Cross-Cultural Studies:

Cognitive science being a multi-disciplinary field, many important studies have drawn upon from sociology and anthropology. These studies, influenced also by trends in the cultural studies of science, have helped in the evolution of ``personal constructivism'' into ``contextual constructivism''.[#!cobern!#]

The obvious dichotomy between westernized science education and the cultural beliefs that children hold, has motivated many studies [#!sayer!#]. George and Glasgow investigated various science-related cultural beliefs in two Caribbean nations, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, in relation to the science syllabi followed by school children there. They described aspects of `street' science in terms of six themes: child rearing, nutrition, pregnancy and birth, temperature changes, changes in the physical environment and household practices and compared these with conventional school science topics such as diet, homeostasis, lightning and light, earthquakes etc. They report that the two bodies of knowledge offer contradictory explanations and traditional beliefs play a major role in causing malnutrition in children in the region. [#!george89!#] Various other studies [#!sayer!#] have suggested use of traditional and local technology to teach science. June George [#!george-88!#] uses the example of the steelband, a primitive hammering instrument that over generations developed into a sophisticated musical instrument. She discusses the possibility of including native technology to foster teaching of science and technology.

In biology, it has been seen that students hold their informal ideas on animistic conceptions of life, death as temporary and personified, and many others despite formal instruction. Brumby found that university students were unable to extend the school-learnt concept of life to unfamiliar contexts [#!brumby-82!#]. Comparative studies done in the Indian context [#!dlips-life!#] [#!dlips-plts!#] of tribal and urban children's conceptions, show that their notions of life, including their likes and dislikes for plants or animals are shaped by the cultural and social significance attached to these.

Gerard Thijs and Ed van den Berg [#!thijscul!#] use data from studies in the Netherlands, Indonesia and various African countries on alternative conceptions in physics and show that most of the documented conceptions bear a striking resemblance across cultures. They conclude that the culture-influenced conceptions generally pertain to Biology, for instance, conceptions of health, illness, fertility, growth etc. while those in physics are universal. The scientific world view represents a foreign sub-culture in all countries and cultures and the spiritual and religious beliefs do not interfere with the cognitive systems. They claim that it is in the student-teacher interactions (classrooms that allow questioning as against those that do not) that culture really interferes. Therefore it is not necessary to confirm alternative conceptions in every culture but necessary to work out the remediation strategies.