Professor Ian Abrahams, Head of School of Education and Professor of Science Education at the University of Lincoln, presents ‘In pursuit of the unachievable: the fallacy of meaningful widespread scientific literacy’.
This paper will argue that widespread scientific literacy, such as would include enabling the average citizen, who ceases to study science at age 16, to make rational, scientifically informed, choices about a broad range of socio-scientific issues, is unachievable. Indeed, any attempt to develop widespread scientific literacy, without a corresponding development of scientific subject knowledge, leads simply to a form of pseudo-scientific literacy that is all but indistinguishable from personal, non-scientific, beliefs.
This does not imply the abandonment of teaching for widespread scientific literacy per se but rather a recognition of the need for a much more tightly focused form of scientific literacy the aim of which would be to enable citizens to make rational, scientifically based, choices in a far narrower range of socio-scientific issues than is currently envisaged. These would primarily be linked with students’ natural interests (since the subject would still be taught at school) and would focus primarily on human biology, along with some minor aspects of chemistry and physics, all of which would be taught by the end of KS3. With the teaching of scientific literacy completed by the age of 14 biology, chemistry and physics would, like history, music, MFL and geography become optional subjects and would entail a much more subject knowledge dominated curriculum designed for those students wanting to pursue a science subject post-compulsion.
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17 November 2017
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