Some issues in current biological education : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts at Massey University

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Massey University
During the past decade, new biological curricula and courses have been formulated and incorporated into New Zealand education. Implied is that this 'new' biology is also a 'better' biology. However, recently two trends have been noticed. Firstly, the world wide 'drift' from science continues unabated. Secondly, research in biology, especially in 'pure' biology is declining. The 'drift' and the 'decline' in research continues in spite of new curricula at introductory levels. The drift from biology is obvious at the break between secondary and tertiary level education. Some factors which contribute to this drift can be found in secondary school biological education. Quantification, reductionism and factualism have been described. These factors can be classed as consciously or unconsciously held presuppositions or assumptions which are held by biological educators. They may not know that they hold these presuppositions, but curriculum makers and text writers reveal them when they write. Exploration of the unstated assumptions, possibly held by text writers and curriculum makers, is an important exercise in this thesis. For example, biological educators may never explicitly state that the 'new' biology is a 'better' biology. Instead by their writing it can be concluded that they do indeed make this assumption. If biological research is declining and a drift from biology is continuing, it seems necessary for some unstated assumptions or presuppositions to be made explicit. Furthermore, three possible remedies - the upgrading of biological theory, the extension of the observation phases, and the incorporation of the theory and methods of natural History - are outlined. Biological theory, if encouraged in introductory biological education could promote unorthodox, but fruitful approaches to old and new problems in biology. secondly, if the three above remedies are incorporated, the drift from biology may be abated. The mixed arts-biology students, could then advance into tertiary biology without being hamstrung by pre-requisites. Moreover, it seems probable that biological research could benefit from this substantial but currently neglected group, They seem to be characterised by having strong theoretical orientations which, if sustained, could benefit future biological research and biological education.
Education Curricula, Biology, Study and teaching (Secondary)