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close this bookThe Education for All Teacher-Training Package - Volume 2 (UNDP - UNESCO, 1995, 124 p.)
close this folderTopic 9 Scientific and Technological Literacy and Numeracy
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Reading 9.1

The Meaning of Scientific and Technological Literacy

Many attempts have been made to describe and explain ‘scientific and technological literacy’. One statement is:

the capacity to function with understanding and confidence, at appropriate levels, in ways that bring about empowerment in the modern world and in the world of ideas.

The capacity so described might be fostered by:

(a) the acquisition of a core of knowledge - facts, concepts, skills - which might be relatively culture-dependent;

(b) experience and understanding of the ways in which scientists and technologists work, e.g. how scientists make and validate their knowledge (this aspect might be much less culture-dependent than the above);

(c) an understanding of the cultures of the scientific and technological enterprises; their values, attitudes, assumptions; their organizational structures of control; and their limitations.

Source: Project 2000+ International Forum on Scientific and Technological Literacy for All, Final Report, Paris, UNESCO, 1993.

Reading 9.2

Indicators of Process Skill Use: Some Examples


Evidence, in the form of a record or discussion, of children:

using the senses (as many as are safe and appropriate) to gather information;

identifying differences between similar objects or events;

identifying similarities between different objects or events;

noticing fine details that are relevant to an investigation;

recognizing the order in which sequenced events take place;

looking for patterns that may exist in observations.

looking for patterns that may exist observations.

Finding patterns and relationships

Evidence, in the form of a record or discussion, of children:

putting together various pieces of information (from direct observation or secondary sources) and inferring something from them;

using patterns or relationships in information, measurements or observations to make predictions;

identifying trends or relationships in information;

realizing the difference between a conclusion that fits all the evidence and an inference that goes beyond it.


Evidence, in the form of a record or discussion, of children:

attempting to explain observations or relationships in terms of some principle or concept;

applying concepts or knowledge gained in one situation to help understanding, or solve a problem, in another;

recognizing that there can be more than one possible explanation of an event;

realizing the need to test explanations by gathering more evidence.

Raising questions

Evidence, in the form of a record or discussion, of children:

asking questions which lead to enquiry;

asking questions for information;

asking questions based on hypotheses;

realizing that they can find out answers to some of their questions by their own investigation;

putting questions into a testable form;

recognizing that some questions cannot be answered by enquiry.

Devising investigations

Evidence, in the form of a record or discussion, of children:

deciding what equipment, material, etc., is needed for an investigation;

identifying what is to change or be changed when different observations or measurements are made;

identifying what variables are to be kept the same for a fair test;

identifying what is to be measured or compared;

considering beforehand how the measurements, comparisons, etc., are to be used to solve the problem;

deciding the order in which steps should be taken in the investigation.

Communicating effectively


using writing or talking as a medium for sorting out ideas or linking one idea to another;

listening to others’ ideas and responding to them;

keeping notes of actions or observations;

displaying results appropriately using graphs, tables, charts, etc.;

reporting events systematically and clearly;

using sources of information.

Source: Science Teacher Training for Process Based Learning, Paris, Commonwealth Secretariat/UNESCO, 1987.

Reading 9.3

Helping Children to Develop Scientific Attitudes

Attitudes refer to generalized aspects of behaviour and are identified in the patterns of ways in which people act and react in various situations. One instance of someone being willing to change his or her mind in the face of evidence is not a sufficient basis for judging them to be ‘open-minded’, but if this happens quite regularly it might well justify such a judgement.

Certain general characteristics of attitudes suggest ways in which they can be fostered.

1. Attitudes are not things that children can be instructed in; for they are different from knowledge and skills. They exist in the way people behave and are transferred to children by a mixture of example and selective approval. Rather than being ‘taught’, attitudes are ‘caught’. One important way in which teachers can help children to develop attitudes is by setting an example.

2. Attitudes develop from what is approved and what is disapproved. Thus it is important to reinforce the signs of desired attitudes shown by children by praise and approval and similarly to express disapproval of negative attitudes. If this is done consistently it will become part of the classroom climate and children may begin to reinforce the attitudes for themselves and for each other.

3. Attitudes show in willingness to act in certain ways. For children to develop these attributes there must be opportunities for them to exercise choice. If behaviour is closely controlled by rules and procedures and if children are always told what to do and think, there will be little opportunity for them to develop and give expression to their own attitudes. If children are never encouraged to reflect critically on their work, they will not be likely to develop a willingness to review procedures critically. It is most important, therefore, for teachers to provide children with opportunities to exercise choice.

4. Attitudes are highly abstract and thus difficult to discuss with children. This is why attitudes have to be encouraged by example and selective approval. However, as children become more mature they begin to be able to reflect on their own behaviour and motivations.

Adapted from: UNESCO Sourcebook for Science in the Primary School, Paris, UNESCO, 1992.

Reading 9.4

Is Science being Learned here?

If you walked into a classroom, how would you recognize that the class or a group were engaged in a science activity as opposed to another kind of activity?

Here is an attempt to answer the question in two stages. In the first place situations which provide opportunity for learning science can be recognized. Such situations are an important starting-point but may or may not be followed up, so the second part of the answer suggests the indications that the science in a situation is being developed.

The children have opportunity for learning science where they are:

handling materials, living and non-living;

designing, making or manipulating apparatus using a variety of materials,

including junk items;

moving around freely and finding the materials they need;

discussing their work with each other or with the teacher;

busy doing things which they feel are important;

trying to work out for themselves what to do from step to step, and not expec ting to be told what to do;

puzzling over a problem;

comparing their ideas or observations with those of others.

The science in a situation is being developed where children:

have a clear idea of what they want to find out, investigate or observe;

take the initiative in suggesting what to do and how to set about it;

try out ideas ‘to see what happens’;

observe things closely - perhaps watching, listening, touching, smelling;

try different ways of approaching a problem;

classify things according to their properties or characteristics;

make some record of what they find out or observe;

use instruments for aiding observation or measurement;

devise or apply tests to find out what things do;

make predictions of what they expect to find or happen;

look for evidence to support the statements they make;

try to quantify their observations;

confirm their findings carefully before accepting them as evidence.

Source: Science Teacher Training for Process Based Learning Paris, Commonwealth Secretariat/UNESCO, 1987.

Reading 9.5

Technology in the Community

Simulation Game

Introduction of new technology (Tsotso stove in Tamutsa village)

In a few minutes all the players are going to sit around a table and discuss together. They are going to discuss their feelings about a certain problem. Each player is going to pretend to be a certain type of person and speak just as strongly as that person would in real life.

Those taking part are:

The Member of Parliament

A representative of the Forestry Department

A teacher

A headman

An old man

Housewife I

Housewife II

The problem

Tamutsa village is one of the areas in Mashonaland East Province, Zimbabwe, which has been extensively deforested. People in this village are walking long distances in search of firewood.

The Member of Parliament has expressed concern over this problem and sought the advice of the Forestry Department. With its help he is seeking to bring in new technology to Tamutsa village in the form of a Tsotso stove. This is a stove which uses very little firewood, or cow dung, for cooking.

The Member of Parliament

Your role:

You come from the local community and represent it in Parliament. You have a secondary-school education and are able to perceive problems accurately within the community. You actively seek the improvement of the conditions of life for the people living in your constituency.

You were convinced when the representative of the Forestry Department suggested that a Tsotso stove might be an answer to the problem of deforestation facing the area around Tamutsa village.

As an MP your main role here is to convene a meeting, having brought in the expert from the Forestry Department. You will introduce the problem, have the Forestry expert introduce the topic and then get the members of the community to discuss the issue.

Your attitude:

You want to find the best solution to the problem. You feel that the Tsotso stove is a possible solution but you are open to ideas from your constituency.

Representative of the Forestry Department

Your role:

You hold a degree in forestry and are about 40 years old. You have worked for the Forestry Department for about fifteen years and hold a fairly senior position. You are well-versed in the problems of deforestation. You know that the people must stop cutting down all the trees for firewood and must be encouraged to grow new forests. You have seen the research on how deforestation causes soil erosion and degradation, changes in weather patterns, and affects animal life. You know well the great length of time needed for trees to grow to maturity. You see many advantages in having forests and have studied the advantages of indigenous trees over exotic trees. You love the beauty of forest scenery.

Your attitude:

You strongly favour the introduction of the Tsotso stove as it will be a great saver of the remaining forests and will allow for reforestation programmes to be introduced and succeed.

You support the stove because:

the stove uses little firewood and can even use cow dung;

deforestation is causing severe soil erosion in the area;

weather patterns are being affected;

wildlife is fast disappearing;

indigenous trees need to be preserved.

You feel that we must adjust to the changing times and circumstances or we will not even survive as people.

Your part is very important. Try to convince the others of the importance of accepting the Tsotso stove. Be able to adjust and suggest alternatives which will make the stove acceptable to the people. Be able to consider other alternatives which might prove to be even more acceptable, if necessary.


Your role:

You are a teacher in the community. You have taught for about five years at a local school. You are well-respected in the community and people often come to you for advice. You consider the Tsotso stove to present a big advantage over the present traditional fire. You would like to have a Tsotso stove for your own use. You do not feel that we should cling to traditions but must move with the times.

Your attitude:

You strongly support the introduction of the stove.

you plan to use one yourself;

you note that it will conserve energy (heat will not be lost to the surroundings);

you do not believe it is necessary to preserve the traditional fireplace in order to preserve culture.

Since you are a community leader your role is crucial. You must try to convince the others that the Tsotso stove should be adopted. But you must also be flexible and able to adjust and change your mind if reasonable arguments against the Tsotso stove are given.


Your role:

You are an enlightened headman. You see advantages of using the Tsotso stove but you are concerned about how it will fit into traditional village life.

Your attitude:

You have not quite made up your mind.

The advantages you see are:

the stove will save our trees;

we will have trees for shelter, building and hunting in the bush.

You are worried because:

it will result in breaking family ties as there might be no more stories around the fire;

the traditional fire is the symbol of unity.

You are open to being convinced by arguments of the others present. You lean a litt -le toward staying with the traditional ways.

Old man

Your role:

You are an elderly man worried about the erosion of tradition and as such are opposed to the Tsotso technology. You feel that the Tsotso stove will erode the traditional life with which you are familiar and comfortable. You do not like these new modern ideas that are coming from the experts who have gone to school and are trying to act like Europeans and are forgetting the ways of their fathers.

Your attitude:

You are opposed to the introduction of the Tsotso stove. The ways of our fathers must be preserved.

You ask:

what will I do in the evenings? I usually sit around the fire and talk to the children;

who will cut the firewood into small pieces for these little stoves?

we also use fire for making tools - now how will we be able to do that?

we use the fire for beer brewing - it won’t taste the same if we brew it on a Tsotso stove.

You try to convince the others that the stove does not fit with traditional cultural ways and as such should be rejected. You will only be convinced to accept the stove if you can be shown that the traditions can still be carried on even if in a somewhat new way.

Housewife I

Your role:

In this discussion you will play the part of an uneducated traditional housewife who values traditional culture and resists change. You prefer cooking on the fire using clay pots as you have always done.

Your attitude:

You are opposed to the Tsotso stove and support the idea of the traditional fire.

the three-legged pot can only be used with the traditional fire and not with the Tsotso stove;

clay pots need to be supported by three stones and cannot be used on a Tsotso stove;

the old fireplace is big and you can use several pots at one time but with the Tsotso stove you can only cook with one pot at a time;

the fire lasts longer;

you can use the embers from the fire for ironing;

the Tsotso stove will cost money and we don’t have enough money to buy one;

the firewood is there, we just have to go to the forest for it;

we like to roast mealies (maize) and sweet potatoes on the fire.

You are convinced that the traditional fire is better. You do not want to change and try to convince the others that the Tsotso stove is not a good idea. You may change your mind if the discussion convinces you.

Housewife II

Your role:

You are a modern educated housewife. You are a busy nurse in the community. You work long hours and have little time for gathering wood and waiting for a fire for cooking.

Your attitude:

You are strongly in favour of the Tsotso stove. You see it as a work saver and time saver, and also safer than the fire.

You advance the following arguments:

with the traditional fire you have to get up early in the morning in order to prepare breakfast for the family.

the stove:

- is faster - it boils water quickly;

- is more convenient;

- uses less fuel and thus saves collecting firewood

- you have no time to fetch firewood;

- helps to save the forests;

- is cleaner; - is less dangerous for children;

- gives you more time for other activities.

You should try hard to convince the others that the Tsotso stove would be very helpful to the mothers of the village and would be safer and healthier. You may change your mind if others present convincing enough arguments.

Reading 9.6

Mathematics and Real-life Problems.

A very significant share of classroom time is spent on mathematics, that is to say, on the skills associated with mathematics. But mathematics is meaningless unless it has a context. However, the transposition of basic mathematics concepts into real life problems is not easily achieved. A recent study was conducted with some vocational students in the city of Recife (Brazil). The students learned the concepts and methods of calculating the volume of simple geometrical forms. They also engaged in practical projects in the workshops. In one of these, students were expected to build beds and had to order the wood in the exact quantity required. Given the measurements of the parts of each bed, they had to calculate the volume of each and add them to find the total lumber requirements in cubic metres. In fact, this was a direct application of the formula they had learned in school. However, the students had difficulty in connecting the two sets of problems. They could not see the similarities between the school-book reasoning and what they were being asked to do in the workshop. A volume formula is learnt in school. A quantity of lumber is handled in a workshop. In the students’ minds the two are not related! The concepts involved in comparing areas and volumes were known to the scholars of ancient Greece; today they still need to be mastered and used across the breadth of the labour force. Modern society is asking more and more people to be conversant with such simple exercises in abstraction and to be able to apply them in concrete situations.

ERA Monograph 1.

Reading 9.7


Teachers should incorporate estimation into many areas of the mathematics Programme. Similarly, it should also be included in science and technology education activities. In addition to computational estimation, an estimation problem may involve one, or more than one, of the following:

Meaningful accuracy

This shows pupils that they should judge the degree of accuracy required according to the situation and circumstances. Complete accuracy is not always possible nor, indeed, necessary.

Estimation in everyday life

Activities of this type are designed to develop the ability to estimate a variety of measures in the pupils’ environment. This kind of estimation is also used in problem-solving, and especially in judging the reasonableness of the results obtained.

Estimation in measurement

Without using measuring instruments, pupils should be able to appreciate the difference between absolute and relative errors, when estimating lengths and areas, for example.

Algorithmic estimation

Pupils can develop the ability to estimate quantities by constructing a suitable algorithm/formula and by taking into account missing data - data needed for the computation but not appearing in the statement of the problem.

Checking the reasonableness of results

The aim of this estimation is to show that not every problem must (or even can) be solved by using a standard algorithm and that not every problem has a unique answer. However, the answer has to be reasonable.