FET Life Sciences

‘Life Sciences’ is the scientific study of living things from molecular level to their interactions with one another and their environments. To be accepted as a science, it is necessary to use certain methods for broadening existing knowledge, or discovering new things. These methods must lend themselves to replication and a systematic approach to scientific inquiry. The methods include formulating hypotheses and carrying out investigations and experiments as objectively as possible to test these hypotheses. Repeated investigations are carried out and adapted. The methods and results are analysed, evaluated and debated before the community of scientists accepts them as valid.

Knowledge production in science is an ongoing endeavour that usually happens gradually but, occasionally, knowledge and insights take a leap forward as new knowledge, or a new theory, replaces what was previously accepted. As with all knowledge, scientific knowledge changes over time as scientists improve their knowledge and understanding and as people change their views of the world around them. Scientific investigations are mostly about things that are poorly understood or not understood at all. Scientists are frequently involved in debates and disagreements. As more people take on such investigations, they tend to reach consensus about the ways in which the world works. The science theory that is taught in schools has been tested and is generally accepted. A good teacher will inform learners of debates and arguments among the scientists who were the first to investigate a phenomenon.

Scientists continue to explore the unknown. They tackle questions to which no-one has definite answers, such as: ‘Why is the climate changing?’; ‘What is causing the universe to expand?’; ‘What causes the Earth’s magnetic field to change?’; and ‘What, exactly, is the human mind?’. No one knows for sure.

By studying and learning about Life Sciences, learners will develop:

  • their knowledge of key biological concepts, processes, systems and theories;
  • an ability to critically evaluate and debate scientific issues and processes;
  • greater awareness of the ways in which biotechnology and knowledge of Life Sciences have benefitedhumankind;
  • an understanding of the ways in which humans have impacted negatively on the environment and organismsliving in it;
  • a deep appreciation of the unique diversity of past and present biomes in Southern Africa and the importanceof conservation;
  • an awareness of what it means to be a responsible citizen in terms of the environment and life-style choicesthat they make;
  • an awareness of South African scientists’ contributions;
  • scientific skills and ways of thinking scientifically that enable them to see the flaws in pseudo-science inpopular media; and
  • a level of academic and scientific literacy that enables them to read, talk about, write and think about biological processes, concepts and investigations.

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Life Sciences is the study of life at various levels of organisation and comprises a variety of sub-disciplines, or specialisations, such as:

  • Biochemistry;
  • Biotechnology;
  • Microbiology;
  • Genetics;
  • Zoology;
  • Botany;
  • Entomology;
  • Physiology (plant and animal);
  • Anatomy (plant and animal);
  • Morphology (plant and animal);
  • Taxonomy (plant and animal);
  • Environmental Studies; and
  • Sociobiology (animal behaviour).

At school level, all of these sub-disciplines are introduced, to varying degrees, to provide a broad overview of the subject, Life Sciences. The three main reasons for taking Life Sciences are:

  • to provide useful knowledge and skills that are needed in everyday life
  • to expose learners to the scope of biological studies to stimulate interest in and create awareness of possiblespecialisations; and
  • to provide a sufficient background for further studies in one or more of the biological sub-disciplines.

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