Friday, June 16, 2017

Implication for promoting science and art literacies in the digital age for the future: the case of the Cameroonian context

   Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into   the logic of the present system and bring about conformity, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (5) Paulo Freire


        The words science and art are certainly very common. Each one has its own idea of what they mean. Many people are even scientific and artistic in their everyday lives. Science and art literacy is becoming very important in the digital age because they determine how we will be living. We are in the ICT-Kultur, a specific context which encompasses both our thought processes and ways of acting on nature just with the use of how the mind treats information and communicates it. The ICT-Kultur is a specific point in human evolution which unlike the agricultural revolution and industrial revolutions is affecting humanity at all levels.
Science Slam enables students or individuals to talk  about science in a funny , artistic and interesting  way . Curbing the heavy jargon or using it less or explaining it artiscally.  Photo Didier De Masso
Science (1) should be understood bearing in mind that it:

1)     is a knowledge generating activity which is based on systematically organized bodies of accumulated knowledge obtained through objective observations.
2)    Science is to understand, explain, and predict by specifying the systematic relationships among empirical variables. It must be consensually valid and general. It must not be on authority, sloppy, or simply to “better” mankind.
3) uses unconfounded empirical tests to develop, discover, and explain systematic frameworks within which relationships can be explored.
4)      is not so much concerned with accumulating highly precise and specific data (although it is necessary)  but rather science seeks to discover uniformities and to formulate statements of uniformities and consistencies of relationship between natural phenomena
            Simply said science is the systematic study of nature that enables someone through systematic observation to describe, understand, make links and predict phenomenon occurring in nature. Science seeks to know and to find solutions to problems using research, experimentation. Basically, the scientific attitude is inborn. The way children get to know the world is a clear example. They are curious. They try things, the ask questions, they challenge norms. On the other hand art could be thought of as a product of the mind, an art work “characterized by their possession of, respectively, representational, expressive, and formal properties” (2). Equally very relevant, art is “whatever among artifacts is capable of arousing and sustaining aesthetic experience in suitably prepared subjects we call a work of art.” (3) In other words, art is a mental production made tangible or not relating to our sense of beauty and form in relation to how we perceive nature and ourselves in nature. It sure matters to say that art is very difficult to define because of the history tied to the word. We can even say that the word art in “english” came long after (4) the expressions of art, “work of arts” existed. Technology and techniques precede science just as artefacts precede art. This tells us a lot of things about the mind and our use of language all still embodied within culture. It matters most now since we are living a specific period of human evolution.

Slammer and Model Lydoldollystar. her style is unique. She fetches her words for her slams in her experiences  Photo Art Didier De Masso

What is literacy?
There is no clearer explanation of literacy (5) than UNESCO, Statement for the United Nations Literacy Decade, 2003–2012
“Literacy is about more than reading or writing – it is about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language and culture. Those who use literacy take it for granted – but those who cannot use it are excluded from much communication in today’s world. Indeed, it is the excluded who can best appreciate the notion of “literacy as freedom”.
The digital revolution like all the other revolutions (agricultural, industrial and sexual) is tied to the production of information and knowledge about a variety of things linked to humans modes of life. However, it is only within the digital era that information and knowledge societies have truly emerged with a very precise and unique combination of arts and science. What is a knowledge society? "A knowledge society is a society that is nurtured by its diversity and its capacities" (6). Thus in a way every society is a knowledge society depending on the culture with which things are seen. Yet globalisation and the digital era (6) imposes a new way of seeing things
-          A knowledge society must foster knowledge-sharing
-          The diffusion of information and communication technologies creates new opportunities for development
-          Knowledge societies are not limited to the information society

        Knowledge societies can enable relevant development for the countries of the South (e.g. Cameroon) but under an important condition: that technology transfer be truely effective. Technology transfer that is “the flow of know-how, experience and equipment amongst different stakeholders such as governments, private sector entities, financial institutions, NGOs and research institutions” (7). Better, knowledge transfer can be defined as « the transfer of new technologies from universities and research institutions to parties capable of commercialisation » (7). The need to systematically transfer knowledge produced in universities or even secondary schools to lay persons is imperative for inclusive development and passes through rethinking education, science and arts in the Cameroonian context. The principal of knowledge societies is also rooted in the freedom each citizen has to contribute to development.
Insofar as much as nothing is new on earth, the exact prediction of the future is beyond science and arts. Cameroon’s emergence by 2035 cannot wait since time is fast running. This statement implies a redefinition of what science can do and what arts can imagine essentially. Yet it becomes clear that the present state of our world raises a lot of questions linked to determining how to see the future (Climate change, poverty, (cyber) terrorism, cultural evolution and so on). For African educators it ought to imply rethinking what learning and knowing even means for their students. Students are at the same time products of their environment and producer of it. They are now exposed to various types of information in an era they were not prepared for. They have to learn things completely alien to their culture. The digital era for the typical African learner is a psychological and culture shock. Could this explain the several “deviances” observed on the Cameroonian cyberspace? The role of educators to prepare learners to what they will experience in cyberspace becomes more than ever a necessity.
Human development has passed through successive revolutions (agricultural revolution, through the industrial revolutions till the digital revolution). But there have been important inequalities in the distribution of wealth. The digital age has changed the way we acquire, use, organise information and knowledge. Within the Cameroonian context it can change the way we become wealthy (6, 7). Moreover, it is changing how we think and how we produce information and knowledge. If the aim of old or new globalisation is linked to inter-connectedness (7) paradoxically, our knowledge societies have become too categorized and polarised. The pedagogy of subjects thought in schools and formal schooling promote specialisation whereas global awareness brought about by globalisation not at all. This dichotomy is harmful for the educational system and the future adults which will result from the system. Again it is not a simple task to reflect on the origin of how we know, what we can know, what should be known. It even seems to be an irrational endeavour. Indeed, it should be for knowing in itself is not just a physiological act. Moreover, knowing with rigour and methodologically requires a context.
In which context do Cameroonian students learn? The situation is piteous. Most educational communities are not conducive for learning. Albeit the use of traditional learning methods which studies show are very effective (10, 11), Cameroonian children and youths still are lagging in fundamental 21st century skills. Promoting science and art literacies albeit the oddness it might imply means that children, youths, students and learners in general should be given various opportunities to learn, know and share knowledge.Educators should adapt to the new ay learning is occuring. Importantly it is more than a necessity for the future generation of children, and youths born and to be born within the digital age.
The problems that the digital revolution possesses are tremendous and numerous. It re-questions the cultural elements of humanity (12). More paradoxically not only does culture shape the way ICTs (12) are used but ICTs are now shaping human culture and its specificities. In other words, ICTs is shaping the way science and art are thought, made and “sold”. It’s a serious problem when we know diversity is inherent to nature and humans been part of it. More critical is the fact that knowledge societies are societies of cultural diversity. Culture encompasses a wide variety of practices, thought processes, attitudes and behaviours which have considerably enabled since the foundation of humanity man to live and enjoy life (1). Culture is intrinsic to the human and its social nature. Humanity is developing, just like a foetus in the womb of a mother. This maturity is indicative of the power of the mind. For the mind is the source of all man’s production ceteris paribus and stricto largo. The present state of human’s evolution is historical and very fundamental for humanity for it poses fundamental questions whose solutions might prove salutary.  The arts, technology and science of information has been very diversified across the history of mankind. But the digital age proves to be specific in this process of human evolution  . It still matters to talk about what science is science it is at the base of human’s activities from a developmental perspective.

“Science is both a body of knowledge and the process used to expand and revise it. The body of knowledge includes discrete facts, patterns that order them, and explanations of why those patterns exist. The process of expanding and revising that body of knowledge has many elements, among them observation, experimentation, mathematical analysis, and computer modeling. All can be used to test new explanations and re-examine old ones. The results of the process are shaped, but not determined, by the cultural context in which it takes place: influences such as political tensions, economic pressures, religious beliefs, personal ambitions, and institutional rivalries” (13)
the cultural diversity of cameroon enables students. and educators to construct meaning and knowlegde in funny and artistic ways. Here student presenting "Obom" Beti-fang traditional material used for clothing  Photo Didier De Masso
On the 10th of June at the Goethe Institute Kamerun was organised the fifth edition of the Science slam.  Since Our last participation in the very first science slam there has been a considerable improvement in the diversity of thematic and approaches to tackle the thematic. In fact, we think that the specific ways of tackling the different scientific questions and problems is linked the cultural unique in Cameroon. There is gradually a need for women, and youths to express their thoughts and their know-how (social empowerment). The fifth edition of the science slam was a mosaic of colours reflecting truly the diversity of culture and needs of the Cameroonians society: A society which needs all sorts of people for an inclusive development.

The intrinsic elelemnt of diversity in the knowlegde socities implies the participation of people with disabilities, women, and minorities. Photo Didier De masso
Science slam puts into the hands of the Cameroonian learner a new medium for intellectual expression totally different from the traditional school system. Along with “Ma These en 180 seconde” organised by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie and Institut Français du Cameroun, science slam exposes Cameroonian educators and learns to new ways of seeing learning and education. The adjustment to this way of seeing the world brought about by the science slam has a number of implications for educators, policy makers, youth, women and students
-          A complete redefinition of education
-    Guidance and counselling services should be fully equipped at all levels of the Cameroonian society to meet up with the challenges brought about by the digital economy and era.
-       Cameroonian Youths should consider their living context as a powerful source of all sorts of mental creations which result with hard work into scientific discoveries or fabulous master pieces.
-     Women participation in sciences most be encouraged at all levels for women’s ways of representing reality proves in most cases to be beneficial for the many.
-       For sustainable development the Cameroonian and global society should be totally inclusive. Disability should not be a hindrance.
-        Empowerment and support of youths and women in scientific endeavours is necessary
Participants of the Fith edition of science slam  Photo Didier De Masso
It is  in a mosaic of sounds, colours, and scientific thematics that the science slam  June 2017 session at the Goethe Institute Kamerun ended, attended by almost 100 participants. We think that the pedagogic usefulness of science slam should be encouraged by all educators of all levels of the educational system, and by parents. It is not an option, for science and art make our universe. They are systematically in harmony and enable us to live. We need to know, seek for knowledge and express our creativity in the most conducive ways possible. This will enable Cameroon to be more competitive and contribute effectively to the knowledge society as a whole. Promoting science and art literacies are thus fundamental necessities within the Cameroonian context. On to them is based inclusive  and suistainable development and emergence.
(1)       Definition of science. Retrieved from on 16th June 2017
(2)   Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2007). Definition of arts. Retrieved from 16th June 2017.
(3)  Den,T., J. (2003).The Nature of Concepts and the Definition of Art
(4)       The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology 2003).. Oxford University Press         
(5) Media and Information Literacy retrieved from on 16th June 2017
(6)       UNESCO (2005). Towards Knowledge Societies. Unesco Publishing
(7)   MEKONGO, E., P. (2017).The Invaluable Tool of Economic Growth retrieved from on 16th June 2017
(8)       Demassosso, B., D. (2014).How India and Africa Can collaborate to co-create a bright future? INDIAFRICA Winning Essay Contest.
(9) Brown, S., J. (n.d). Learning in the Digital Age retrieved from on 16th June 2017
(10)   Omolewa, M. (2007). Traditional African modes of education: their relevance in the modern world. International Review of Education.53:593–612. DOI 10.1007/s11159-007-9060-1.
(11)   Nsamenang, A., B. & Tchombe , M ., S., T. (2011). Handbook of African Education Theories And Practices : A generative teacher education curriculum . ISBN  : 978-9956-444-64-2
(12)   Frank Thomas Leslie Haddon Rosemarie Gilligan Peter Heinzmann Chantal de Gournay Cultural Factors Shaping the Experience of ICTs: An Exploratory Review In Haddon, (Ed.) (2005) International Collaborative Research. Cross-cultural Differences and Cultures of Research, COST, Brussels
(13)   A. Bowdoin Van Riper (2002) Science in popular culture: A Reference Guide. Westport. Greenwood press

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