The role of research in reconceptualising science education for the 21st century

Year: 1998

Author: Smith, Caroline, Carter, Lyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As we approach the new millennium the rate of change in the environmental, technological, social, economic and cultural spheres is unprecedented. It is becoming clear that the core patterns of the industrial era are inherently unsustainable and that fundamental transformational change is necessary. Such patterns are underpinned by Western canonical perspectives of science and are recapitulated in science education and continue to appear in curricula, where views of the nature and purposes of science lack both a critical futures and a planetary perspective. It is our view that science education should play a pivotal role in conceptualising a science that, far from false attempts to be value-neutral, is explicitly contextual, laden with a planetary value system that is futures orientated, healing, life enhancing, earth centred and which honours the participation of multiple voices.

This paper reports our attempts to use research to reconceptualise science education within a futures perspective initially as part of the preparation of pre-service primary teachers. We draw upon a reading of relevant research literature, from our own experiences as teacher educators as well as data from our predominantly female student body. These data indicate that while the students are apparently marginalised by the dominant science education discourse as indicated by their performance and views of school science, they hold a broader view of science that is socially embedded and which allows Other voices. Our view is that a science education that adopts a critical futures and ecological perspective is able to provide an enabling science that empowers students to be proactive about creating a future worth living in and participating fully in the world of the next century.