Understanding of genetic information in higher secondary students in northeast India and the implications for genetics education

Cell Biol Educ. Spring 2005;4(1):97-104. doi: 10.1187/cbe.04-06-0042.


Since the work of Watson and Crick in the mid-1950s, the science of genetics has become increasingly molecular. The development of recombinant DNA technologies by the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries led to the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). By the end of the twentieth century, reports of animal cloning and recent completion of the Human Genome Project (HGP), as well techniques developed for DNA fingerprinting, gene therapy and others, raised important ethical and social issues about the applications of such technologies. For citizens to understand these issues, appropriate genetics education is needed in schools. A good foundation in genetics also requires knowledge and understanding of topics such as structure and function of cells, cell division, and reproduction. Studies at the international level report poor understanding by students of genetics and genetic technologies, with widespread misconceptions at various levels. Similar studies were nearly absent in India. In this study, I examine Indian higher secondary students' understanding of genetic information related to cells and transmission of genetic information during reproduction. Although preliminary in nature, the results provide cause for concern over the status of genetics education in India. The nature of students' conceptual understandings and possible reasons for the observed lack of understanding are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Cells
  • Comprehension*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Educational Status
  • Genetics / education*
  • India
  • Reproduction
  • Students*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires