This article sets out to provide an overview of scientific literacy specifically related to whether emphasis is placed on the ‘science’ or the ‘literacy’ aspect, accepting that literacy, wherever used, is wider than simply reading and writing. It does this from a general rather than a country perspective. The emphasis in giving meaning to scientific literacy is placed on the literacy component in recognition of the trend towards relating scientific literacy to skills and values appropriate for a responsible citizen. Rejected is a consideration that scientific literacy is related to an emphasis on the acquisition of content and this is especially considered, noting the social bias and cultural embedding of science. The emphasis on enhancing scientific literacy is placed on an appreciation of the nature of science, the development of personal attributes and the acquisition of socioscientific skills and values.
Furthermore, in teaching towards this view of scientific literacy, a key component is seen as relevance and a model of relevance for science teaching is put forward based on relevance being seen from two perspectives. Relevance from both perspectives is very much geared to the view that scientific literacy is best taught by seeing science education as ‘education through science’ as opposed to ‘science through education.’