Universalizing Science and Technology literacy

Universalizing Science and Technology literacy

  • Scientific and technological literacy, in its broadest sense, means much more than simply being able to read, understand and write about science and technology, however important these are.
  • STLalso includes the ability to apply scientific and technological concepts and process skills to the life, work and culture of one’s own society.
  • It therefore includes attitudes and values enabling one to distinguish between worthwhile or inappropriate uses of science or technology.
  • Hence scientific and technological literacy implies:
  • the development of scientific and technological attitudes, approaches and skills which are necessary to cope with a rapidly changing environment and which are useful for problem – solving and decision-making in daily life;
  • an appreciation of the nature of science and technology, and development of positive attitudes and values relating basic science and technology to other areas of human activity;
  • exposure to effective teaching strategies and relevant examples of science and technology (at primary, secondary, tertiary or adult education) either within a formal programme, or through non-formal or distance educational methods);
  • familiarisation with the processes of accessing and communicating science and technology information and a willingness to use it to meet personal, local or global requirements.
  • It follows from the above definition that a person becomes scientifically and technologically literate by some involvement with applications of science or technology which interest them, or are intimately related to their everyday life, or which they perceive as being significant or important to them beyond the requirement of examinations.
  • Attitudes and confidence are usually most effectively developed by significant first hand or contrived experiences.

Scientific and Technological Literacy for Citizenship

  • The need to promote a world community of scientifically and technologically literate citizens was regarded as urgent by the World Conference on Education for All held in Jomtien in 1990.
  • The UNESCO Project 2000+, committed to developing appropriate structures and activities to foster scientific and technological literacy for all, in all the countries of the world, was a direct response to this need identified at the earlier World Conference.
  • The various programmes, proposals and initiatives concerned with scientific and technological literacy in many different countries are, therefore, part of a global movement, although they are not, of course, necessarily associated directly with the UNESCO initiative.
  • Some programmes, such as  Project 2061in the USA, involve large-scale and long-term curriculum development. Others, as in the science and technology components of the national curriculum in England and Wales or in New Zealand, attempt to promote the foundations of scientific and technological literacy at school level by statutory means
  • The first is that scientific and technological literacy are slogans and not prescriptions for action.
  • Secondly, as slogans, scientific and technological literacy, sustain multiple meanings and interpretations which change over time and undergo some shift in their relative importance. Such meanings and interpretations reflect different rationales and they show a marked dependence on context.
  • Thirdly, the coupling of scientific and technological literacy has now become commonplace, despite a substantial volume of scholarly writing which would make important distinctions between the scientific and the technological as fields of human endeavour.
  • Fourthly, the promotion of scientific and technological literacy cannot be seen as the exclusive responsibility of schools or other agencies concerned with formal education. Indeed, as museums, ‘hands-on’ and interactive science centres, science clubs, science study groups, radio, television, the print media and a variety of interactive technologies, some linked on a global scale, come to play an increasing part in this promotion, the role of formal education and its relationship with informal and non-formal provision, becomes more problematic and in need of clarification.
  • Finally, it is appropriate to acknowledge that the term ‘public understanding of science’ points towards a separation of science from general culture. In some contexts, this separation can be dated with relative precision.
  • In England, for example, it is related to the growing professionalisation of science which gathered pace during the second half of the nineteenth century and which was marked by, among much else, a devaluing of the popularisation of science in favour of research publication within, and for, the rapidly developing scientific community. It is also related to a tacit social contract established between academic science and society which, in return for financial and public support, promised significant, but unspecified, benefits at some, equally unspecified, point in the future.
  • There were, of course, important differences in the ways in which science was accommodated within different societies and cultures. As an example, the institutionalized commitment of Napoleonic France to science and technology has left a legacy which, to this today, means that, at least at the rhetorical level, the term ‘public understanding of science’ in France has significantly different implications from those associated with its use in Anglophone context

Characteristics of scientific literacy

In 1987, Thomas and Durant concluded from a survey of the then existing literature that no less than eight characteristics of scientific literacy could be identified. These were:

  • an appreciation of the nature, aims and general limitations of science, a grasp of the scientific approach – rational arguments, the ability to generalise, systematize and extrapolate, the roles of theory and observation
  • an appreciation of the nature, aims and limitations of technology, and of how these differ from science
  • a knowledge of the way in which science and technology actually work, including the funding of research, the conventions of scientific practice and the relationship between research and development
  • an appreciation of the inter-relationships between science, technology and society, including the role of the scientists and technicians as experts in society and the structure of relevant decision-making
  • a general grounding in the language and some of the key constructs of science
  • a basic grasp of how to interpret numerical data, especially related to probability and statistics
  • the ability to assimilate and use technical information and the products of technology, user-competence in relations to technologically advanced products
  • some idea of where and from whom to seek information and advice about matters relating to science and technology

Reviewing Science Education Reforms and Science Literacy for All

  • The Importance of science and technology (S&T) in every aspect of our lives in progressive nation like India has been restated many a times in important S&T resolutions. As the world becomes increasingly more and more scientific and technological increasing one’s scientific literacy (SL) is very important.
  • The future of mankind depends on the enhanced effectiveness of education for growth of scientific literacy and its application especially for making personal and collective political decisions that can sustain our economy and democracy.
  • We need to create a universally scientific literate society through “Science Education for All” (SEFA) the guiding principle in this regard is “popularize science and consumerize technology.
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science defined scientific literacy as the ability to use scientific knowledge and ways of thinking for personal and social purposes. Attempts have been made to define scientific literacy in relation to language literacy by several educationists.
  • Despite some differences, whether scientific literacy is not dependent or dependent upon any specific science content or process knowledge the dimensions of scientific literacy include the following
  • Science content: understanding facts, laws, concepts and theories
  • Scientific inquiry: understanding of the scientific approach to inquiry
  • The ability to define scientific study and to discriminate between science and non-science
  • Equal importance of science content and science processes equally
  • According to Project 2061 scientific literacy has many facets. These include
  1. familiarity with the natural world and respecting its unity;
  2. awareness about the important ways in which science, mathematics and technology Education (STME), depend upon one another;
  3. understanding some of the key concepts and principles of science;
  4. developing capacity to understand the scientific ways of thinking and its importance;
  5. knowing that STME are human enterprises, and
  6. understanding the implications about their strengths and limitations. All most all, subsequent definitions of scientific literacy have been weaved around these facets.
  • Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) defined few additional objectives in this regard, viz.:
  1. Education for universal science literacy will, in addition to enriching everyone’s life, create a larger and more diverse pool of students who are able and motivated to pursue further education in scientific fields.
  2. The first priority of science education is basic science literacy for all students, including those in groups that have traditionally been poorly served by science education.
  3. For students to have the time needed to acquire the essential knowledge and skills of science literacy, the sheer amount of material that today’s science curriculum tries to cover must be significantly reduced.
  4. Effective education for science literacy requires that every student be frequently and actively involved in exploring nature in ways that resemble how scientists work

STME (science, mathematics and technology Education) for Sustainable Development

  • The understanding science as a social enterprise is necessary for sustainable development. The broad access to scientific information is key for the people to understand, participate and respond to the challenges that development poses to civilization.
  • Understanding of issues such as environment, global warming and climate change, air quality, loss of biodiversity, evolution, implications of genetic research, human health, hazardous substances, population growth ,world hunger, water resources, energy security, degeneration in agriculture and many other topics is essential, almost a requisite, for personal involvement in searching solutions for these issues.
  • Thus education with science, technology and Mathematics (STM) base is crucial to sustainable development.
  • It is challenge for science educators all over the world to converge STME into a human enterprise for creation and sharing knowledge and developmental capacities to design envisioned future technologies for the benefit of mankind.

Science Literacy for All (SLFA)

  • World Declaration on Science 2000+: “The declaration on science and use of scientific knowledge is part of the right to education and right to information belonging to all people for human development and creating of endogenous scientific capacity”.
  • There is need to improve, strengthen, diversify and restructure STME both formal and non-formal with the objectives for sustainable development.
  • STME can contribute to peaceful co-existence. It should not be seen as an instrument of warfare. It can be used as knowledge for conflict resolution by including subjects such as energy, pollution, environment, health care, medicine and use of resources and application of bio-technology, nanotechnology and nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
  • The society and Government must take responsibility for the same because the STME’s spirit and scientific temper in society can contribute to respect for human rights and dignity of labor.

Diversification of STME (science, mathematics and technology Education)

  • Undertake structural reforms to improve strengthen and diversify STME to integrate with culture, promote open and critical thinking and enhance people’s ability to meet the challenge of knowledge society.
  • Diversify STME for many fold objectives:
  1. science literacy
  2. science for skilled work force and service providers
  3. cadre of excellent scientists, through child centered knowledge and inquiry based learning
  4. Spreading science education in rural areas and building bridges with traditional knowledge.

STME for International Competitiveness and Ethics

  • Since the science education is necessary for training of sufficient number of trained people to satisfy the scientific and technological needs of the global society, capacity building in science and scientific culture is of utmost importance.
  • Ethics and human rights and necessity for culture of peace and tolerance, advancement of communication and information technology has brought human races much closer. There is need for developing understanding of globalization, sustainable development, and willingness to acquire knowledge, skills and attitude towards responsible citizenship.

STME–More Relevant to Needs, Aspiration and Interest to Society

  1. STME for all round development encompassing, intellectual, personal social and economic development as core subject at all levels to meet the needs of students for future citizenship, enabling them informed and appropriate choices about learning and career development.
  2. To enable students for adequate preparation for 21st century to meet present and future social needs. The changes made in the Curriculum on above counts and improvement of quality must be accompanied by concurrent changes in methods of delivery, teaching practices and learning resources.
  3. Inclusion of IT and computer applications as a core areas of study and sustainable development, concern for human rights, sharing of resources for quality of life for all social responsibility.
  4. Diversification of effective practices of STME for promotion of innovation and experimentation as part of learning support inter-alias formal and non- formal education
  5. Outside class or laboratory learning through field visits, science museums, exhibitions, science projects presentation, quizzes, etc.
  6. Student Centered Learning and teaching in classroom and laboratory
  7. Defining classroom and laboratory activities based on investigation of real life problems
  8. Learning to be assessed based on how the learner uses the information and skill in constructing one’s own knowledge based on investigations on relevance of STME to local environment. Development of life skills through STME is more important than only professional skills.
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