Developing tomorrow's decision-makers: Opportunities for biotechnology education research

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Journal Article
Australian Educational Researcher, 2011, 38 (4), pp. 449 - 465
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Globally, science curricula have been described as outdated, and students perceive school science as lacking in relevance. Declines in senior secondary and tertiary student participation in science indicate an urgent need for change if we are to sustain future scientific research and development, and perhaps more importantly, to equip students with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions related to scientific research. This paper argues that a good starting point would be the inclusion of more contemporary areas of science in middle school curricula. One such area with continually emerging developments is biotechnology. This paper further argues the need for research into the impact of biotechnology education that would allow students to go beyond learning about biotechnological processes and products to explore their benefits and risks through an integrated approach, where biotechnology education were extended to include subject areas beyond science, such as social sciences, health education, and English. Such an approach is important, in light of research that suggests that the general public has a limited understanding of biotechnology and that public dissemination of information is insufficient to allow individuals to make informed decisions about or to develop attitudes towards, the varied applications of biotechnology. If we are to educate students to be tomorrow's informed decision-makers, we must start by addressing their understanding of and attitudes towards emerging sciences. Further research is needed to broaden our understanding of how to achieve these goals. © 2011 The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc.
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