Nigeria as a nation comprises of 36 states and Abuja, the federal capital territory. The federal and the state governments take responsibilities for education at all levels.
The level of poverty, ecological pollution and degradation in Nigeria has been attributed to the level of ignorance and illiteracy among the citizenry. The level of environmental awareness among the schools leavers remains low and the current level of scientific illiteracy coupled with poor student achievement in science is of concern to governments, educational authorities and individuals.
The underlying problems have been traced to many factors including poor teacher preparation resulting in poor teaching skills among science teachers, and inability to determine a realistic and a well-articulated purpose and goals for secondary science education.
Researchers and science educators have over a decade presented several conflicting perspectives on the purpose and goals of science education; National Research Council, 1996; their views about the purpose and goals of science education include to:
- Develop creativity in learners;
- Improve scientific literacy and technological literacy of citizens;
- Prepare citizens for an active contribution towards their own culture; and,
- Inculcate the spirit of scientific thinking in learner.
An adequate understanding of the nature of science and scientific inquiry is the main instructional purpose of science education.
The Queensland School Curriculum Council (1999) notes,
“Science is part of the human quest for understanding and wisdom and reflects human wonder about the world. The study of science as a ‘way of knowing,’ and a ‘way of doing’ can help students reach deeper understandings of the world”
The knowledge of science is important in making crucial decisions on everyday issues and problems, and in the production of informed citizens who are capable of taking personal actions to find solutions to any identified issues and problems.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science argues that an understanding of science concepts and principles is crucial to developing scientific literacy and also for meaningful and productive careers in science and asserts thus,
“More and more jobs today require people who have the ability to learn, reason, think, make decisions, and solve problems and as well engage in scientific discourse”
This assertion supports the goals for science education enumerated in the report of the National Science Education Standards that the knowledge of science concepts and principles would help students to be able to:
- experience the richness and excitement of knowing about and understanding the natural world;
- use appropriate scientific processes and principles in making personal decisions;
- engage intelligently in public discourse and debate about matters of scientific and technological concern; and
- increase their economic productivity through the use of the knowledge, understanding, and skills of the scientifically literate person in their careers.
According to the National Science Education Standards scientifically literate persons are those who can think, ask questions, and provide logical and coherent answers to any situations and everyday experiences.
Thus, a scientifically literate student develops higher order cognitive thinking to identify and evaluate ill-defined problems, to make informed decisions, and also to provide a variety of solutions to any particular problem.
Therefore, understanding the nature of science and scientific inquiry to foster learners’ ability to develop scientific literacy is a purpose and goals for science education.