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Kristian H. Nielsen publishes paper in BJHS Themes

"Ideas, politics and practices of integrated science teaching in the global Cold War"


During the Cold War, UNESCO played a major role in promoting science education across the world. UNESCO's Programme in Integrated Science Teaching, launched in 1969, placed science education at the heart of socio-economic development in all nations. The programme planners emphasized the role of science education in the development of human resources necessary to build a modern nation state, seeking to build a scientific and engineering mindset in children. UNESCO's interest in science education drew inspiration from early Cold War curriculum reforms in the United States, where scientists, psychologists and teachers promoted science education as a way to enhance the scientific and technical workforce and to counteract irrational tendencies. While US curriculum reformers were concerned about the quantity and quality of science teaching in secondary school, UNESCO wanted to introduce science as a topic in primary, secondary and vocational schools, promoting integrated science teaching as the best way to do this. From the outset, the term ‘integrated’ meant different things to different people. It not only entailed less focus on scientific disciplines and scientific method strictly defined, but also more on teaching children how to adopt a curious, experimental and engineering approach in life. By the end of the Cold War, UNESCO abandoned the idea of integrated science teaching, but it has a lasting legacy in terms of placing ways of teaching science to children at the heart of modern society.

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