Feedback from the article 22 April, Sydney Morning Herald,

A forum designed mainly for high school physics students in New South Wales, Australia.
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joe
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Feedback from the article 22 April, Sydney Morning Herald,

Postby joe » Fri Apr 22, 2005 3:15 pm

There has been some feedback concerning an article I published in the Sydney Morning Herald, complaining about the new "soft" or postmodern physics being taught in high schools in NSW currently. The article is at http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/~jw/HSC/WolfeSMH.pdf.

I have also posted an analysis of the 2003 paper at
http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/~jw/HSC/2003HSCexam.pdf
and some general comments on the syllabus at
http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/~jw/HSC/HSCSyllabus.pdf

Some feedback from the SMH article has been by phone, and I'll summarise those points:

From a physicist who thinks that the new syllabus has good points:
It's good to have a subject that is attractive to people who will go on to be lawyers, economists etc. This way they'll learn about physics and that will be good for physics.
- I totally agree. As I wrote in the article, the current high school subject would be a good part of a science studies subject for the general population. However, students who plan to do physics, engineering etc - admittedly an elite - need a subject with real, analytical physics in it.

From a chemistry and physics teacher:
What's really important in chemistry and physics is being able to analyse and to calculate, and that's what they've taken out of the new high school syllabus.

From a software engineer:
Australia does not sufficiently value engineers or scientists.


A letter from an academic outside physics said that universities should be prepared to accept people with no knowledge of physics and make it easier for them to become physicists and engineers.

My response is that some universities do in fact offer bridging courses over summer. The one at UNSW has an excellent reputation and is a much better preparation for engineering or science than is HSC physics. We strongly recommend the bridging course. The problem is not only one of preparation. The problem is that some students enrol in HSC physics, do well, and therefore think that they can do physics whereas in fact they are not gifted in areas related to physics. We have to disappoint these students.

From a physicist, this email:
Presently, I work privately as a maths/physics tutor, and have just read your article in today's SMH. I could not agree with you more!
Since the introduction of the new syllabus, I agree that the standard of physics has degenerated. It is not uncommon for me to see students that simply do not have the mathematical background to even cope with HSC physics (for example, the inability to solve simple quadratic equations), but some teachers do not even show students questions that involve these! It is also not uncommon to have to send students back to their teachers with corrections to some of the information presented to them - many of the teachers admit to the students that they are not even trained science teachers, or are trained in something other than physics.
One of the saddest trends I have also noticed is that among the more mathematically adept students, they are telling younger siblings not to do physics as it is "a joke". I have heard this from a few students in the last few years, and I suspect it will only get worse.
The students are simply asked to regurgitate facts (many learn the material by going through the dot points on the syllabus - if it isn't a dot point, they do not learn it!).
Hopefully, sense will prevail and a more rigourous syllabus will be introduced, but I feel the present students will simply be discarded as a flawed experiment!
- "discarded" is, I hope, too pessimistic. The really talented ones see through the system and, provided they do well in maths, they will quickly come up to speed at University. I've seen that happen often: students who suddenly realise that they're good at it and take off. Of those who enter science and engineering mistakenly thinking that they are good at physics, most realise quickly and change directions. Yes, it's unfortunate for them. The more we warn high school students in NSW that HSC "physics" is not much like real physics, the less of a problem this will be.[/url]

FinalFantasy
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Postby FinalFantasy » Sun Oct 02, 2005 12:32 am

Man this new HSC Physics Syllabus SUCKS!!
It's soo rubbish, full of crap and rote learning!!

Mick316
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Postby Mick316 » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:32 pm

Geez I hope that isn't the case of which I turn out to be. Being ok at physics now and then going to engineering in uni and sucking at it

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joe
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Postby joe » Fri Mar 02, 2007 2:56 am

Mick,

it depends upon which bits you like. If you like the physics and the analytical side, and if you are also good at maths, it's likely that you'll enjoy physics and engineering at university. If you like the essay writing and the history and sociology side, then perhaps engineering will come as a shock.

Best
Joe

Mick316
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Postby Mick316 » Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:27 pm

Well that's good because i hate the writing and history part it's only the analytical parts that i like about physics, the parts i'm good at

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joe
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Postby joe » Fri Mar 02, 2007 10:49 pm

Good. We'll look forward to seeing you next year at Uni.

There are some interesting discussions on
https://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/forums/viewforum.php?f=14

Best
Joe

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Forbidden
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Postby Forbidden » Mon Jun 23, 2008 12:35 pm

But I used to be so good at physics at high school. I never dreamed that it would have all this maths in it.


Quoted for the truth.
I knew when I was going to study engineering I would be exposed to an intense amount of mathematics and physics, but thanks to HSC Physics I came quite unprepared thanks to being used to plugging in numbers instead of real problem solving that is needed in a career.
They cater for those who have less interest in real physics.

:(
If you never ask, you never know. btw http://www.youtube.com/JustKiddingFilms lol.

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angle.alpha
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Re: Feedback from the article 22 April, Sydney Morning Herald,

Postby angle.alpha » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:44 am

so many years, the politicians/BOS haven't listened. disappointment!! The greatest worry of all to me is that many kids who would have loved physics in its proper form will instead develop a hate of it - due to the emphasis on essay-writing/memory work (worth many marks depending on your exact wording/ use of key phrases/ structure), simple boring calculations for a few marks (no need for analysis). If I hadn't prepared for NQEs in lower grades by studying and reading on the subject, but had instead been introduced to it purely by the official NSW syllabus, I would have hated the subject and I would never decide to major in physics! it's true i've had many a friend who'd been turned off by the mediocre learning experience, they enjoy maths and would have liked physics yet only learnt BOS's ridiculous version of it.

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angle.alpha
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Re: Feedback from the article 22 April, Sydney Morning Herald,

Postby angle.alpha » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:45 am

[contd.] I also agree on the comment about the lack of proper physics teachers. In my high school out of all the teaching staff there was only one physics teacher I actually had a good deal of expertise on the subject. Others would buckle under the slightest probing for the explanation of physical concepts and avoid any questions "out of their comfort zone" regarding the topic or else present a wishy-washy explanation as fact that did not hold to prevent their lack of knowledge in the subject from showing (which I find the worst thing to do, ever, in teaching. there is nothing wrong with saying you simply do not know, but you will do your research on the matter).

tagitables
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Re: Feedback from the article 22 April, Sydney Morning Herald,

Postby tagitables » Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:05 am

This is quite a shock to me.
In my home country, there was almost no essay writing test on physics in high school. We were exposed in applying and deriving various law of physics to solve particular problems. In fact, I think the calculation in uni is still too basic.
Signed.

a.s.h.
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Re: Feedback from the article 22 April, Sydney Morning Heral

Postby a.s.h. » Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:21 am

There is in fact currently more physics in the HSC Extension 1 & 2 Mathematics courses than in HSC Physics.


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