Seeing the big picture

4th April 2003 at 01:00
Marianne Cutler looks at science from a global perspective

Young people in the UK are growing up in an increasingly global context.

There is a global dimension to all aspects of their daily lives - the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the music they listen to, their holidays and the careers they choose.

Science is a global activity with global consequences for all our lives.

While we take for granted the benefits that Western science brings, the ways that science and technology have been used have also had negative impacts on the world with little contribution to human welfare - take, for example, air and water pollution and the consequent effects on human health.

However, science also helps provide solutions to these problems. It contributes to the wider public debate on the moral and ethical issues that underlie scientific advances and technological innovation. These issues include the treatment and prevention of Aids; developing the simple and inexpensive salt-and-sugar treatment for childhood diarrhoea; introducing processes to limit pollution and waste, as well as the means of mitigating their effects, such as finding alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons and offering support for countries implementing change-overs.

Scientific understanding can also help refute the scientific basis of arguments or research used as the rationale for discrimination and injustice and, more positively, recognise historical and current contributions to science made by people in the developing world. Science education with a global dimension can provide pupils with a range of opportunities to explore real issues with real solutions and with clear social and moral implications.

Teaching pupils to be aware of the global nature of science - its content and the way knowledge is increased - makes it easier for students to participate more effectively in a global society, understand science in the media, choose a socially positive career in science, and appreciate the relevance of the science curriculum in their own lives.

Through teaching about the global dimension of science, teachers can create lessons that are more relevant and interesting, and explore attitudes that are critical and positive, and based on evidence.

The Development Education Association in partnership with The Association for Science Education has produced a booklet full of practical ideas to help teachers of science at KS3 and KS4 address the global dimension.

Copies cost pound;5 and are available from the Development Education Association Tel: 020 7490 8108 Email:

The Association for Science Education Tel: 01707 283000

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