The meaning of relevant science in townships in Cape Town.
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This study explores the meaning of relevant science in two townships in Cape Town. Reform in science education, both nationally and internationally has placed much emphasis on the fact that science education should be relevant. The research conducted in this study attempts to interpret different dimensions of relevance. This study explores not only how learners make meaning of their everyday lives, but what 'science' they deem to be relevant and worth learning within this context. It acknowledges the important role of teachers in establishing what learners perceive to be relevant. The theory of social constructivism is suited to this investigation, in its recognition of the roles of children's knowledge, purposes, social groups and interactions in learning. The children in this study often have personal lives steeped in poverty, abuse and violence. The curriculum design is also guided by social constructivist theories. However, a second version of constructivism, critical constructivism, is used to frame the second phase of the study. A critical constructivist approach raises questions about the type of knowledge learners interact with. In critical constructivism, science and its methods, the curriculum and the classroom are opened up to critical inquiry. Teachers' knowledge of their learners is used to design science lessons that are more meaningful, relevant and personalised. The individual lessons, as well as the lesson series that are used in this study are designed as examples of relevant science, while the lesson series also serves as a tool to elicit deeper understandings of what learners in this particular context experience as relevant to their lives. Although the main focus of this research is the relevance of using everyday knowledge in the classroom, bringing everyday knowledge into the classroom allows for the inclusion of a number of dimensions of relevance. The different ways in which learners respond to the science lessons in both phases are discussed as five outcomes. The findings of the research show that the essence of a relevant science curriculum lies in a particular design. This design accommodates many dimensions of relevance, such as relevant content, context and purposes. Such as design helps learners to negotiate the difficult border between the formal school environment and the informal home environment. A relevant curriculum acknowledges that science education is more than only science, but also recognises the implications for science curriculum development. This study is part of a larger project which is a comprehensive evaluation of the Primary Science Programme (PSP). The PSP gave the research its full support as the investigation of relevance may have an influence on curriculum design.