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Biology, health and environmental education for better citizenship

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Promoting scientific literacy

A knowledge-based society calls for knowledgeable citizens — and where better to promote this than through Europe's education systems. An EU-funded team of researchers investigated this approach with a focus on biology, health and environmental education.

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The 'Biology, health and environmental education for better citizenship' (Biohead-citizen) project was set up to improve understanding of how different aspects of citizenship are or can be promoted through biology, health and environmental education. Project partners analysed possible differences across 19 countries, taking into account perceptions of teachers and parameters such as social context, religion and gender. Advancing understanding in this area has the goal of highlighting pertinent challenges possibly awaiting Europe's education systems, in order to maximise efficiency and reinforce a knowledge-based society. The conceptions of various actors in the educational system were analysed against the backdrop of interactions of several factors: scientific knowledge (K: publications from the scientific community); systems of values (V: opinions, beliefs and ideologies); and social practices (P: related to professional actions as well as responsibility as a citizen). This KVP model proved useful for analysing significant elements of taught knowledge. Project partners had the tasks of conducting a comparative analysis of syllabi and school textbooks on the topics of 'health education', 'human reproduction and sexual education', 'ecology and environmental education', 'human brain', 'human evolution', 'human genetics', as well as a comparative analysis, across 16 countries) of teachers' conceptions in relation to the selected topics. Results of the analysis and interpretation of data from all countries resulted in synopses that were submitted to the 'International meeting on critical analysis of school science textbooks', co-organised by the Biohead-citizen project, of the International Organization for Science and Technology Education (IOSTE). Project activities culminated with the synthesis of results in scientific papers and documents prepared for national policymakers and teachers, with a view to promoting scientific literacy and improving citizenship in scientific knowledge-based societies.

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