|Mrs. Bates walks into her science classroom in the morning, hoping to have her materials organized and ready for this busy day. It is the third full week of school and she is just now getting to know her students. Last week, Mrs. Bates welcomed three new students. Enrico is from Honduras and arrived in the United States a few weeks ago. He speaks no English. Maritza is from Mexico and has some language facility but is shy and doesn’t speak much. Joo-chan recently arrived from Korea and is a bit bewildered by the American school. He has passable English, though, and seems anxious to learn.|
Even though Hispanic and Asian immigration has grown substantially in the area during the past decade, this is the first time Mrs. Bates has had immigrant students. She worries that she won’t be able to communicate with the students, much less with their parents. She tried to access their past school records but couldn’t read them because they weren’t written in English. What courses have they taken? Have they had successful school experiences? What science curriculum did they follow? Was science even a subject of study? Then, of course, there are the cultural issues. Do the students’ families value education highly? Will the parents understand the intricacies of American education? Will they participate in parent–teacher meetings and come to PTA? As she thinks this over, Mrs. Bates sighs, wishing that she knew more about education and the teaching of science from the perspective of the students’ home countries.
There is a lot of talk today about the world environment and the global economy. Both the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have clearly shone the spotlight on international achievement in science. But science teachers really take notice when international issues hit home, as with our example above. Mrs. Bates’s experience is not that unusual. What is changing is that immigration has begun to affect almost all school systems, not just those in urban or coastal areas.
This realization has led me to choose Developing a World View for Science Education as the theme for my NSTA presidency. Knowledge of science is fundamental to success, not just for those in scientific careers, but also for all who wish to flourish in the new millennium.
Many of the world’s challenges, such as exploring the universe, providing adequate and safe food supplies, and conquering epidemics, will be accomplished only by applying scientific solutions with a wide-ranging understanding of cultural values and customs. Successfully meeting these challenges requires not only a strong contingent of scientists, but also a scientifically literate global society—neither of which is possible without strong science teaching.
NSTA must be in the vanguard of this transformation, assisting teachers of science to adapt to the “Global Age.” Over the past year, NSTA has been reviewing and refining its strategic plan for the future and has chosen important goals to lead our efforts. The first goal is to engage all teachers of science to continually improve science education. The word “all” signifies that international collaboration is a critical element of NSTA’s future.
Moving forward, the NSTA International Task Force proposes a plan to encourage and promote international collaboration. We envision that U.S. science teachers have much to learn from teachers in other countries about both their culture and their successful teaching practices. This will allow us to better serve the diverse students we teach. In turn, science educators from other countries can learn much from us.
There are obviously many issues related to international science education that must be addressed. NSTA must be mindful that a broadly focused international effort cannot be solely from the U.S. perspective. On the other hand, NSTA must be bold in taking leadership and responsibility for helping teachers from the United States better understand and teach students in American schools. NSTA must work cooperatively with other nations while at the same time pursue an active program to help American teachers more effectively teach students from other cultures who are being educated in this country.
If teachers such as Mrs. Bates are to find better ways to educate their new students, then NSTA must be a leader in developing a world view for science education and nurturing our members into thinking not just with a local, regional, or national outlook, but rather with an international perspective. I encourage science teachers from around the world to join in this important initiative.
Michael Padilla, President 2005–2006, National Science Teachers Association; e-mail: email@example.com.