In the current knowledge era, learners, as the future of our world, require both knowledge and skills and a moral sense and values. The world is beset with diverse and evolving challenges fundamentally related to Life Sciences, which require certain skills and virtues that are not emphasised by current educational practice in schools. My quest to discover the ultimate consequences of learners’ Life Science learning within the context of the existing prescribed Life Sciences Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) was prompted by my personal experience as a high school learner and my desire to see learners have rewarding and relevant educational experiences.
Although the CAPS of the South African Department of Basic Education aims at providing a link between Life Sciences in the classroom and its everyday application in learners’ lives, in practice it does not seem to achieve its purpose of equipping Life Science learners to be independent problem solvers of life challenges, as stated in its aims.
This qualitative case study explored learners’ perceptions of Life Sciences as an essential factor for everyday life and scientific human challenge. The perceptions of 12 purposively selected learners from Grades 8–12 were explored by using semi-structured interviews, open-ended questionnaires, non-participant and quasi-participant observations, elicited materials, and field observation as data collecting instruments.
The transcripts of the semi-structured interviews and open-ended questionnaires were analysed using constant comparative analysis while data from the other instruments were used in corroborating or refuting the data from the semi-structured and open-ended questionnaire.
The findings indicate that learners perceive their life science learning as only for academic progress with just a few indicating a desire to pursue a science-based university degree. Furthermore, learners did not see Life Sciences as useful for application in their day-today life. However, with the learning of human anatomy, the participants assumed, somehow, that it would be necessary to understand how their body works, but not to the extent of applying the knowledge in their daily lives and decision making. In this regard the Life
Sciences curriculum fails to prepare learners to acquire the attributes required to successfully function in the 21st century.