Biosocial issues as a component of biology education.
Magi, Nomathemba Virginia.
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This study was designed to investigate the extent to which the biology teachers and student teachers are aware and understand biology-related problems that affect the African communities in the Natal north-coastal region. The basis of the research is modelled on the premise that because biology-related problems such as health, shortage of food and water resources, population explosion, pollution are prevalent in South Africa, biology teachers may well be teaching about ways of coping with these problems. In essence the aims of the study are to: (1) Identify the most important biology-related social problems that impinge on life in the African community, the extent to which they are understood, and the sources of information used by teachers and student-teachers to obtain information about biosocial issues. (2) Establish whether biosocial issues form a constituent part of the current biology curriculum at senior secondary school level, and to identify important biology-related issues that should be included in the biology curriculum. The procedure used surveys from two separate sample populations practising biology teachers (N=99) and student teachers (N=93 who were at final year of their Secondary Teachers Diploma. Data were computer-analyzed using frequencies and percentages, ranking and cross tabulations. The study is broadly structured around nine chapters. The first chapter gives an overall orientation to the study and further elucidation of methodology is in Chapter 5. Chapter 2 specifically treats the impact of African education on biology education in South Africa. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the conceptual sources and relationships which exist between science, technology, society and the relevance of biology education in the African communities of South Africa. Chapters 6, 7 and 8 deal with empirical data in the form of field survey responses, analysis and interpretation. The overall summary of the study, its implications and conclusions are presented in Chapter 9. The major conclusions of the study are: First, that biology teachers and student-teachers identified the most important biology-related problems in the north-coastal region of Natal as food and water resources, health and diseases, energy resources and nature conservation. Secondly, that whereas most teachers and student-teachers indicated that they were knowledgeable about these problems, the nature of their understanding was mostly a narrow and factual view of the concepts which neglected the social perspective. Thirdly, both teachers and student-teachers rely heavily on the schools and textbooks as sources of information. However evidence from an analysis of biology syllabuses used in secondary schools indicates that there is over-emphasis of factual knowledge and little reference to the application of that knowledge to life situations. As a result, textbooks which are closely modelled along the dictates of syllabuses, have little or no worthwhile information on biosocial issues. Fourthly, that to make the biology curriculum relevant to the needs and interest of the African community, biosocial issues that were identified as important should be incorporated in the biology curriculum. The study has important implications for the goals of biology education, the selection of biology content offered in schools, and the involvement of teachers in curriculum development. In the north coastal region of Natal, biology education does not contribute to better understanding of one's environment that could lead to the solution of problems and improving the quality of life in the community. Involvement of teachers in the selection of biology content which is viewed as important for fulfilling community needs and interests should be considered because teachers know and can articulate the aspirations of their local communities.