The Association for Science Education

Global Dimension

Young people in the UK are growing up in an increasingly global context. There is a global dimension to all aspects of their daily lives - the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the music they listen to, their holidays and the careers they choose. The global dimension is applicable across the curriculum and is increasingly relevant in science.

Please use the links below to learn more about Global Dimension Resources:

Why Teach the Global Dimension?

Science is a global activity with consequences for all our lives. It is also a human activity with ethical, social and political dimensions. Science education provides opportunities to relate technological change to changes in a wider context, such as effects on the environment and our quality of life. The impact of science is not confined to scientists but affects all people everywhere.  

Understanding issues such as 'sustainable development' is rapidly becoming critical for the quality of our lives and the future of the planet. International trade, travel and communications mean that local communities are often deeply affected by what happens in different parts of the world. Young people need to develop skills, such as critical thinking and relating their own experiences and knowledge to wider issues, in order to participate fully in this global society.

The fact that science is seen as fundamental to a child's education should be cause for celebration. But, what sort of science should be taught in our schools? One could argue that it is impossible to teach without the global dimension in the 21st century.

Click here to download Global Dimension Booklet

How do we Teach the Global Dimension?

Science education is a matter of crucial importance to the UK, both for the future generations of scientists, engineers and technologists and for the wider public. Science and technology are essential for our economic competitiveness, and to our quality of life, and lie at the heart of our history and culture. -Science and Technology Committee, May 2002

Although scientific research and learning are evidence based, the work environment, culture and personal values all influence scientists' actions and interpretations. For example, the Human Genome Project has created varied and often opposing views amongst scientists and the wider public about its value and the extent to which the project's findings should be made freely available or developed for commercial gain.

Another way of looking at the global dimension is through the views collected by the advisory group for ASE’s Global Dimension to Science project as outlined in Towards a better portrait of science. 

These pages are being developed by the ASE and DEA (Development Education Association) though much of the content and contributions will come from teachers supporting these organisations. Sharing ideas and working together will reflect the networking ethos of this work.

At the simplest level, there are many opportunities in science lessons to provide information
and present issues in their global context. The 'Learning activities' section of this booklet deliberately contains a wide range of examples. It is also helpful when published science materials include global perspectives and issues, and even better when they include examples of people from different ethnic groups working together and achieving success in scientific work. Going further, young people generally appreciate opportunities to examine their own values and attitudes. In the classroom, lifestyle comparisons offer a good starting place. Whether considering energy, food or health, teachers can encourage pupils to compare their experiences and choices with those available:

  • at earlier historical periods
  • in specific countries around the world
  • to the world population on average.

People often have a tendency to focus on differences, so it may be useful in planning these activities to consider how you might enable pupils to explore the similarities as well. Teachers can also stimulate discussion by considering alternative future projections such as volumes of waste, diminishing fresh water supplies, population growth, or rising global temperatures.

Small group work may help to draw out a wider range of information, ideas and opinions and enable all pupils to engage in discussions. Pupils should gain understanding of the different points of view that people hold and explore why they hold these views. Help them to examine conflicts of interest, empathise with people in very different situations to their own and recognise their own prejudices. Global interdependence is something they will all have experience of, but it may need to be drawn out. Teachers can help pupils to consider the social, political, environmental and economic impact of scientific and technological developments.

There needs to be greater recognition that what is called Western science drew on a world heritage, on the basis of sharing ideas that make science what it is. The sharing culture of science must be recognized as an important organisational tradition, which continues to be significant today. - Amartya Sen, winner of 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics, New Scientist No 2340, 27 April 2002

Issues and questions that may be discussed and researched in science lessons include the following statements:

  • Fast food shops in our high streets are to blame for deforestation in Latin America.
  • It is easier to get funding for research into obesity and slimming treatments than it is for malaria.
  • Buying raw materials from countries in the 'South' supports local employment and is good for the environment.
  • Poverty is the most environmentally destructive force on the planet.
  • The promotion of baby formula milks has improved infant survival and health.
  • Terminator gene technologies benefit farmers in India.
  • Nuclear power is clean, safe and easy to use.
  • The increased use of pesticides in the 'South’

Pupils can be encouraged to come up with their own statements.