He states that:
Thirty per cent of physics departments have either been closed or merged in the past five years. What is one to make of the deafening silence of ministers when, last year, the small Sussex chemistry department - a fantastic department to work in, where I stayed for some 37 years and which has housed some 12 fellows of the Royal Society, three Nobel laureates and a Wolf prize winner since it was created in 1962 - was under threat of closure? It was only through the concerted efforts of staff and students that a U-turn occurred.
When the University of Reading announced the closure of its physics department, I remember thinking how shocking it was that this was allowed to happen. In a country where students can study some ridiculous subjects (fashion accessories, packaging, adventure, to name a few), it's somewhat shameful that we can't keep the pure sciences alive.
Kroto goes on to say:
The personal reasons for choosing a science education are also overwhelming. A Royal Society of Chemistry/Institute of Physics study found that graduates with chemistry and physics degrees earn, for the most productive 15-20 years of their working lives, some £15,000 more annually than most other graduates. They earn thousands more than those studying psychology, that seductively popular subject diverting a large proportion of our best young people into dead-end, uncreative careers. It is actually a triple whammy, as the government gets greater investment return in tax from this better-paid workforce, and there are science and technology industries for graduates to enter. The chemical industry posts a £50bn annual turnover with a £5bn profit. Which is more than can be said for law.
The problem is, few science graduates actually stay within the scientific field. Most end up in jobs such as IT, which may give them a chance to use their transferable skills, but inevitably move them further away from a world of science. In my personal experience, most people on my course wanted to be investment bankers - indeed, many of them are now working in finance. Fresh graduates with a steamy loan to pay off are ultimately attracted by money. When the real world hits them, they begin to lose all their desire to change the world and just want to earn money and get on with their lives - even if it means selling their souls.
Finally, Kroto mentions:
The scientific method is based on what I prefer to call the inquiring mindset. It includes all areas of human thoughtful activity that categorically eschew "belief", the enemy of rationality. This mindset is a nebulous mixture of doubt, questioning, observation, experiment and, above all, curiosity, which small children possess in spades. I would argue that it is the most important, intrinsically human quality we possess, and it is responsible for the creation of the modern, enlightened portion of the world that some of us are fortunate to inhabit. Curiously, for the majority of our youth, the educational system magically causes this capacity to disappear by adolescence.
Science education in schools is disgustingly drab. As a tutor, I find myself teaching children who neither understand science, nor want to understand science. It's "hard" or "geeky" or "boring" or "means nothing".
As well as being taught in a decidedly unimaginative fashion, science has also been dumbed down to the point of ignorant within some schools. In its terrible obsession to breed achievers, the government hasn't realised that its A grade pupils know absolutely nothing. At some point along the system, the top students realise this and are probably so disillusioned by the system that they believe university will hold the same unsatisfying answers for them.
I believe science education is in serious need of a revamp. The only problem is, nobody in government is willing to stand up and do something about it, and when they are, it will probably be too late.