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Science education for citizenship has become increasingly important over the last few years.  One reason could be that we are living in an increasingly technological society, another is that socio-scientific issues are now common place in the media and there is also a certain degree of mistrust of scientific information.   This mistrust may or may not be justified, as there have been incidences where scientists and governments have been found to ‘not have told the whole truth’ or have ‘misled the public’ as was the case with B.S.E. and thalidomide.

In the 1998 report ‘Beyond 2000’ (Millar and Osborne, 1998) ten recommendations were made concerning the future of science education.  The impetus for the report was the growing division, as perceived by the authors, between the science as taught in schools and the science that would be required by future generations for citizenship.  According to the authors the science taught in schools presently is primarily best suited to producing future scientists, the knowledge that is required for this is said to be unequivocal and unquestioned, and therefore does not cater for the majority of pupils who will not become scientists.  A problem with this type of science being taught is that it encourages the view that there is always a ‘right’ answer in science and this is not always the case with some of the issues that the pupils may have to make decisions on in the future.  The report also comments that as the science studied at school is all the science most of the pupils will receive, it should provide the pupil with the necessary knowledge at least, to be able to understand science items in the media. 

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) recently defined a scientific literate person as being one which is;

‘able to combine science knowledge with the ability to draw evidence-based conclusions in order to understand and help make decisions about the natural world and the changes made to it through human activity’ (OCED 1998)

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Last modified: 08/12/04