Being literate is ‘the ability to read and write’ (Oxford University Press, 2016). Being able to read and write helps us understand daily processes we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Without being able to read and write we wouldn’t understand travel timetables, signs, how to tell the time, how to shop or even be able to sustain a job! To me, this would suggest that the idea of Scientific Literacy means simply to be able to understand the ideas behind science and how to use these ideas to conduct experiments, alike how we use reading and writing to understand variables of the outside world.
Not only does Scientific Literacy mean having an understanding of science, but also being able to form questions and conclusions from the evidence found through experiments (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003). Over all, Scientific Literacy means that children understand the words used in science, the process of experiments, why the experiments are being carried out, can come up with their thoughts about the outcomes, and also why it is important that they know this for everyday life. This directly links to some key principles in the Curriculum for Excellence (Education Scotland, 2016). Teachers must ensure that when they are teaching science their pupils are not simply just learning the terms like they may learn a times-table. In order to be Science Literate the children must understand the depth of what they are learning.
A lack of scientific literacy could mean the development of false scientific conclusions. One of the main examples of this was the MMR vaccine scare. In 1998 an investigation into the three in one vaccine for measles was conducted by, the now discredited, Andrew Wakefield. He came to the conclusion that that vaccine could actually increases a child’s chance of developing autism. This research was released and caused fear to spread to all parents who became hesitant to allow their children to receive the vaccine. It wasn’t until 2004 that an investigation into Wakefield’s research took place and it was found to be flawed. The medical records of the children he investigated did not match his research and the paper he published was taken down.
This is a clear example of how important science literacy is. This spread of false information caused the vaccine rates to drop dramatically and a significant increases in measles, causing many children to suffer unnecessarily. New research found that there was no connection between and vaccine and autism and there are no side effects to the vaccine. However, some parents are still wary of the vaccine and refuse to allow their children to receive it.
The process of fair testing is ensuring there are no deliberate advantages or disadvantages to any variables in an experiment. This ensures that the information gathered is reliable. To guarantee reliability any obvious advantages to any factors are controlled.
An example of this is how high a ball bounces (Prain, 2007). The height of the bounce the ball executes is measured, however the following things are considered:
- “Will the type of ball affect its bounce?”
- “Will the surface on which it bounces affect the bounce?”
- “Will the height from which you drop the ball affect its bounce?” (Prain, 2007)
These three variables are changed and the experiment is carried out more than once. This, therefore, ensures the test is “fair”. By taking into account all these factors and questioning how they will effect the experiment a person is, therefore “science literate” as they are understanding the questioning and issues with the experiment.
Prain, V. (2007) How to interpret multi-modal science texts. Available at: http://www.education.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/5303/linking_science_literacy_strat.pdf (Accessed: 27 January 2016).
Education Scotland, (2016). Principles – How is the curriculum organised? –
Learning and teaching. [online] Educationscotland.gov.uk. Available at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/thecurriculum/howisthecurriculumorganised/principles/index.asp [Accessed 28 Jan. 2016].
Oxford University Press, (2016). literate – definition of literate in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Oxforddictionaries.com. Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/literate [Accessed 28 Jan. 2016].
OECD, (2003). The PISA 2003 Assessment Framework – Mathematics, Reading, Science and Problem Solving Knowledge and Skills. Paris: OECD
The story behind the MMR scare, Rory Greenslade, 2013. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/apr/25/mmr-scare-analysis
Utmb Health, Wakefield Autism Scandal, David Niesel and Norbert Herzog, 2012. Available at http://www.medicaldiscoverynews.com/shows/237_wakefieldAutism.html
NHS Choices, Ruling on doctor in MMR scare, 2010. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/01January/Pages/MMR-vaccine-autism-scare-doctor.aspx