According to the Macmillan Online Dictionary, Biology is the “scientific study of living things”1. The Biological Sciences are a wide field including human biology, botany, zoology, genetics, microbiology and biochemistry.
Why is the study of Biology relevant in the 21st century? Why is it especially thecase after the Covid-19 pandemic?
First, I think Biology is relevant because it plays a key role in tackling global challenges. We are currently facing major issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, new and emerging diseases, the need to feed the world, population ageing or antibiotic resistance. The solutions to those issues are likely to be grounded in Biology.
Let’s take the example of the Covid-19 pandemic. The development of coronavirus vaccines is the crowning achievement of decades of work for many Biologists.
This pandemic has exposed many people, including young kids, to terms like a virus, variants, vaccination, mRNA, antibodies, immunity, and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) … According to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, this pandemic led to an increase in science knowledge2. The public has become more aware of the importance of Biology. Understanding biological concepts such as immunity or vaccination can help future citizens with comprehension of public health messages. Furthermore, it may encourage them to stay healthy and better prepare them for future health crises.
Secondly, studying Biology helps students to develop many skills that are considered crucial in the 21st century.
In 2020, the World Economic Forum identified 10 skills of the future, including active learning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills3.
Active learning is about learners being engaged in their learning and not simply “recipients” of information. Research shows that active learning is associated with much higher information retention rates. Biology is a subject that easily lends itself to different styles of active learning. For example, at RBIS, our students have many opportunities to do practical work. They carry out experiments, collect and interpret experimental data, evaluate methods, suggest possible improvements…
These activities are not only enjoyable in themselves but also help the students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Lastly, studying Biology offers exciting future career opportunities. While Biology allows students to follow career paths such as teaching or medicine, there are many other routes they can take. According to Susanne Haga, a geneticist who studies bioethics and health education at the Duke University School of Medicine, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed young people to lesser know career paths such as Virology, Epidemiology and Biotechnology2. For example, Biotechnology is an exciting field that applies Biology to some of the world’s biggest problems, including medicine and sustainable fuels. There is a growing need for Biologists working with engineers and doctors to create new technologies.
Overall, the job outlook for biologists looks great: in the US, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 4-5% growth between 2019-2029 for microbiologist and biological technician job openings4.
It is also important to remember that studying biology is excellent preparation for non-scientific careers, thanks to the skills it provides.
The 21st century is the Age of Biology! Studying this subject helps students to understand some of the biggest challenges currently faced by humans and provides them with valuable skills that are highly valued by employers. It opens the door to many opportunities!
By: Kevin Le Serre, Biology Teacher, RBIS International School
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4US Bureau of labor statistics : https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social science/biological-technicians.htm#:~:text=in%20May%202020.-