’s no way I could work at Cern?’”
He said discussions surrounding university and research funding were focused on economic impact rather than inspiration and possibility. “If I speak to BIS [which is responsible for higher education] then there’s not a great recognition of the value of inspiration. I don’t hear the Department of Education and BIS speaking with one voice to say there’s a pathway all the way through.”
As a result, children were growing up feeling like “there’s no way I would personally be able to do that”, Cox said. Instead they should be given the message: “You can do it if you want.”
Millions of space enthusiasts have been tracking the progress of the robotic comet probe Philae, which made a historic but awkward landing on 67P/Churyumov/Gerasimenko on Wednesday. Over the weekend it went into hibernation with a closing tweet: “I might take a nap …”
Cox, whose latest TV series Human Universe recently completed its run on BBC2, said: “The fact you capture a few kids’ imaginations at this point, that will mean they will go on and they will do better at GCSE and A-level.
“If you can make that link – they were people like you! They did their work, they went to university and now they are landing on a comet! I suspect that there will be a few engineers and scientists in 10 years’ time who would cite that as being one of the things that excited their interest.
“That’s where the education system has to function. What’s the path from being inspired at 14 to working for the European Space Agency? What we need to do now is stand up and say, look, this is British engineering, these are British scientists, working alongside European colleagues.”
In an interview with the Guardian – which on Friday will host a live-streamed Q&A in which Cox will be quizzed by schoolchildren across the country – the physicist also challenged the logic of student loans as a means of funding universities and called for a properly funded research sector.
“Is it really the right proposition to say if you do your work at school and you learn then you can go to university but you have to pay back £40,000? Is that logical? I don’t think it is.”
He said education should be funded through general taxation. “It’s people chipping in to make the country they live in better. The more educated our population is, the better it is for everyone.”
Cox will be taking part in a Q&A on Friday 21 November as a part of the Speakers For Schools series Future of Innovation, Connectivity and Discovery