Views & Reviews
Socio-Cultural Barrier in Teaching and Learning Science
Curiosity is a mark of any learner, and especially in a classroom environment it is essential for any teacher to give proper explanation about the subject matter or any information therein. If they don’t get the desired explanation, or if they are not satisfied, they may try to find answers through alternate means, the source of which may be reliable or not. One most common source is the information shared through the internet. Very often the information they get through the internet can be misleading which includes factual errors, not up to date etc.
Now, there are certain topics in Science which a teacher might deliberately skip due to certain reasons even though the topic may be important. This deliberate omission on the part of the teacher will only trigger the curiosity button of the students. And being limited by the ability to filter knowledge and information stored in the internet, and without the guidance of the teacher, the students might end up getting half-baked information or even beyond their comprehension which holds the danger of knowledge especially concepts getting misunderstood or misinterpreted. Further danger lies in the application of such misunderstood concepts, like the saying goes, ‘little learning is a dangerous thing.’
Such strain necessitates a look at the socio-cultural attitudes which often acts as a barrier in the exercise of teaching and learning in relation to Science. Such socio-cultural attitudes comes into play in relation to certain topics, and in context a teacher may create a wrong perspective in the students mindset and even in their process of learning.
One is not necessarily looking for empirical substantiation but that particular chapter in High school science titled – ‘Life process’ in two parts (which includes topics on human reproductive system, menstrual cycle and fertilization) can be taken as a case to substantiate the issue of socio-cultural attitudes which acts as a barrier in the teaching-learning process. What was your attitude towards the ‘life Process or that of your teacher while teaching? This is a topic which has created awkwardness to the extent of a student giggling at the expense of the teacher. And sadly the desired knowledge and educational content fails in its delivery. This has been happening since the past many years which continue till now.
But why should such topics act as a barrier in teaching and learning Science? The answer lies obviously in the fact that our socio-culture has shaped our minds in such a way that, these topics are hardly talked aloud at home or at schools. Thus, it is not about the topic which acts as a barrier but rather the socio-cultural upbringing in which such topics are almost likened to a taboo and not to be talked about. How would a mother or a teacher respond if her daughter or a student asks how babies are born? ‘We loved each other and you are the expression of our love.’ Will such an answer satisfy their curiosity? These are topics which need to be first taught by the parent and the teacher rather from the internet which has its own disadvantages. A parent or a teacher can properly explain the ‘life processes’ without even using the reproductive terms ‘explicitly.’
Anita woolfolk et al defines socio-culture as “The knowledge, values, attitudes and traditions that guide the behavior of a group of people”. It also includes our knowledge, skills, rules, traditions (Customs and dress), beliefs, values and these are passed down from generations. Our emotions, thoughts and the way we behave are actually a form of social construct; they are even called as the products of our society and our culture. We as a whole become a product of our own society and our culture. All the members belonging to a particular socio-culture wants to be accepted in the society. Thus we are conditioned to think, talk and behave in a particular pattern defined largely by the society. Further, such conditioning gets embedded among the members of the society and which is passed on.
A student asks, “Miss, do you believe in evolution or creation.” How would you as a teacher respond? Would you as a Science teacher reduce science to beliefs? Students may even ask why they are even learning such evolutionary theories when it is clearly written in the Bible about creation by God. Why are we even comparing Religion and Science in the first place? Can’t we just say that creation is a mystery and Science tries to unravel those mysteries which even Sir Isaac Newton has mentioned in his writings. Especially, when students are so bound by religious beliefs, it is rather important for a teacher to help inculcate some important skills in the students which are considered as attributes of Science – the right to question, thinking critically and reasoning logically.
Further, certain undesirable attitudes towards certain subjects are created and propagated through social constructs . For long Math and Physics were considered male subjects while domestic science was reserved for females. It even invoked a fear among females to take up math and physics, and even if it is taken up, a fear psychosis towards the subject would linger. Unless such fears are dispelled, how would one expect them to learn? Such fears will only create limits in their minds from exploring their potentials. Such social constructs acts as a barrier in teaching and learning Science.
The onus is on the teachers to break these barriers constructed through socio-culture, and dogmatic beliefs, and then make the goal of teaching accomplish the objectives of learning Science.