South African Education is Doomed until Teachers are Taught

Schooling teaching curriculum outcome-based education learning
Wednesday, 14 July, 2010 - 13:32

The Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, recently announced that a new national curriculum will replace outcome-based education (OBE) to meet today’s challenges. Unlike the OBE, the new curriculum reduces the administrative burden on teachers to allow them to focus on teaching. However, it is not saying anything about teacher development, something that government should invest in to capacitate teachers to implement the new curriculum

The Minister of Basic Education’s statement on the review of the national curriculum (6 July 2010) highlights the fact that no curriculum can be static. The curriculum should meet the present and potential needs of the country and it has been widely acknowledged there are some glaring gaps in the curriculum which needed to be addressed in order for learners to progress from the General Education and Training (GET) to the Further Education and Training (FET) phase smoothly.
But, are the people in the trenches – the school management teams, the teachers, the parents and the learners – going to be supported in the process?

The review has sensibly advised that the teachers’ administrative load be reduced, thereby giving them more time to do what they are there to do – be in a classroom teaching. The immediate relief for teachers, and learners, is that there will be a reduction in the number of projects learners need to complete, portfolios have been done away with and there will be no common task assessments (CTAs) for grade 9. In addition the Minister has set up the following three committees:

  • The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements Ministerial Project Committee;
  • The Committee for the Reduction of Learning Areas in the Intermediate Phase in the GET band; and
  • The Learning and Teaching Support Materials Committee

These are all intended to ensure that the curriculum is streamlined, the learning areas (now back to being called subjects) are reduced in the Intermediate Phase, and that teachers have the relevant learning and teaching support materials. This is part of the long term plan Schooling 2025: the Department of Basic Education’s Action Plan.

In order to ensure that our learners are achieving at the correct level, English will be introduced in grade 1 as a First Additional Language and will not replace mother tongue or home language in the early grades. Externally set assessments will be set at grades three, six and nine in literacy (home and first additional language) and in numeracy/ mathematics. There will be a common set of symbols to rate learner performance from grade R – grade 12 to ensure consistency.

Like the delicious chocolate cake in the shop window – this looks good. However, the proof is in the eating.

In order to achieve the objectives of ‘Schooling 2025’ it is imperative that school leadership and teachers are capable of ensuring the delivery of the curriculum. It is of concern that there is no reference, in this review, to teacher development.

Not only does there need to be a commitment to the development of teachers already in the system, but we need to be encouraging top students to enter the profession and provide them with the incentives to stay. An evolving curriculum requires teachers who can evolve at the same pace as the world around them so that they can constantly be challenging their learners. A curriculum can only be as good as the teacher delivering it, and the management of the process within a school. Teachers need to be kept up to date with the curriculum especially in subjects that are changing rapidly like maths, science and language, and school management needs to ensure that they are provided with the physical resources required to do this.

The Minister will soon release a plan called Action Plan 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025 which will be a ‘comprehensive turnaround plan for the schooling sector’. For this to work it will have to address the issue of teacher training and development in the implementation of the curriculum.

- Jane Roach Corporation Social Investments specialist in education at Tshikululu Social Investment.

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