Learners’ socio-cultural backgrounds and science teaching and learning: a case study of township schools in South Africa

Abstract

In an effort to pursue and achieve quality and equity in science education, the South African National Curriculum Statement stipulates that learners should be accorded an opportunity to acquire and apply knowledge and skills in meaningful ways. Accordingly, the curriculum promotes knowledge in both local and global contexts. The study investigated how teachers’ knowledge of learners’ socio-cultural backgrounds is invoked in enacting various teaching and learning approaches that bring relevance of science to learners. Three science teachers from three township high schools were observed teaching while incorporating learners’ socio-cultural practices, experiences and beliefs when teaching the topics reproduction, nutrition and healthy diet. The teachers were interviewed after each lesson via a closed-ended protocol. Science local curriculum documents and lesson plans were also analysed. A total of five lesson observations and five post-lesson interviews per teacher were analysed using the constant comparative method. The findings revealed that teachers use probing and open-ended questions, argumentation in groups, authentic problem-solving activities and resources, examples, experiences and language familiar to learners. Such practices promote class and group interaction, develop critical and analytical thinking skills in learners and promote conceptual understanding. The research findings provide insights into how certain science topics can be taught in meaningful ways to socio-economically and culturally diverse learners, which can contribute to the current debate on relevant education in a country faced with huge diversity.

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Fig. 1

(Adopted and adapted from Mavuru and Ramnarain 2017)

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Mavuru, L., Ramnarain, U. Learners’ socio-cultural backgrounds and science teaching and learning: a case study of township schools in South Africa. Cult Stud of Sci Educ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-020-09974-8

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Keywords

  • Socio-cultural background
  • Township schools
  • Argumentation
  • Authentic problems
  • Critical and analytical thinking