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I want to begin today with two short personal remarks. My field of research at home is the cultural study of science education. In other words, I am interested in what is commonly called the culture of science and how that becomes interpreted in science education by teacher and curriculum. I am interested in the variation of culture among American students, cultural variations grounded in family and community and brought to the classroom. I am interested in the cultural interactions that are precipitated by the meeting of cultures in the science classroom. In my current work I use worldview concepts to examine the various ways students and teachers have come to understand the natural world and the manner and extent to which science has informed that understanding. I came to this avenue of research from my experiences as a lecturer in science education at Usmano Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, Nigeria. My research in the USA, in other words, is grounded in an African experience.

My research leads me to think anew about an important question that must be answered by any one in science education: What knowledge are we thinking about when we think about the knowledge to be learned as the objective in science education? This question be approached from both internal and external perspectives. The internal perspective is the more obvious one. It is the perspective of science disciplines. From an internal perspective the question is about what topics shall be taught in biology, chemistry, physics, earth science and so on. From an external, or cultural, perspective the question is about what place scientific thought will hold and how will it be interpreted within the worldview of an educator person. This also may be phrased as: What scope and force should science have vis-à-vis other modes of thought such as social, political, religious, aesthetic and so on? Because the external perspective frames the internal perspective, the external perspective is the more fundamental. Using the context of Africa, this paper explores the external perspective on science education.


SLCSP Paper # 141

Published Citation

Cobern, William W. "Traditional Culture and Science Education in Africa: Merely Language Games?" Tokyo Institute of Technology. Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan. 28 September 1996.