Scientific literacy is one of the primary aims of school education. However, scientific literacy is envisions in 2 ways:
Vision I focuses on foundational content (laws of motion, gas laws, Mendel’s laws) and important scientific skills (designing and conducting experiments, problem solving). The aim is to prepare students to take up STEM courses and professions. This vision can be realised by developing very good pedagogies, getting students to replicate classic experiments, teaching them mathematical skills to solve problems etc.
Vision II is called everyday science and its emphasis is on preparing students for citizenship roles, developing critical thinking. This can be achieved by starting with students’ questions about their surroundings and helping them to systematically understand them, discussing socio-scientific issues of their concern etc.
Although these two visions seem complementary, there is a fundamental difference. The aim of Vision I is to maintain the status quo whereas the aim of Vision II is to transform society.
NCF lists aims of science education from both these visions and many of the current textbooks try to attempt that. I think one of the problems with our science education is trying to achieve both, while in the larger society, Vision I has a clear advantage. The assessments test students for Vision I. Another problem is, Vision I is treated with some rigor while Vision II is presented in a rather sloppy manner. If science has to be advantageous to all students and perform a transformative role in society, we must make a choice that we stick to Vision II during the years of compulsory education. Vision I can be introduced slowly after Grade 9.
Implementation of Vision II
I think this can be implemented within the existing education system with major revision in the following:
- Textbooks: replace textbooks by number of booklets on different physical phenomena, possibly written by local science educators
- Pedagogy: Projects based (Group work for long periods)
- Assessment - exclusively formative (with qualitative feedback)
- Teacher education: teachers need to be trained to look for science in local issues, need more training in rationality and social aspects of science.
This needs to be piloted and ensured that it is not resulting into another kind of fragmented knowledge.
Possible problem: Middle class parents will pressurise in favour of Vision I and people who might benefit from Vision II are not in the position to pressurise for it.