Improving science education for sustainable development

M.W. Eijck, van, W.-M. Roth

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    In recent issues of noteworthy journals, natural scientists have argued for the improvement of science education [1–4]. Such pleas reflect the growing awareness that high-quality science education is required not only for sustaining a lively scientific community that is able to address global problems like global warming and pandemics, but also to bring about and maintain a high level of scientific literacy in the general population. There is no doubt that effective education can serve as a vehicle for solving global problems. The problem centers on how to achieve more effective education. We believe that science education would greatly benefit from incorporating the lessons of cognitive science and contemporary ethology to provide a framework for explaining human behavior grounded in evolutionary theory. According to such a perspective, humans collectively produce and reproduce their environment through their actions and are therefore capable of acting responsibly for a sustainable future. In order to design education that will effectively contribute to a sustainable future, we argue for a learning framework that is consistent with contemporary ethology and represents human beings as self-determined yet integral parts of their environment. Such an epistemology is more holistic than traditional and often reductionistic frameworks in education and draws on the central paradigm of the life sciences—evolution. Furthermore, this framework approaches collective human activity as the pivotal unit of analysis in which individuals transact with the social and natural world. Drawing on data from an environmental education project, we demonstrate how this epistemology allows us to contribute both to the improvement of education and to a sustainable future of life on earth.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2763-2769
    JournalPLoS Biology
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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