Diversity, Human Rights and Physics Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Critical Awareness

  • Tanja Tajmel


This chapter deals with diversity in physics education through a discourse analytical lens by examining the discourse on diversity from different perspectives. One perspective is the utilitarian one, which sees diversity as a human resource that should not remain untapped. Thus, physics education should promote those, who, so far, have been underrepresented in physics and science careers. The other perspective is the emancipatory-humanistic one, which considers disparities in performance and careers as indicator for social inequalities resulting in limited access to physics education. From this perspective, physics education itself might contribute to social inequality as it reproduces certain patterns of inequality. The two perspectives provide different arguments for the promotion of diversity in science education and have huge influence on the common perception and justification of physics education itself. Is the primary task of physics education to “produce” economically exploitable scientific workforce, or is physics education of importance for the empowerment of the individual, and, thus, independent from economic exploitability? What does it mean for educators to promote or consider diversity in physics education in this respect? As physics teachers and science educators are agents in the process of scientific socialisation, a critical awareness of teachers and education researchers amongst diversity becomes increasingly relevant. Considering diversity in the common conceptual delineation of diversity—categorising individuals by certain characteristics from an essentialist standpoint—bears the risk of tokenising, stereotyping, “othering” and discrimination. The human rights perspective and the right to STEM education provide an approach towards a critical understanding of diversity and a framework for the empowerment of the individual.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tanja Tajmel
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Engineering in Society, Concordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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