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The Primary School Science curriculum and its role in the conservation of natural resources in Kenya
Our society depends on the maintenance and protection of ecosystems. Yet resources in many ecosystems are often over-exploited or managed in non-sustainable ways. Urban development, agricultural, mining, fisheries and forestry practices, can threaten the very existence of some ecosystems and alter or eliminate important habitats, biodiversity, and people’s way of life. Global climate change presents the largest uncertainty and threat to the sustainability of our present natural resources and ecosystems. To maintain healthy ecosystems we have to strive to achieve a balance between society’s ever-increasing need for goods and services and protection of natural environments, and do so in an era of changing climate.
Education on Natural Resources Conservation provides pupils with skills and knowledge to meet such challenges. Natural resources conservation is an important issue throughout Kenya and the world. As a society, we choose which natural resources to use, and in what manner these uses will take place. Conservation science is concerned with the maintenance of habitats, the persistence of diverse natural resources, an understanding of human behaviors, and recognizes that a balance is needed among environmental, social, economic, cultural, and aesthetic values. Conservation scientists help society make the best possible environmental choices for achieving resource sustainability. Notably, conservation of important natural resources can only be attained through education. This can be attained through mainstreaming the subject in the curriculum at a primary school level.
Essentially, a curriculum is more than a list of topics to be covered by an educational programme, for which the more commonly accepted word is a ‘syllabus’. A curriculum is first of all a policy statement about a piece of education, and secondly an indication as to the ways in which that policy is to be realised through a programme of action. In practice, though, a curriculum is more than even this; it is useful to think of it as being much wider. As a working definition, it is the sum of all the activities, experiences and learning opportunities for which an institution (such as the Society) or a teacher (such as a faculty member) takes responsibility – either deliberately or by default. This includes in such a broad concept of curriculum the formal and the informal, the overt and the covert, the recognised and the overlooked, the intentional and the unintentional (Disinger, 1998).
A curriculum is determined as much by what is not offered, and what has been rejected, as it is by positive actions. And very importantly the curriculum that actually happens – that is what is realised in practice – includes informal contact between teachers and learners as well as between the learners themselves, and this has been termed ‘the hidden curriculum’ which often has as much influence on what is learnt as the formal curriculum that is written down as a set of intentions. And it includes what you decide to do on the spur of the moment. So in fact it is useful to think of there being three faces to a curriculum: the curriculum on paper; the curriculum in action; and the curriculum that participants actually learn.
Natural resources refer to material source of wealth, such as timber, fresh water, or a mineral deposit, that occurs in a natural state and has economic value. Usually, the rate of exploitation of these resources supersedes the rate of their regeneration. Further, anthropological activities such as farming and industrialization lead to their disintegration. Incorporation of relative knowledge regarding their conservation in education offers a viable option through which they can b conserved and preserved. This is due to the fact that education seeks to not only inculcate important values but to also alter perceptions regarding a given subject.
2.0: The Science Curriculum
The science curriculum offers the most ideal option of teaching natural resource conservation. This was incorporated in the education system during its inception and has undergone various challenges that have in return impacted differently on both its content and reception by students. Essentially, science is taught right from the pre primary level to standard eight and is examined by the Kenya National Examination Council at the end of the primary school education. It is all inclusive and entails both theory and practical lessons that expose the students to a wide range of knowledge with respect to the physical process and how humans contribute to their occurrence. Currently, it incorporates both physical and social sciences and the respective subjects include science and social education and ethics.
The curriculum is structured in such a way that simpler concepts are taught at the lower level and it becomes complex with time. The topics that are taught at each level are relatively similar, only that the depth and complexity of each differs considerably. Thus at the level of standard one, students are exposed to basic concepts which are useful in later stages. Put differently, the curriculum tends to be progressive. The topics that are taught in the subject range from the physical environment to the people in Kenya and mode of governance. Typically, the topic is allocated approximately three hours in each week and it is taught every day.
The government has made considerable efforts to ensure that all learning institutions have sufficient and relevant facilities .............
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