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Scientific Literacy in the Philippines

Module 6: Science Education in the Philippine Society Lesson 13: Scientific Literacy Science Literacy Science is frequently perceived to be of great importance because of its links to technology and industry which, from a national perspective, may be areas with high priority for development.Countries wanting to improve their people’s quality of life cannot escape the need to harness their science and technology capability as a way of developing competitiveness.Consequently, science is included as a core element in elementary and secondary levels despite conceptual complexity and high cost of implementation.

Another justification for the inclusion of science in high school curricular is that all citizens need to achieve a degree of “scientific literacy” to enable them to participate effectively as citizens in modern societies.

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It is, therefore, important to be guided by past and present experiences in science education to be able to recognize the turning points for the country’s future which we need to decide now. Studies indicate however, that many of our Filipino learners are not attaining functional literacy, without which they find it too difficult to meet the challenges posed by our rapid changing world.

Scientific literacy is a related concept to issue of cultural and technological literacy (a term used in recognition of the relationship between science and technology in everyday life). Some scientific educators have attempted to define or analyze it. The term ‘scientific literacy’ has been used in the literature for more than four decades (Gullagher and Harsch, 1997) although not always with the same meaning (Bybee, 1997). Benjamin Shen (1983) distinguishes 3 types of scientific literacy: practical, civic, and scientific cultural literacy.

Practical scientific literacy is that kind of scientific and technical knowledge that can be put to use to help solve practical problems. The example given is that of the reduction in the dependence on infant formulae. Also, the use of alternative medicines like herbal plants instead of synthetic ones to prevent the cause of side effects that are harmful to one’s health. Civic scientific literacy enables the citizens to become more aware of science and science related issues so that he can face these issues with common sense. Shen defines civic scientific literacy as “a level of understanding of scientific terms and constructs sufficient to . . understand the essence of competing arguments on a given dispute on controversy”. An example common in many countries these days is the growing concern about the environment particularly the pollution of air, water and land. Media have contributed much to such awareness by bringing to public attention the activities of active environmental groups. However such concerns are more vigorous and numerous in developed countries than in developing countries. It is time that citizens of developing countries became more aware and attentive to such matters. The third form is cultural scientific literacy.

People who seek this form of scientific literacy desire to know something about science as a major human achievement. This group would come mostly from the intellectual community, those who watch television programs like Nova, Invention and similar discovery documentaries. The widely publicized subjects are based on the notion that scientific literacy has 3 components (Hodson) 1. substantive concepts with science 2. the nature of scientific activity 3. role of science in society and culture Norris and Philips(2003) argue that the term “scientific literacy” has been used to include various components from the following: a.     Knowledge of the substantive content of science and the ability to distinguish from non-science; b. )    Understanding science and its applications; c. )    Knowledge of what counts as science; d. )    Independence in learning science; e. )    Ability to think scientifically; f. )     Ability to use scientific knowledge in problem solving; g. )    Knowledge needed for intelligent participation in science-based issues; h. )    Understanding the nature of science, including its relationship with culture; i. )      Appreciation of and comfort with science, including its wonder and curiosity; j.       Knowledge of the risks and benefits of science; and k. )    Ability to think critically about science and to deal with scientific expertise. They cite references to illustrate this. The confusion as to a precise meaning has led to a call to remove such term as a goal for school science literacy for future adult life through a longitudinal international study (OECD, 2007), although this has been criticized, not least because its measures are through written tests and questionnaires, which generally show developing countries to be in poor shape to meet such a goal. Philippine Setting

The Philippines established the National Science Development Board, in 1958 and Philippine Science High Schools or schools with science and tech-oriented classes were established because there is no streaming, or grouping of students according to their intellectual capacity at the higher levels of secondary school. Aims and Objectives The government recognizes the importance of science and technology capability for the development of our industry and country. The education sector collaborates with other government agencies to contribute to the success of government goals.

As such, DECS (now DepEd) has focused its efforts towards programs and projects aimed at improving English, Science and Mathematics education in basic education. The objectives of elementary and secondary school science: •         At the end of grade VI, the student is expected to apply his scientific knowledge and skills in recognizing and solving problems in relation to health and sanitation, nutrition, food production, preparation and storage, environment and the conservation of its resources, and evolving better ways and means of doing things. Bureau of Elementary Education, 1998) •         The Secondary Science Education Programme aims to develop understanding of concepts and key principles of science, science processes, skills and desirable values to make the students scientifically literate, productive and effective citizens (Bureau of Secondary Education, 1998). Education for three types of literacy can come from both formal and informal sources. In developing countries like the Philippines, informal sources are not as easily accessible as they are in affluent and developed countries.

Much of such learning can be derived from museums, science centers, and botanical gardens, zoos, well-ordinate programme of lectures and experiments, visits to manufacturing companies and industrial sites, science fair and camps, media, clubs and science-related organizations. With a minimum of such resources, most developing countries rely on formal education (generally up to elementary levels only) for the development of scientific literacy of their citizens. Problems

The Survey of Outcomes of Elementary Education (SOUTEL) reported the poor performance of elementary school pupils and the lack of difference in the achievement of 5th and 6th grade. Third International Mathematics and science study (1915) reported also that Philippines ranked among the lowest scoring countries. Problems are encountered in curriculum, learning materials, teachers and students performance. Factors of low achievement in science and mathematics (Ibe, M) ? Absence of a science culture ?        Teacher training, the school curriculum         Instructional material ?        Teacher-learning process ?        Language instruction ?        Governance of education Reforms I. Improvements are foreign-assisted projects implemented in the country. Among these are: •         The Science and Mathematics Education Manpower Development Program (SMEMDP) of the Japan Bank •         Project in Basic Education (ProBE) funded by Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) • National Science Teaching and Instrumentation Center, a project with German government

II. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Enhancing scientific literacy through science education is developing an ability to creatively utilize appropriate evidence-based scientific knowledge and skills, particularly with relevance for everyday life and a career, in solving personally challenging yet meaningful scientific problems as well as making responsible socio-scientific decisions. But it is necessary to recognize that enhancing scientific literacy is also dependent on the need to:

Develop collective interaction skills, personal development and suitable communication approaches as well as the need to exhibit sound and persuasive reasoning in putting forward socio-scientific arguments. The emphasis on enhancing scientific literacy is placed on an appreciation of science; the development of personal attributes and be acquisition of socio-scientific skills and values. (Holbrook and Rannikmae, 2007) The government has a lot to do to improve the quality of science and technology education in the country.

The Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) should implement and develop the programs created. The school should nurture the talents and skills of students to develop their scientific literacy as well as appliying the knowledge in their lives. References: •         Batomalaque, A. Basic Science Development Program of the Philippines for International Cooperation. University of San Carlos, Cebu City, Philippines. •         Hernandez, D. History and Philosophy of Science Education. •         Holbrook, J. and Rannikmae, M. 2009. “The Meaning of Science Literacy” in Coll, R. nd Taylor, N. (Eds. ), Special Issue on Scientific Literacy. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education. Vol. 4 No. 3. July, 2009. •         Ibe, M. and Ogena, E. “Science Education in the Philippines: An Overview. ” Presented at the Science Education Congress, ISMED, November 27-28, 1998. •         http://www. ibe. unesco. org/fileadmin/user upload/ archive/ curriculum/China/Pdf/beijingrep. pdf •         http://www. suite101. com/article. cfm/mass communication/ 95438 •         www. sensepublishers. com/catalog/files/9789087905071. pdf

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