A global dimension to science education in schools
A global dimension to science education in schools

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A global dimension to science education in schools

1. Introduction

1 1 The global dimension in science – why?

1.1 1 Why include a global dimension in science education?

Western science drew on a world heritage, on the basis of sharing ideas.

Sen (2002)

The global dimension refers to approaches to education … which focus on global issues, events and interdependence. … pupils will develop … an understanding of different cultural and political perspectives, as well as knowledge of global matters.

ASE Global (2003)

We start by exploring some of the reasons why we should adopt a global approach in science education.

Activity 1

Read 'Reasons for teaching the global dimension in science' by clicking on the 'view document' link below.

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Note any statements with which you disagree and any statements you think should be added, then arrange the reasons in order of their importance. Of course, there is no one ‘right answer’ here.

Next, listen to the audio clip of part of a conversation with an Oxfordshire teacher, below. Note the reasons given for including a global dimension in science. Discuss which reasons are most important in your own context.

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Transcript: Audio 1

Teacher
I work in a rural school in the outskirts of Oxfordshire which is predominantly non-black ? sort of speakers, pretty much 90 to 99 per cent white. Its eleven to eighteen mixed comparison school.
Q
Ok, right then I just want you to say who you are?
T
I’m a British Asian Muslim I have trained here at the department of education here at Oxford and I have been teaching now for three years with the special needs in Physics.
Q
OK, so now I am going to ask you why you think…. Next what I would like to ask you is why you feel a global perspective is important in science teaching?
T
Yes, the way I do this to answer this question is something that I have done with two classes at Wellingford. The listeners can do this while I run it through, I get the class and I ask them to think of a famous scientist. Few hands pop up, and then I tell them ‘think of a white male scientist’. A couple of kids put their hands up, classic ones come up, Einstein for example or Newton, now try and think of a white female scientist and with one class one girl did put her hand up but that was after a good three or four minutes and then I moved it on to think of an African scientist, no hands came up, think of an Asian scientist no hands came up.
Then I sort of opened the doors and I said any non-European scientist that you think have made a major contribution in scientific advancement and most people can’t go further really than the white male. And so the whole question ‘why does it matter?’ is an important question and there seems to be a lack of appreciation of the contributions made by non-white scientists. In fact take yourself for example, if your efforts were unnoticed or they were simply high- jacked by another person and you’d shout injustice and I’m sure you’d shout injustice.
Europeans didn’t have the monopoly for scientific discoveries but you can’t be blamed for thinking that. Given the fact many predominantly white schools may have unaddressed racist attitudes, for example, there is a good book written by Chris Henge on this topic called ‘some of the problems ? doubt?’ so science can provide a brilliant opportunity for teachers to address such attitudes and misconceptions towards other races and creeds.
Its important to value the contributions I feel of non-white and white scientists in order to help give a more positive view to students from that particular minority, ethnic minority group and the contributions of their own culture. But also more importantly to white students who may feel that human advancement has been spearheaded by white male western scientists. The Eurocentric assumption must be challenged.
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Having considered why the global dimension in science is so important, I shall now look at how to incorporate it in science lessons. Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics, raises some challenging questions for science educators.

  • What contributions to science have been made by those outside the ‘Western world’?

  • Why should school science reflect the subject's diverse roots?

  • How can you bring contemporary international science alive for your students?

  • Can learning science from a global perspective motivate students and so raise achievement?

Through exploring these vital questions, I hope you will gain the motivation and confidence to incorporate the global dimension in the work of your science department.

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