Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 7, Issue 2, Article 9 (Dec., 2006)
Emine Selcen DARÇIN   &  Lütfullah TÜRKMEN
A study of prospective Turkish science teachers’   knowledge at the popular biotechnological issues

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This study describes a questionnaire administered to the students of the department of science education over a midsize university in Ankara, Turkey. The authors conclude that the students of the department of science education students have barely good knowledge of describing biotechnology and human health/pharmacy. Furthermore, almost all of the students have inadequate knowledge about other biotechnological issues such as genetically modified crops that cause a loss of biodiversity. Moreover, the students of the department of science education have no knowledge of this biotechnological issue. Furthermore, the majority of the students of department of science education knew anything about food production using biotechnological processes for yoghurt, wine and vinegar. 

Michael, Grinyer and Turner (1997) have stated that the growing literature related to the public understanding of science with reference to some socio-economic, cultural, institutional and personal factors  has begun to show the reception and assimilation of scientific knowledge including biotechnology mostly theoretically in the contextual base. From this point, it could be also inferred that the public understanding of biotechnology is related to the outcomes of biotechnological studies but the deep understanding of biotechnology like the other areas in scientific studies seems to be limited.   Additionally, this study   indicates that the knowledge level of undergraduate science teaching students is limited to the well known topics and outcomes of biotechnology but not to the detailed level of biotechnological knowledge.    

According to Eurobarometer 2005, at the EU level 65% of citizens believe that biotechnology and genetic engineering would have a positive effect on their way of life in the next 20 years. Within the EU, the highest ranking countries for their positive perceptions were: Hungary 74%, Spain and Denmark (both 72%), the Czech Republic and Estonia (both 71%), followed by Sweden and Italy (both 70%). Additionally, most of the Turkish general public’s (62%) had good opinions on biotechnology and genetic engineering (Eurobarometer, 2005). It is difficult to make a direct connection with the study we conducted but the public opinion of Turkish people is very high but the knowledge level of undergraduate science education major students seems to be not very high (Table 1).     

EU citizens were asked whether they would approve of developing genetically modified crops in order to increase the variety of regionally grown food. 37% declared that they would never approve of this while 31% would approve of this provided that it was highly regulated and controlled (Eurobarometer, 2005). It was suggested that the national results showed that respondents were less condemning of GMCs for this purpose (Eurobarometer, 2005). Responses “never” of the six of the surveyed countries were Croatia (60%), Switzerland (58%), Cyprus (56%), Greece (54%), Slovenia (53%), France (52%). 29% of Turkish citizens stated that they would never approve of GMCs (Eurobarometer, 2005). In this study, it was seen that almost all of the students had inadequate knowledge about genetically modified crops that cause a loss of biodiversity in worldwide (21.6 %), and question of the most common genetically modified plants, such as corn, soybeans that threat the biodiversity of Turkey (30.9%). 

Macer et al. (2000) found that the public’s responses towards the acceptance of biotechnology in Europe and USA public opinions were similar to in Japan and Oceania. In addition, New Zealand (%46) and Australia (59%) saw biotechnology as worthwhile less, than 72-75% in Israel, Russia, Japan and India, about 90% in Thailand. In our study, it is observed that 42.8 % of undergraduate science education students felt that biotechnological methods show certain successful results in agricultural struggle. 

Dawson and Schibeci (2003) found that 14% of Western Australian high school students approved of all the stated uses of biotechnology and acceptance of the use of organisms in biotechnology were about 90% microorganisms, 71-82% plants, 42-45% humans and 34-40% animals at Western Australian High Schools.  In our study, it was observed that 90.2 % of undergraduate science education students knew about using microorganisms for biotechnology, but only 13.4% of students had some knowledge if the microorganisms generated by using biotechnological methods may have any side effects on the health of human, animal and plant.  

Cavanagh et al. observed that 75.9 % of Australian respondents agreed that the yeast used to produce beer contains living organisms and 19.5% respondents felt  that it was impossible to transfer animal genes to plants. In our study, it is found that 10.85 % of science education students knew that the yeast used to bioprocess. It was seen that 47.4% of students knew that biotechnological methods merely based on transferring genes from one organism to another. 

According to Biotechnology Australia (2005), stem cell research and treatment, genetically modified foods were percieved as useful by the majority of respondents (89.7 % and 63.7 %). Respondents felt that the use of gene technology in human transplants (76.8%) and producing medicines (72.5%) would be useful. In this study, we saw that 51.0% of respondents knew that  stem cells could transform to any tissue cells and 57.2% of students knew that producing antibiotics was field of  pharmacy. 

Finally, it is concerned that Turkish the students of the department of science education seem to have inadequate knowledge about biotechnological issues such as describing biotechnology, agricultural biotechnology and its benefits, human health and pharmacy, environment and biotechnology, and using biotechnology for food production. Therefore, appropriate and consistent knowledge of biotechnological issues and innovative developments, and possible negative affects should be maintained to the public in order to get them to be more conscious of these issues.


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