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Science Education: An Introduction

Science education is a relatively new international field of education research, which started in the USA in the 1960s although it can be dated back to the 1920s when the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) was first founded. The initial purpose of NARST was "to promote scientific study of problems of science teaching and to disseminate the results of such study"(Joslin & Murphy cited in Fensham, 2004, p. 11).

International interest in science education emerged in the 1950s in the USA and Britain where curriculum reform and development took place. With the USSR's launching of the first orbiting satellite Sputnik in 1957, science education soon became established as a new academic discipline in Britain, Germany, Canada and Australia.

In his book Defining an identity: The evolution of science education as a field of research, Peter Fensham—who became a science educator at Monash University in 1967 — chronicles the development of science education from Australia to the UK and from New Zealand and to the USA, as well as that in some non-western countries. His book epistomises a comprehensive history of science education through his 79 interviews since 1995 with science educators from 16 countries, including the most reputed science educators such as John Gilbert (England), Rosalind Driver (England), Alex Johnstone (Scotland), Beverley Bell (New Zealand), Reinders Duit (Germany), Barry Fraser (Australia), David Treagust (Australia), Richard Gunstone (Australia), Peter Hewson (USA), Marcia Linn (USA), Joseph Novak (USA), Ken Tobin (USA), James Wandersee (USA) and other science educators from Norway, France, Italy, Brazil and South Korea. I was in the conference in 2004 at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia, when Peter launched his book. I am fortunate to have personally met or attended presentations by some of these science educators interviewed by Peter during my seven years in Australia and in international conferences in Australia and other countries.

Recently, science education is becoming more important in non-western countries such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand and regions like Taiwan and Hong Kong. However, science education is still not an established area of research in China with one fifth of the world's population. Perhaps Kyle's (1999) article on challenging the first world's hegemony in a global context is still thought-provoking today for science educators in non-western countries. To me, a science educator born and brought up in Hong Kong, there seems to be much we can do to develop science education into a field of research in Hong Kong and in China.

 

References

Kyle, W. (1999). Science education in developing countries: Challenging first world hegemony in a global context. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 36(3): 255-260.

Fensham, P.J.(2004). Defining an identity: The evolution of science education as a field of research. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer

 



 

 

 

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