A comparative study of science education at the primary school level in Finland and Thailand
Tutkimuksen tavoitteena on vertailla luonnontieteiden opetusta peruskoulun alaluokilla Suomessa ja Thaimaassa. Tutkimus jakautuu kolmeen osatutkimukseen: 1) kansallisten perusopetuksen luokkien 1-6 opetussuunnitelma-asiakirjojen analysointi PISA-viitekehyksessä; 2) perusopetuksen kuudennen luokan kahden oppikirjan virtapiiriä koskevien osuuksien analysointi; ja 3) luokanopettajien haastattelu koskien heidän käyttämäänsä pedagogista sisältötietoa ja yleistä pedagogista tietoa tilanteessa, jossa opetetaan virtapiiriin liittyviä asioita luokalla 6. Näiden kolmen osa-tutkimuksen avulla saadaan kokonaisvaltaista tietoa luonnontieteiden opetuksesta vertailumaissa. This research aims to compare science education at the primary school level between Finland and Thailand. The study is divided into three sub-studies concerning: 1) a national science curricula analysis at primary school level based on the PISA scientific literacy framework; 2) an analysis of science textbooks on the electric circuit lesson at grade 6; and 3) interviews with primary school teachers regarding Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) and General Pedagogical Knowledge (GPK) on the electric circuit lesson at grade 6. These three sub-studies may reflect the holistic science education of the two countries in this comparative study between them. The main research methodology used in this study is the comparative approach and a content analysis technique was used in all three sub-studies. All textual and pictorial information from the science curricula at primary school level, including science textbooks, the electric circuit lesson and the teachers’ transliterations, were analysed following the inductive and deductive content analysis. Semi-structured interviews were employed for the collection of the interview data. Altogether, six experienced primary school teachers participated —three Finnish teachers in Helsinki and three Thai teachers in Bangkok. In addition, a quantitative method was used to describe the findings from the qualitative approach through percentages, bar charts and a Pearson’s chi-squared test. The main findings revealed that Finnish science education strongly emphasised conceptual knowledge (according to all three sub-studies) while the Thai science education emphasized procedural knowledge. For example, the Thai curriculum was closer to the PISA framework than was the Finnish curriculum. The Thai curriculum emphasised the scientific process and the Finnish curriculum focused on the concepts and contexts, rather than the process. The Thai textbooks emphasised procedural knowledge, while conceptual knowledge was emphasized mostly in the Finnish textbooks. Lastly, in the interviews the Finnish teachers emphasised the teaching of concepts through textbooks and computer materials. The Thai teachers emphasized the teaching and learning of procedural knowledge and consequently used more experimentation, along with authentic materials in the school laboratory. Both Finnish and Thai curriculum designers and textbook authors could apply the findings of this comparative research. In addition to the similarities and differences, the comparison revealed particular avenues that could be developed in science education. For example, curriculum planners and science educators, not only in Finland and Thailand but also in other countries in the future, may better recognize what should be emphasised in the science curriculum, especially from the perspective of the PISA Scientific Literacy Framework as the international student assessment. Furthermore, textbook authors may apply some of the comparative results of this research to produce high-quality textbooks based on a heightened awareness of the importance of the curriculum and of teachers’ ideas. Finally, as regards practical issues in the classroom, the Thai teachers may learn how to avoid disciplinary problems from their Finnish counterparts. Further, the Finns may learn from the Thai teachers how to organise laboratory activities for relatively large sized classes and how to balance the learning of conceptual and procedural knowledge.