Int. J. Dev. Biol. 47: 117 - 121 (2003)
Learning developmental biology has priority in the life sciences curriculum in Singapore
Singapore has embraced the life sciences as an important discipline to be emphasized in schools and universities. This is part of the nation's strategic move towards a knowledge-based economy, with the life sciences poised as a new engine for economic growth. In the life sciences, the area of developmental biology is of prime interest, since it is not just intriguing for students to know how a single cell can give rise to a complex, coordinated, functional life that is multicellular and multifaceted, but more importantly, there is much in developmental biology that can have biomedical implications. At different levels in the Singapore educational system, students are exposed to various aspects of developmental biology. The author has given many guest lectures to secondary (ages 12-16) and high school (ages 17-18) students to enthuse them about topics such as embryo cloning and stem cell biology. At the university level, some selected topics in developmental biology are part of a broader course which caters for students not majoring in the life sciences, so that they will learn to comprehend how development takes place and the significance of the knowledge and impacts of the technologies derived in the field. For students majoring in the life sciences, the subject is taught progressively in years two and three, so that students will gain specialist knowledge in developmental biology. As they learn, students are exposed to concepts, principles and mechanisms that underlie development. Different model organisms are studied to demonstrate the rapid advances in this field and to show the interconnectivity of developmental themes among living things. The course inevitably touches on life and death matters, and the social and ethical implications of recent technologies which enable scientists to manipulate life are discussed accordingly, either in class, in a discussion forum, or through essay writing.