Equality Alliance




Michael J. Reiss, Homerton College, Cambridge

      This paper is being published in Research in Science and Technological Education, vol. 16 (1998) pp. 137-149. Permission has been requested from the copyright-holder to publish the full article here at a later date.

      This study concentrates on Key Stage 4 (GCSE) textbooks - that is, the textbooks used by 14-16 year-olds in England and Wales studying for a General Certificate in Secondary Education in biology or science (examinations sat by over 90% of students in England and Wales by the time they are 16 years old).


      This paper analyses the ways in which school science textbooks used with 14-16 year-olds in the UK portray the topic of human sexuality. The fifteen books examined here vary greatly in terms of how they treat human sexuality. Some are sensitively written, comprehensive and helpful. Others, though, are sexist, fail to tackle personal issues to do with menstruation, ignore lesbian and gay issues and either omit or fail adequately to deal with cultural issues. Science textbooks should help all young people manage their transition to adulthood. Examples of good practice are highlighted, and possible ways forward outlined.

Appendix: textbooks analysed in this study

  1. BETHELL, G. & COPPOCK, D. (1992) Integrated Science 1 (Oxford, Oxford University Press).

  2. DOBSON, K. (Ed.) (1992) Coordinated Science GCSE Book 1 (London, Collins Educational).

  3. JONES, G. & TONES, M. (1987) Biology GCSE Edition, 2nd edn (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

  4. JONES, G., JONES, M. & MARCHINGTON, P. (1993) Cambridge Coordinated Science: Biology (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

  5. JONES, G., JONES, M., MARCHINGTON, P. & ACASTER, D. (1991) Balanced Science 2 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

  6. MACKEAN, D. (1988, 1993) Human Life (London, John Murray).

  7. MICHELL, M. (Ed) (1987) Macmillan Integrated Science Book 2 (Basingstoke, Macmillan Education).

  8. MINETT, P., WAYNE, D. & RUBENSTEIN, D. (1989) Human Form & Function (London, Collins Educational).

  9. bullet MONGER, G. (1988) Nuffield Coordinated Sciences: Biology (Harlow, Longman).

  10. POPLE, S. & WILLIAMS, M. (1987) Science to Sixteen, 2nd edn (Oxford, Oxford University Press).

  11. PRICE, G. (Ed.) (1993) Active Science 5 (London, Collins Educational).

  12. bullet RAMSDEN, E., BREITHAUPT, J., APPLIN, D. & WILLIAMS, G. (1992) Key Science 4: Book 2 (Cheltenham, Stanley Thornes). ISBN = 0-7487-0494-9

  13. bullet ROBERTS, M. (1986) Biology for Life, 2nd edn (Walton-on-Thames, Thomas Nelson). ISBN = 0-1744-8096-2

  14. ROBERTS, M. (1991) Nelson Balanced Science: The Living World (Walton-on-Thames, Thomas Nelson).

  15. WRIGHT D. (1989) Human Biology (Oxford, Heinemann Educational).

      Reference no. 12 in the above list appears to have been superseded by the following book. --

    bullet APPLIN, D. (1997) Key Science (Cheltenham, Stanley Thornes). ISBN = 0-7487-3007-9


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Last modified: 13-September-1998