International Review of Education

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 381–401 | Cite as

A rights-based approach to science literacy using local languages: Contextualising inquiry-based learning in Africa

Original Paper

Abstract

This article addresses the importance of teaching and learning science in local languages. The author argues that acknowledging local knowledge and using local languages in science education while emphasising inquiry-based learning improve teaching and learning science. She frames her arguments with the theory of inquiry, which draws on perspectives of both dominant and non-dominant cultures with a focus on science literacy as a human right. She first examines key assumptions about knowledge which inform mainstream educational research and practice. She then argues for an emphasis on contextualised learning as a right in education. This means accounting for contextualised knowledge and resisting the current trend towards de-contextualisation of curricula. This trend is reflected in Zanzibar’s recent curriculum reform, in which English replaced Kiswahili as the language of instruction (LOI) in the last two years of primary school. The author’s own research during the initial stage of the change (2010–2015) revealed that the effect has in fact proven to be counterproductive, with educational quality deteriorating further rather than improving. Arguing that language is essential to inquiry-based learning, she introduces a new didactic model which integrates alternative assumptions about the value of local knowledge and local languages in the teaching and learning of science subjects. In practical terms, the model is designed to address key science concepts through multiple modalities – “do it, say it, read it, write it” – a “hands-on” experiential combination which, she posits, may form a new platform for innovation based on a unique mix of local and global knowledge, and facilitate genuine science literacy. She provides examples from cutting-edge educational research and practice that illustrate this new model of teaching and learning science. This model has the potential to improve learning while supporting local languages and culture, giving local languages their rightful place in all aspects of education.

Keywords

Local languages Science teaching and learning Theory of inquiry Rights in education Science literacy Formal and non-formal education 

Résumé

Approche de l’enseignement scientifique fondée sur les droits via les langues locales: contextualiser en Afrique l’apprentissage par l’enquête – Cet article traite de l’importance d’enseigner et d’apprendre les sciences en langues locales. L’auteure soutient que le fait de tenir compte du savoir autochtone et d’utiliser les langues locales dans l’enseignement des sciences, tout en favorisant l’apprentissage fondé sur l’exploration et l’expérimentation, améliore l’enseignement et l’apprentissage scientifiques. Elle articule son argumentation autour de la théorie de l’enquête inspirée des perspectives de cultures tant dominantes que non dominantes, avec un accent sur l’enseignement scientifique entendu comme droit fondamental. Elle aborde en premier lieu les hypothèses de base sur les connaissances qui sous-tendent la recherche et la pratique éducatives courantes. Elle argumente ensuite en faveur de l’apprentissage contextualisé, considéré comme priorité et comme droit éducatif. Cette démarche implique de prendre en compte un savoir contextualisé et de résister à la tendance actuelle en faveur d’une décontextualisation des programmes éducatifs. Cette tendance se reflète dans la récente réforme du programme scolaire à Zanzibar, qui remplace le kiswahili par l’anglais comme langue d’instruction durant les deux dernières années de l’enseignement primaire. L’étude de l’auteure menée au cours de la première phase de cette réforme (2010–2015) révèle que l’impact s’avère finalement contre-productif, avec une nouvelle baisse au lieu d’une hausse de la qualité de l’éducation. S’appuyant sur l’argument que la langue est décisive dans l’apprentissage fondé sur la recherche d’informations, l’auteure présente un nouveau modèle didactique intégrant d’autres hypothèses sur la valeur du savoir autochtone et des langues locales dans l’enseignement et l’apprentissage des sujets scientifiques. Concrètement, ce modèle est conçu pour traiter les concepts scientifiques de base au moyen de modalités multiples – faire, dire, lire, écrire – c’est-à-dire d’un ensemble expérimental pratique. Selon elle, ce dernier pourrait former une nouvelle base pour l’innovation constituée d’une gamme unique de connaissances locales et mondiales, en outre faciliter une éducation scientifique effective. Elle fournit des exemples d’études et de pratiques éducatives pionnières illustrant ce nouveau modèle d’enseignement et d’apprentissage des sciences. Il renferme le potentiel d’optimiser l’apprentissage tout en soutenant la culture et les langues locales, et donnant à ces dernières leur juste place dans tous les aspects de l’enseignement.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California-BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.University of OsloOsloNorway

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