Scientific Literacy and Education
Joint Project: Lara Simpson, Amy Stephen, Sarah Wilson and Cara Melton
According to Blake (2017), Scientific literacy is the understanding of key scientific concepts and the knowledge of processes needed to make individual and personal decisions. The National Science Education Standards (1996) explains that the concept of scientific literacy highlights that an individual can ask and discover answers to questions resulting from general curiosity about everyday life experiences. Scientific literacy involves the ability to read and understand scientific articles in to engage in social conversation about the strength and validity of the conclusions. Therefore, Scientific literacy suggests that individuals are able to recognise scientific issues which lie beneath local and national decisions and express opinions that are scientifically informed. Thus, individuals can express their scientific literacy in many ways, for example by using technical terms or applying scientific concepts and processes.
Scientific illiteracy can result in inaccurate media reporting which can be believed and interpreted within our society. For example, for many years there has been a conspiracy that the flu vaccination gave people the cold or flu after they received the vaccination. The NHS (2016) have stated that the flu vaccine is the best protection we have against a virus that can cause unpleasant illness. Studies have shown that the flu jab will help prevent you getting the flu. It is not 100% guaranteed that you will be flu free, but if you do get the flu it will be milder and for a shorter period of time. It was reported by the Express Newspaper (2017) that people were hesitant to get the flu jab or didn’t get it at all due to fears of falling ill with the flu after being vaccinated, due to media headlines suggesting there was a link between the jab and the flu. However, the flu jab cannot give you the flu as it contains an ‘inactive’ form of flu which cannot give you the illness. It takes 10-14 days for the immune system to build up fully after the jab and the flu is much more than a heavy cold and patients need the vaccine every year in order to be protected. This is a recent but also ongoing example where lack of scientific literacy has led to inaccurate media reports.
Fair testing in primary school science links to scientific literacy because it means they are able to assess false or ‘adapted’ scientific facts from true scientific facts in the media and online. As said in (Introducing the National Science Education Standards, 1997) you need to have an awareness of science in the wider society. Therefore, teaching children the need for fair testing is so vital as it shows that you cannot just try something once and give up. You must try multiple times and reflect on the different outcomes. However according to (Maintaining curiosity A survey into science education in schools, 2013) it can be quite difficult to execute a very good science lesson in primary schools, so while some pupils might grasp the understanding of fair testing and how it relates to real life, not all pupils will. Although in conclusion fair testing in primary schools is a good way of getting children as young as four thinking about scientific concepts and finding ways of answering their own questions about the world using science.
Blake, C. (2017) Understanding Scientific Literacy. Available at: http://www.literacynet.org/science/scientificliteracy.html (Accessed: 08.02.18).
National Research Council. (1996) National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC. National Academy Press. https://study.com/academy/lesson/scientific-literacy-definition-examples.html
NHS. (2016) The flu jab. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/fluinfluenza-vaccine/ (Accessed: 7th February 2018).
Express Newspaper. (2017) Flu jab 2017: Can the vaccine give you cold or flu like symptoms? Available at: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/892284/flu-jab-2017-vaccine-sideeffects-symptoms-cold (Accessed: 7th February 2018
Introducing the National Science Education Standards (1997). Washington, DC: Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education, National Research Council, p. 22.
Maintaining curiosity A survey into science education in schools (2013). Manchester: Ofsted, pp. 12-16. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maintaining-curiosity-a-survey-into-science-education-in-schools (Accessed: 11 February 2018).