Original Research: Social Responsibility and Education

Indigenous knowledge in the life sciences classroom: Science, pseudo-science or a missing link?

Josef J. de Beer, Ben-Erik van Wyk
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 31, No 1 | a368 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v31i1.368 | © 2012 Josef J. de Beer, Ben-Erik van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 June 2012 | Published: 27 November 2012

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Josef J. de Beer, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Ben-Erik van Wyk, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Although the life sciences curriculum asks for the inclusion of indigenous knowledge systems in the classroom, it is either done very superficially by only providing an example or two, or ignored completely. This mixed-methods study (with emphasis on the qualitative inquiry) on the status of indigenous knowledge in the life sciences classroom in Gauteng and Limpopo, once again echoed what Rogan and Grayston (2003) reported: the South African curriculum process focuses too much on the what (the curriculum itself) at the expense of the how (the implementation of the curriculum). Although the progressive curriculum makes it clear that indigenous knowledge should be addressed, it provides very little guidance to teachers on how this should be done. Two problems are highlighted in this article: teachers’ lack of pedagogical content knowledge in addressing indigenous knowledge systems, as well as their poor understanding of the nature of science. A teacher’s social responsibility also entails making learners aware of the cultural and practical value of indigenous knowledge, and stimulating learners’ interest in scientific fields such as ethnobotany and chemotaxonomy.


Indigenous knowledge; life sciences teaching; nature of science


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