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Scientific Literacy: Science Education for All
Scientific advances in the new millennium provoke us all to rethink about our understanding of the world around us and how science has made significant impact on our lifestyle. While scientists believe that their contributions to both theoretical and practical knowledge of science will continue to bring concrete benefits to society, politicians and the pubic have increasingly been asking scientists questions as to how society really benefit from their scientistics' work . In response to such queries, physicists point out that science in general, and physics in particular, has four "spinoffs" to society: knowledge, technologies, methods and people. The fourth spinoff is related to science education in which passionate young people are attracted to pursuing the studies of science at university through enculturation of the public at large and students at school into the fascinating disciplines of science.
In the past, one of the major aims of school science was to prepare students to become future scientists. ‘The student as scientist’ was once a popular metaphor for learning science at school in western countries. However, universal education the world over has changed such aim when science educators move from a position where science is seen as part of education only for the élite, to one of science for all, which is often known as scientific literacy. In a report about science for all, the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) points out that five distinctive features of scientific inquiry are: (1) science demands evidence; (2) science is a blend of logic and imagination; (3) science explains and predicts; (4) science tries to identify and avoid bias; and (5) science is not authoritarian (AAAS, 1989). In the UK and Australia, too, school science has placed increasing emphasis on scientific literacy.
In Hong Kong, where the education system is highly exam-oriented, there is room for improvement in learning school science by placing more emphasis on scientific literacy for all students. Currently many secondary students who choose to study science are high-achievers who aspire to become future engineers, medical doctors or scientists while students in non-science streams do not learn science beyond Form 3 (Year/Grade 9). All students should learn science in senior secondary schools to improve their scientific literacy.
AAAS. (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Fensham, J. P. (2004). Defining an identity: The evolution of science education as a field of research. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.
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