On Zoological (Il)Literacy at Slovak Grammar Schools

Valerián Franc, Zuzana Biganičová


volume: 30
year: 2021
issue: 4
fulltext: PDF

online publishing date: 17/2/2022
DOI: 10.14712/25337556.2021.4.2
ISSN (Online): 2533-7556

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This article is meant for a wider educational and scientific public. It reflects the results of our monitoring of the zoological literacy of students at selected grammar schools in the Prešov region. (We assume that analogous or very similar results would also be found in other regions of Slovakia.) This monitoring was conducted in 2013 by a test. The test was taken by 318 students, including 151 fourth-grade students and 167 third-grade students(111 boys and 207 girls). The test consisted of 16 theoretical and 22 practical questions. The task of the practical part of the test was to identify 22 species of known and easily identifiable animals, including 9 protected species. From a knowledge perspective, the results of the test were very disappointing. The correct answers in the theoretical part of the test was at 31%, less than one third. The results of the practical part of the test were even worse: 28.8%, and after excluding three rather simple species (the broad-bodied chaser, the fire salamander, and the Eurasian otter), only 18.75%. The results of the monitoring indicate the sad fact that contemporary youth know almost nothing about the natural world. An appalling fact is that only one student (0.3%) was able to identify the clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne), despite its being a protected species of European importance! This highly unfavorable state of affairs (approaching zoological illiteracy) is a consequence of the sterile, verbal-and-theoretical model of biology education. Unfortunately, the teaching of the subject is missing the very topic which is “the most biological”: individual plant and animal species and their higher taxa (and as a note: the huge kingdom of fungi is almost completely over-looked). The rapid decline of zoological (and, in general, biological) literacy has a dire effect and especially will have such effect in the more distant future. The number of people in Slovakia that are able to determine knowledgeably individual species of organisms (including plants, fungi, vertebrates, mollusks, spiders, beetles, and bugs) is constantly decreasing. If this trend continues for another 20 years, studies of flora and fauna in Slovakia will be carried out by foreign specialists, as is the case in the Third World. Unfortunately, it seems that this development will benefit some. When we know little about the flora and fauna of the various regions and sites of Slovakia, it might be exploited even more and “without remorse“. The fundamental problem is how to change this unsustainable situation. The answer is crystal clear. In order to achieve a gradual, and at least partial, improvement, a comprehensive and fundamental revision of the model of teaching biology in primary schools and especially grammar schools is necessary; including, of course, the curricula and textbooks. There is an urgent need to start a public discussion on this issue.


biology, zoology, knowledge, student

fulltext (PDF )



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