Please turn on the javascript option.

NSW Department of Education and Communities

Curriculum support for NSW Public Schools

What is Scientific Literacy?

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development's (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) define Scientific literacy as:

"the capacity to use scientific knowledge, to identify questions and to draw evidence-based conclusions in order to understand and help make decisions about the natural world and the changes made to it through human activity."

Daily we read and hear stories about global warming, cloning, genetically modified foods, space exploration, the collection and use of DNA evidence and new drugs that will improve the quality of life and make us look years younger. As a consumer, and as a citizen, we need to critically evaluate the claims made in the name of science and make informed decisions and choices about these and other science based issues. In short, we need to be scientifically literate and more importantly we need to develop scientifically literate students.

A scientifically literate student is able to apply their knowledge of scientific concepts and processes to the evaluation of issues and problems that may arise and to the decisions that they make in their daily life, about the natural world and changes made to it through human activity.

Students who are scientifically literate:

  • Know and understand the scientific concepts and processes required for participation in society
  • Ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about their world
  • Describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena
  • Read with understanding science articles in the popular press and engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions
  • Identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions
  • Express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed
  • Evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it
  • Pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately

Investigating scientifically is the process of inquiry that utilises a systematic procedure to;

  • examine phenomena
  • acquire new knowledge
  • correct and integrate previous knowledge



The process is based on the formulation and testing of hypotheses,  gathering observable and measurable evidence, organisation and analysis of data. Scientific investigations must be repeatable to allow for the verification of data and to establish reliability of conclusions. The process of Investigating Scientifically is represented here as 4 significant facets -Planning, Conducting, Processing and Evaluating.


NEAL's logo

Conditions of use | Contact us