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9th Grade Students Looking at their Chemistry Studies. Comparison between Finland and South Africa

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Abstract

Globalization of science education in practice advances a narrow, Euro-American, positivist version of school science. From an educational perspective, culture plays a crucial role in pedagogical values, learning styles, and cognitive processing. One can recognize a strong desire to preserve diversity in response to the threat of loss of cultural identity in the face of globalization. In Finland and South Africa written essays were collected from 9th graders in comprehensive school. Students answered four questions: 1) which topics of chemistry need to be taught and why? What interests you and why? 2) How does the study differ from the studies of non-science subjects? 3) How does the study relate to your every-day life? 4) How can you use your knowledge in your future life? The analysis was data based, however the theory sensitized the researchers to find meaning from the data. Every expression relevant to the students’ learning was selected and tested for a possible content necessary and sufficient for understanding it. If possible the expression was abstracted and labeled. Finnish students thought that what needs to be taught is mainly everyday chemistry, chemistry of substances, and experimental work. About 30% of the students found their study interesting and useful; 30% thought their study would be of little use to them. The rest appreciated an all-round education. In South Africa, 69% of the students indicated a need of chemistry curricula that could address their everyday needs. Of these only 22% thought their study will be of use to them and 18% experienced chemistry as an all-round education.
P r o c e d i a - S o c i a l a n d B e h a v i o r a l S c i e n c e s 8 9 ( 2 0 1 3 ) 4 0 4 8
1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu, Near East University, Faculty of Education, Cyprus
doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.08.806
ScienceDirect
2nd Cyprus International Conference on Educational Research, (CY-ICER 2013)
9th Grade students looking at their chemistry studies. Comparison
between Finland and South Africa
Sivbritt Dumbrajs a *, Thelma de Jagerb, Susanne Bergström-Nybergc
aSiDuConsulting, Sankaritie 1 C 34, 00320 Helsinki, Finland
bTshwane University of Technology, Private Bag X680, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
cMattlidens skola, PB 3341, 02070 ESBO STAD, Finland
Abstract
Globalization of science education in practice advances a narrow, Euro-American, positivist version of school science. From an
educational perspective, culture plays a crucial role in pedagogical values, learning styles, and cognitive processing. One can
recognize a strong desire to preserve diversity in response to the threat of loss of cultural identity in the face of globalization. In
Finland and South Africa written essays were collected from 9th graders in comprehensive school. Students answered four
questions: 1) which topics of chemistry need to be taught and why? What interests you and why? 2) How does the study differ
from the studies of non-science subjects? 3) How does the study relate to your every-day life? 4) How can you use your
knowledge in your future life? The analysis was data based, however the theory sensitized the researchers to find meaning from
the data. Every expression relevant to the students’ learning was selected and tested for a possible content necessary and
sufficient for understanding it. If possible the expression was abstracted and labeled. Finnish students thought that what needs to
be taught is mainly everyday chemistry, chemistry of substances, and experimental work. About 30% of the students found their
study interesting and useful; 30% thought their study would be of little use to them. The rest appreciated an all-round education.
In South Africa, 69% of the students indicated a need of chemistry curricula that could address their everyday needs. Of these
only 22 % thought their study will be of use to them and 18% experienced chemistry as an all-round education.
© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Selection and or peer-review under responsibility of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zehra Özçınar, Ataturk Teacher Training Academy, North
Cyprus
Keywords: Everyday chemistry, investigative learning, background knowledge;
1.Introduction
In the industrial world new reform action emphasises scientific literacy for all, i.e. a science education that is
student-centred and based on skill development that will address the needs of the scientific workforce (De Feiter &
Ncube, 1999). Dos Santos (2008) remarks that over time various definitions of scientific literacy have been
formulated and changed in science curricula. Curricula emphasized: the relationship between science and
technology, skills to make valuable decisions in life, preparation of socio-political responsible citizens and the
reinforcement of values and attitudes that will assist students to engage in social issues. In his report Sjøberg (2002)
*Corresponding author: Sivbritt Dumbrajs. Tel.: +358-40-8274567.
E-mail address: sivbritt.dumbrajs@gmail.com.
Avai lab le on lin e at www.sciencedirect.com
© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu, Near East University, Faculty of Education,
Cyprus
41
Sivbritt Dumbrajs et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 89 ( 2013 ) 40 – 48
notes that children in all countries consider science to be useful for everyday life, although children in developing
countries are far more positive and many want to become scientists.
The justification for curricula changes was that economic prosperity and science education are inter-related with
curriculum reform. However, Van den Berg (2004) stated that in South Africa quality education in the form of good
pass rates has not been affected by changing curricula, development of technology and redistribution of resources.
The Grade 12 Science pass rate for South Africa in 2011 was 30% (EduSource Data News, 2011, 8).
1.
.
South African Background
In South Africa behaviourist strategies have preserved prevalently in chemistry classes where students are not
exposed to real life situation knowledge re-enforced by textbook content (Muwanga-Zake 2006). Significant
attempts to change the education system have been employed. After independency was gained, South Africa
explicitly formulated education policies aimed at promoting access to educational opportunities for previously
disadvantaged groups. In the 1990’s Bloom’s behavioural objectives (mental, cognitive and science processes) and
Piaget’s theories (reasoning patterns) have guided much of the National Curriculum Statement for science
(Anderson, Reder& Simon, 1996). The implementation of Curriculum 2005 based on outcomes-based principles
was a break away from the content-laden, apartheid education system (Chisholm, 2003). The aim of reformed
policies was to teach curricula based on students’ own socio-economic environment and equip them with skills they
will need to apply in real life situations. Other policies included the Revised National Curricula Statements and the
Curricula Assessment and Policy Statements, which indicate a period of rapid transformation and democratization.
These political and social changes created opportunities for the inclusion of indigenous knowledge and dialogue of
different socio-cultural views.
According to Freire (1970) dialogue can be considered as a human requirement to ensure education free
oppressed people. This implies that teachers should create dialogue between themselves and students to exchange
their respective views and not impose their views upon students. These different views are expressed through
dialogue from both parties’ challenges and impressions of the world they live in.
Indigenous knowledge in science curricula enables teachers to understand students in relation to their
environment and how they organise knowledge of fauna and flora, cultural beliefs and history to enhance their lives
(Le Grange, 2008). Snively and Corsiglia (2001) emphasise that indigenous knowledge should be integrated with
modern science. New education policies in South Africa include indigenous knowledge in the curricula but are not
prescriptive (South African Department of Education, 2002). This implies that chemistry teachers should explicitly
provide opportunities for students to engage and explore with formal scientific concepts in their own limited socio-
context with scarce resources.
2. The Finnish perspective on science instruction
The Finnish national core curriculum for basic education recommends that education in environmental and
natural studies relies on an investigative, problem-centered approach, in which the starting points are the students’
existing knowledge, skills, and experiences, and objects, phenomena, and events connected to the students’
environment and the students themselves. With the aid of experiential instruction, the student develops a positive,
affirmative relationship with nature and the environment. However, in many comprehensive schools, laboratory
experiments typically used continue to emphasize confirmatory exercises that require students to follow explicit
procedures to arrive at expected conclusions.
Many studies on applying scientific inquiry instruction have emphasized the significance of prior knowledge on
students’ science learning. For example, Jones, Carter, and Rua (2000) noted that students used many different prior
experiences to form a response. Thus each student’s learning was unique. Students that regard science as a body of
knowledge to be discovered by empirical means have more rote strategies for learning science than those with a
more constructivist view regarding science as a creative and inventive endeavour (Wallace, Tsoi, Calkin, and
Darley, 2003). Edmonson and Novak (1993) found three groups of students that corresponded to a positivist
epistemology, a constructivist epistemology and a mixed epistemology, respectively. Positivist oriented students
tended to be rote learners, while constructivist oriented ones used meaningful learning strategies. O’Neill and
42 Sivbritt Dumbrajs et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 89 ( 2013 ) 40 – 48
Polman (2004, 236-237) have concluded that in science education fewer phenomena should be treated, but more
profoundly. A superficial treatment of many topics leads to knowledge and skills, which are quickly forgotten.
3. African and Western science knowledge
Many studies indicate the difficulty that students and teachers experience when questioning nature of science and
the reasoning process that is affected by traditional ancestral and spiritual beliefs of students (Peacock, 1995).
Science teachers should be aware of their own and students’ cultures and how this can interact with the pedagogical
approach to science education. Science education does not connect well with students’ wider experiences of the
world. Aikenhead and Jegede (1999) refer to a cultural border crossing when transmitting school science to
students’ real living world.
It is important to keep in mind that Western science knowledge is used as a standard to declare other science as
non-science. Indigenous African knowledge is a specific way students understand the world they live in, but is not
necessary science. For example a comparison between Western and Indigenous science is reflected in Table 1.
Table 1: African and Western science knowledge
African indigenous science assembles science through art, ceremony and ritual while Western science uses
instruments, standardised techniques and research. In both cases knowledge is gathered by making connections
between components in the world man is living in. Western modern science and indigenous knowledge should work
together in a complementary way without the one dislocating the other. For example aspirin was discovered by
indigenous knowledge, the airplane was made possible through applications of Western modern science and
Peruvian indigenous knowledge, South African San (Bushmen) traced animals’ tracks and the tracker system has
been scientifically developed from their knowledge (Le Grange 2008).
4. Theoretical foundation
During South African apartheid, legal racialization implemented by the regime, drove members of the radical
leftist Teachers' League of South Africa to employ critical pedagogy with a focus on nonracialism in Cape Town
schools and prisons. Freire’s pedagogy revolved around an anti-authoritarian and interactive approach aimed to
examine issues of relational power for students and workers. The center of the curriculum used the fundamental goal
based on social and political critiques of everyday life.
Globally Paulo Freire’s humanistic text “Pedagogy of the Oppressed“ (1970; 1994) contributed to his recognition
as one of the most influential educational thinkers. Some of Freires’ pedagogical ideas that could be applied in
science education includes: oppressive conditions of society and the dialogical process in education, which can be
considered as the central focuses in his epistemology view of education. Freire envisaged a philosophy that
characterises the values of humans and regards knowledge as a product of human practices that transforms the
world. His educational approach is a humanistic pedagogy concerned with human conditions which enable people to
reflect by themselves, and on their role in the new cultural climate, specifically. Underlying the humanistic science
education view of Aikenhead (2006), Freire’s educational view emphasises concerns about unequal access to
technology globally and the contrast between rich and poor. The Freirean perspective criticises the capitalists’
economic science model where human values are not considered and humans find themselves in oppressed
conditions. From a political perspective two thirds of the world has no access to technologies while only a few
people enjoy the benefits of them. Freire recommends that educators should emphasise humanistic values in the
African indigenous science Western science
Anthropocentric Mechanistic
Monistic-metaphysical Seeks empirical laws and principles
Cosmology with religion as an important focus Public poverty a minus religion
Orality dominates Documented
Sage practice Truth can be challenged
Learning is communal Learning is an individual enterprise
(Le Grange, 2008)
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classroom by focusing on topics that characterize the scientific and technological society, such as “why do people
live in landfills?” “Why don’t all people have access to modern technology?” Scientific literacy according to Freire
should prepare students to use technological apparatus and discuss the consequences of the use of it by showing
respect to human values. Freire (1970) states that students’ epistemological curiosity comes before knowledge
acquisition. The socio-cultural contexts of students need to be explored and implemented in the educational process.
After determining the different cultures students identify a cultural aspect that can provoke discussions among
students.
Bennett (2005) states that science cannot be taught in a vacuum but needs to be linked to existing knowledge
from students daily live experiences. Gabel and Bunce (1994) elaborate that chemistry students who are not able to
connect new knowledge to their own experiences tend to memorise formulae to answer questions. If students’
existing knowledge used to describe observations is incomplete and incorrect the understanding of the experience
observed will also be substandard (Chalmers, 1999).
The essential core of culture consists of shared traditional ideas, attitudes and values. From an educational
perspective, culture plays a crucial role in pedagogical values, learning styles, and cognitive processing. The value
of learning largely depends on the learner’s experiences of culture and history. A desire exists to preserve this
diversity as a valuable asset for addressing the many challenges faced by the global community. On the other hand
one can recognize a strong desire to preserve diversity in response to the threat of loss of cultural identity in the face
of globalization. (Spring 2009, 118-126)
Snively and Corsiglia (2001) state that Western science alone is not sufficient for modern science education;
indigenous knowledge (IK) should be integrated with science. Cobern and Loving (2001) suggest that indigenous
knowledge should be added to the curricula as a separate unit. Research of Linneman, Lynch, Kurup, Webb and
Bantwini (2003) suggest that the recognition of traditional knowledge in the science curriculum links new content to
students’ prior knowledge, affirms their culture and allows traditional knowledge to be examined and evaluated.
5. Research design and methods
Phenomenology as philosophy concerns the essence of things from the perspective of an experiencing subject.
When we talk about reduction in phenomenology, this is an activity carried out by the researcher. Her/his
preconceived notions should be put to the side. Concrete details are asked for. Written essays are collected from 9th
graders in comprehensive school (88 essays from Finland and 50 essays from South Africa).
6. Delimitation of the study
The study was in South Africa limited geographically to mostly previously disadvantaged secondary schools
(93%) in the nine provinces of South Africa: Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, North-West,
Eastern Cape, Western Cape, the Northern Cape and the Free State. Grade 9 chemistry students (n= 50) participated
in this study. There were 50 schools involved, each of 50 student teachers took a questionnaire to his/ her school that
was completed by a selected gr 9 learner of his/her choice. Student teachers were instructed to sample a Grade 9
learner that he/she observed as a performer in Science at the school where he/she was doing practical teaching. The
student teachers gave no instructions. The instructions to answer the open-ended questions were clear on the
questionnaire. Learners completed the questionnaire on their own and handed it back to the student teachers.
The Finnish data sample (n=88) was gathered from one comprehensive school in the south of Finland.
7. Data collection method
The research was based on qualitative data. Essays consisting of open-ended questions were completed by grade
9 chemistry students to determine if chemistry curricula in South Africa and Finland are relevant to the socio-
contextual needs of the population.
Essays consisting of the following open-ended questions below were completed by Grade 9 Chemistry students:
a) Which topics need to be taught in chemistry lessons? Why? b) Which chemistry topics interest you?
Why?
How does the study of chemistry differ from the studies of non-science subjects at school?
How does the study of chemistry relate to your everyday life?
How do you think you can use your knowledge about the nature of chemistry in your future life?
44 Sivbritt Dumbrajs et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 89 ( 2013 ) 40 – 48
The open-ended questions were constructed from previous research findings of Aikenhead (2008); Dos Santos
(2008); Carter and Dediwalge (2010); Clothey, Mills and Baumgarten (2010); Dzama and Osborne (1999) and
Taylor and Prinsloo (2005).
8. Abstractions
The analysis was data based, however the theory sensitized the researchers to find meaning from the data. Every
expression relevant to the students’ learning was selected and tested for possible content, which is necessary and
sufficient to understand it. If possible the expression was abstracted and labelled.
In Finnish students answers the dominating abstractions concerned everyday chemistry, chemistry of substances,
and experimental work. About one third of the students found their study useful, whereas one third thought their
study of chemistry would be of no or little use to them. Also one third thought their study would give them an all-
round education. One half of the students thought the usefulness would be according to a future occupation.
From the South African essays the arising themes could be abstracted as follows:
Which topics need to be taught in chemistry lessons? Why?
- Topics based on: real life situations, technology, identifying dangerous substances present in electronic
waste and how we can manage our environment with our chemistry knowledge.
Which chemistry topics interest you? Why?
- Topics on how daily life products are manufactured, such as, soap, candles, cereal, glass, polystyrene,
petrol, and gas.
- Topics that I can relate to and apply the acquired knowledge in the rural area where I grew up.
How does the study of chemistry differ from the studies of non-science subjects at school?
- Chemistry investigates different phenomena by using the scientific inquiry method, laws and theories in
order to explain and predict the outcomes of investigations in the environment, while other subjects are
based on content only.
- Chemistry is based on practical observations and applications while the non-science subjects are based on
content and theory.
How does the study of chemistry relate to your everyday life?
- Chemistry is not relating to the socio-economic context I grew up in, we have different values, beliefs
which is not explained in the content we are studying.
- Chemistry is interesting when it relates to our everyday life experiences. Chemistry enables us to develop
skills such as observation, comparing, hypothesising, identifying, critical thinking, evaluating and
interpreting data that we can discuss with one another to find a solution to solve a related problem.
How do you think you can use your knowledge about the nature of chemistry in your future life?
- I can use my knowledge and skills to start my own business where I can recycle and produce products that
are environmentally friendly, prevent dangerous gases in the air, produce medicine to save people’s lives
and at the same time create jobs.
- I want to become a doctor therefore I need the knowledge and skills that chemistry offers.
- I can apply my knowledge of chemistry when I cook, bake, use chemicals to clean the house and travel.
- Furthering my studies in chemistry will enable me to apply my knowledge and skills in laboratories and
invent a solution for our country’s electricity shortage.
- We can use our chemistry knowledge to protect our planet from global warming.
9. Findings
Grade 9 students (69%) from South Africa reflected that chemistry curricula should include topics relevant to
their everyday life experiences, while only 4% wanted topics concerning electro-, bio-, medical chemistry, etc. in
the chemistry curricula. These results confirm why so few students (3%) further their studies in a scientific course
(EduSource Data News, 2011). Participants (68%) indicated that chemistry topics should relate to useful knowledge
that they can apply in the oppressed areas where they grew up; topics that will teach them how to make candles,
soap, washing powder, cereals, oil etc. Students’ interests are concentrated around useful everyday topics (89%).
Someone think of the use for a future career and some (9%) hope for easier topics.
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Sivbritt Dumbrajs et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 89 ( 2013 ) 40 – 48
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Also Finnish 9th graders emphasize the importance of everyday chemistry instruction (46%) (polish, skin lotions,
make up, cleaning substances, dangerous substances, security labels, alcohol and drugs, corrosion, alloys, food
nutrients, solutions and products, fire safety, and so on). Around one tenth of the students stress the importance of
environmental issues (12%) and find that the school curriculum should concentrate on how to develop a lasting
protection of our environment and living conditions, these being equally important for citizens everywhere. 30% of
the Finnish 9th graders stressed that in order to create a chemical literacy some knowledge of the chemistry of
substances is necessary (acids and basics, the periodic system, metals, reactions, atomic structure). Somewhat more
Finnish students (12%) than South African students find elaboration of the scientific issues important (quantum
chemistry, electrochemistry, biochemistry, medical chemistry, and so on). Students’ interests follow the above lines;
only some increase in the involvement of deeper scientific knowledge (16%) might be noted.
Although most South African participants (82%) knew what the subject chemistry entails, only 13 % were
familiar with experiments conducted in a chemistry class. The reason for this is most probably because only 42 % of
all science teachers in South Africa are qualified to teach science and 85% of 24716 schools lack laboratories to
conduct experiments (EduSource Data News, 2011). Participants (54%) argued that chemistry is a difficult subject
to study and 64% prefer to focus on rote learning in order to pass chemistry examinations.
Most Finnish students (41%) find that chemistry differs from most other school subjects through the experimental
and investigative way of instruction. The subject is demanding and difficult, but logical, and based upon cause and
effect (36%). Those students, which feel the challenge of theory too strong, learn in praxis and by rote learning
(21%). Only one student mentions the possibility to learn by taking part in excursions (1%). This way of learning is
emphasized in the Finnish curriculum for chemistry instruction.
Chemistry instruction does not relate to South African participants’ (87%) everyday life functions. Of the eleven
different cultures each culture has its own language, beliefs and values which are not always considered when
teaching chemistry. Only 13% of participants regarded chemistry as a useful subject, where they develop critical
thinking and science process skills, 18 % regarded chemistry as an all-round subject while 22% indicated that
chemistry will be of use for them in future. This reflection is in contradiction with 69% participants who stated that
they can use their knowledge of chemistry for their future careers and to save the planet. The reason can most
probably be linked to participants who intend to create their own careers, as entrepreneurs that manufacture
everyday needs, such as: soap, avocado oils, candles, cereals, hair chemicals, electricity and others.
Many Finnish students, contrary to South African students, think that chemistry knowledge is useful in their
everyday life (32%). However, about as many Finnish students (36%) find that their chemistry knowledge is of no
or little use in their present everyday life. Some think that it probably will be useful later in life (13%). About one
fifth of the students regards that knowledge of chemistry provides an all-round education (18%) that helps students
take an active part in the social life.
Most Finnish students did not recognize the difference between knowledge of chemistry and nature of chemistry.
Only 4% of the students mentioned chemistry as a science, where they develop critical thinking and science process
skills. Most suggested that the usefulness of chemistry depends on the future occupation (42%) and that knowledge
of chemistry gives an all-round education (36%). Almost one fifth thought that their study of chemistry would have
no or very little influence on their future (18%).
46 Sivbritt Dumbrajs et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 89 ( 2013 ) 40 – 48
Which topics need to be taught in chemistry lessons? Why?
Here we notice that South African students, in contradiction to Finnish students, include environmental aspects in
their everyday topics. Also they do not explicitly mention chemistry of substances as foundation for understanding
what happens in their everyday life. Here the conceptual understanding in the two countries may differ. The interest
in particular science contents seems to be somewhat stronger among Finnish students.
Which topics interest you? Why?
Among the South African answers abstracts concerning daily life products and useful topics for living in a rural
area are mentioned. Finnish students express interests similar to the curriculum they suggest.
How does the study of chemistry differ from the studies of non-science subjects at school?
In South African schools chemistry is regarded as a difficult subject, where rote learning is the dominating way to
acquire knowledge. Rather few mention experiments and investigative methods. Also Finnish students find
chemistry difficult; because it demands logical thinking. However, experiments and investigative learning are
important. Only one fifth of the Finnish students have to rely on rote learning and learning by doing.
The findings are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2. Comparison of the results.
One student’s answers can contribute to none, one or several entries in a category. We have used percentages in
order to guide the eye when comparing two differently large data sets.
Questions South Africa Finland
1 a) Which topics need to be
taught in chemistry lessons?
Why?
Everyday topics (69%)
Deepening of scientific
aspects (4%)
Everyday chemistry (46%)
Chemistry of substances (30%)
Environment (12%)
Deepening of scientific aspects (16%)
1 b) Which topics interest
you? Why?
Useful everyday topics (89%)
Topics that can be used in
their careers (2%)
More easy topics (this may
relate to not understanding
difficult concepts) (9%)
Everyday chemistry (41%)
Chemistry of substances(32%)
Environment (12%)
Deepening and elaboration of sciences (12%)
2 How does the study of
chemistry differ from the
studies of non-science
subjects at school?
Difficult (54%)
Experiments (13%)
Rote learning (64%)
Logical, difficult, cause and effect (36%)
Experiments (41%)
Praxis, know by heart, rote learning (21%)
Excursions (1%)
3 How does the study of
chemistry relate to your
every-day life?
Does not relate (87%) Useful (32%)
Of no or little use (36%)
All-round education (18%)
4 How do you think you can
use your knowledge about
the nature of chemistry in
your future life?
All-round knowledge (18%)
Useful (22%)
Critical thinking and science
process skills (13%)
Depending on my future occupation (42%)
All-round education (36%)
No or very little influence (18%)
Nature of chemistry (4%) (most students did
not recognize the difference between
knowledge of chemistry and nature of
chemistry)
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Sivbritt Dumbrajs et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 89 ( 2013 ) 40 – 48
How does the study of chemistry relate to your every-day life?
South African students find no connections between their present chemistry studies and their everyday life. In
Finland one third of the students are able to use their knowledge of chemistry, while one fifth feel that they have
gained an all-round knowledge.
How do you think you can use your knowledge about the nature of chemistry in your future life?
Both Finnish and South African students mention an all-round education as being useful for the future. The South
African category useful should probably be included in the category all-round education. The nature of chemistry
and its usefulness is clearly expressed only in a few Finnish answers, whereas somewhat more South African
students mention that they will need critical thinking and science process skills in their future life. Are these
concepts comparable?
10. Discussion
Science education is influenced by issues of language, class and culture. Besides students’ cultural background,
prior knowledge and their interpersonal relationships with teachers, language plays an important role in the teaching
and learning of science (Jaipal 2001, 3). In South Africa eleven official languages are used. Science is initially
taught in students’ mother tongue from Grades 1-3 and from Grades 4 – 12 in English or Afrikaans. Thus the
majority of students are not taught in their mother tongue. Taylor and Prinsloo (2005, 9) state that the largest factor,
besides poverty, that influences students’ science performances is language proficiency in the medium of
instruction. Without mother tongue support it is difficult for students to understand science concepts and to apply
science in real life situations; this removes them even further from science’ subject matter. By implication every
science lesson will also have to be a language lesson to improve the quality of science education (Ferreira 2011,
103).
Curriculum changes need to be developed that are sensitive to the socio-context and dialogue of students. A basis
for structured discussion and reflection about teaching, learning, classroom interaction, teaching materials,
curriculum content and different cultural beliefs should form the framework of science teaching. The development
of a science curriculum needs to be context sensitive and avoid generalization.
11. Conclusion
Globalization is for real, but the international community of experts agreeing on a common model of education is
imagined (Steiner-Khamsi 2004, 4). National and local actors might refer to an imaginary global community such as
“international standards”. But there are multiple ways of seeing and knowing the world (See Table 1, see also Spring
2009, 145). If, according to the constructive way of teaching, each student should build on their background
knowledge, this has to be acknowledged by teachers; difficulties to supply schools with skilful and competent
teachers and adequate equipment should be conquered. Jones, Carter, and Rua in their research (2000) noted that
students used many different prior experiences to form a response. Thus each student’s learning was unique.
Investigative methods should be used and new concepts should be taught in an everyday context. Man’s natural joy
of learning and drive towards knowledge should be used (Spring 2009, 68-69). Students should be encouraged to
work in teams.
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... After independency, South Africa explicitly formulated education policies for promoting access to educational opportunities for previously disadvantaged groups (Dumbrajs et al., 2013). Since 1994, education reformation has been a priority to promote equality among all races. ...
... The inception of Curriculum 2005 introduced changes in the SA school system and therefore retraining teachers is needed to prepare them for the newly introduced technology subject. The aim of reformed policies was to teach curricula based on learners' own socio-economic environment and equip them with skills that can be applied in real life situations (Dumbrajs et al., 2013). Other policies included the Revised National Curricula Statements and Curricula Assessment and Policy Statements, which indicate a period of rapid transformation and democratization. ...
... Other policies included the Revised National Curricula Statements and Curricula Assessment and Policy Statements, which indicate a period of rapid transformation and democratization. New education policies in SA include indigenous knowledge in the curricula but are not prescriptive (Dumbrajs et al., 2013). The national Department of Education, published its White Paper on E-Education in 2004 and called together a 'think-tank' in 2006 based on an overview of research and delivery needs related to the 'roll-out' of e-Learning in schools (Moll et al., 2007).Therefore teachers should explicitly provide opportunities for learners to learn effectively and this can be done by the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) like eLearning. ...
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