A study of 15 year old students' understanding biotechnology

Document Type

Journal Article


Australian Institute of Biology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Education




Dawson, V. (2002). A study of 15 year old students' understandings of biotechnology. Australian Biologist. 15(2), 103-108. Available here.


Are Australian science educators providing school students with sufficient background to understand the science behind recent controversies such as the soon to be introduced compulsory labelling of genetically modified foods? In This study, 1,116 15-year-old Students from eleven Western Australian schools were surveyed to determine their understanding of, and attitude towards recent advances in modern biotechnology. The results indicate that approximately one third of students. Surveyed are unable to give an example of biotechnology, genetic engineering, cloning or a genetically modified (GM) food. Many students are unable to distinguish between genetic engineering and cloning. There also seems to be confusion about the differences between GM Foods and foods produced through selective breeding. A large proportion of student’s over-estimate the use of biotechnology in our society; they confuse current uses with possible future applications. These findings provide a compelling argument for the inclusion of biotechnology education in the school science curriculum.