Quantitative Analysis of Secondary School Biology Textbooks for Scientific Literacy Themes

Article excerpt


Two very distinct and conflicting societal demands shape science education programmes in different countries. These are (i) demand for specialist manpower so that societies and economies can keep pace in a world where scientific knowledge and technology is being exploited in a rapidly increasing way. (ii) demand for a more scientifically literate citizenry, ie science education should produce more members of the society who will be able to benefit from personal and social applications of science and will be prepared to support the changes of a scientific and technological kind that are needed for a good balance between developmental and environmental concerns (Fensham,1985).

The first demand dominated in shaping the science curricula in the 1960s and 1970s. Usually, such a curriculum involved the rote recall of large numbers of facts, concepts and algorithms which are not obviously socially useful. In the 1970s, these movements had been integrated into a single movement: Science, Technology and Society (STS) Two similar movements follow it, namely, 'Science for All' and 'Scientific Literacy'.

The goals of Science for All and Scientific Literacy are being subscribed to in many developing countries and Science is increasingly being viewed as a subject of lifelong utility to all students(Ware 1992) A more scientifically literate populace is considered as better equipped to contribute to economic and societal development through informed decision making in their life (Ware 1992)

Scientific Literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participating in civil and cultural affairs and economic productivity (National Science Education Standards, 1996). The essence of scientific literacy is the ability to use scientific knowledge to make informed personal and societal decisions (Lederman and Lederman, 2005).

Teachers of science engage students effectively in studies of the History, Philosophy and Practice of Science. An understanding of the nature of science has been an objective of science instruction.

Four themes of the nature of science and scientific literacy that should be evident in science instruction to various degrees are:

Science as a Way of Thinking

This theme describes how a scientist experiments, shows the historical development of an idea (how science proceeds by inductive and deductive reasoning) gives cause and effect relationship, and brings out how science is a discipline disposed to self-examination.

Science as a Way of Investigating

This theme reflects the active aspect of inquiry and learning which involve the students in the methods and processes of science. It stimulates thinking and doing by asking the students to find out.

Science as a Body of Knowledge

This theme presents and discusses facts, concepts, principles and laws. It presents hypotheses, theories and models and requires the recall of knowledge or information.

Science and Its Interaction with Technology and Society

This theme illustrates the impact of science on society. This aspect of scientific literacy pertains to the application of science and how technology helps or hinders humankind. It involves social issues and careers.

These themes can be used to analyze what is being emphasized in a teaching session, laboratory exercise and textbook chapter.

In Nigeria, secondary school science teaching is textbook dominated; science textbooks continue to be a major component of science instruction throughout the country. If science textbooks exert a lot of influence on science teaching and learning, it becomes necessary that the contents and what they convey to the students are factual, accurate and up to date. Science textbooks play an important role for secondary school science teachers in the teaching learning process. …