Curriculum delivery is a significant feature of any credible educational system globally. Its successful implementation relies heavily on the teaching force that is well-trained, motivated and dedicated. A teaching force that not only understands the content but also knows which delivery techniques to deploy in the classroom to bring the best out of the learners. In South Africa it has been very difficult to effectively train teachers because the curriculum has, since 1994, undergone several reforms in rapid succession.
The initial education transformation took the form of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) and this was followed by introduction of the National Curriculum Statements (NCS) which were also subsequently revised in 2005. The current existing system is now referred to as Curriculum assessment and policy statements, also known as the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS). Education critics argue that although the intention of the changes was to address issues of access, equity and redress and equip learners with requisite skills to cope with the demands and challenges of the real outside world, the speed with which the changes were introduced provided very little time for teachers to master and grasp the new content. In fact, it has been widely reported that at the time, majority of teachers left the profession in droves because they felt under-prepared to keep up with the requirements of the new curriculum.
It is in this context that Kagiso Shanduka Trust (KST), a partnership for impact in education between Kagiso Trust and the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, devised a holistic educational intervention model to help address some of the historical barriers to education particularly in rural based schools. The programme is based on the notion that assistance to schools should be preceded by a thorough needs analysis. Once the needs have been properly identified in a school, the programme is better placed to determine the extent and the kind of intervention measures to be implemented. Typically the programme cover needs such as infrastructure, curriculum development and teacher training, governance and leadership, classroom resourcing and learner support.
To date the programme has been successfully implemented in 222 schools in the Motheo and Fezile Dabi districts in the Free State. Motheo district manager, Themba Mavuso said KST’s intervention strategy is aligned with the Department of Basic Education (DBE)’s curriculum plan. He added that KST constantly attempts to respond to the needs of the individual schools at all time. “We deploy knowledgeable and well-focused curriculum experts so as to ensure that support is provided to educators as per the identified curriculum content gaps so as to improve schools’ results,” he said. Mavuso expressed that other key consideration of the KST programme included the use of sustainable educator intervention approaches. These are training and development as well as subsequent utilization of the subject master teachers.
Related to this, he added, was the ‘Professional Learning Committee’, an initiative by the Department of Education, where trained subject master teachers lead a cluster on a particular topic or matter. Regular monitoring and evaluation of both teachers and learners is also at the centre of the programme, “our monitoring relies on the department’s assessment tools such as the Annual National Assessment (ANAs) in primary schools and grade 12 pass rate as benchmarks for excellence. We also depend on feedback given by schools on the impact of the teacher development intervention programme,” Mavuso added.
Fezile Dabi district manager, Rodney Makube, echoed Mavuso’s sentiments. To him the administration of baseline assessments at the beginning of the programme is very crucial for the success of the programme. He said this is complemented by ‘summative’ evaluations to assess progress while the ANAs assist to track learner improvement. Makube said ongoing support to schools in literacy and numeracy has contributed immensely to the overall education improvement in the province. Fezile Dabi is also the best performing District in accounting in the province of the Free State.
Makube expressed that under “pressing situations, the programme resorts to ‘teach to the test’ approach, in order to assist learners to pass. In this instance, teachers focus only on aspects that will be examinable to increase the learners’ chances of performance improvement,” Makube said. Makube noted that ‘teach to the test’ as an approach has its own limitations and in some quarters it may be interpreted as a “spoon-feeding campaign by schools”. However, the approach is necessary to achieve low hanging achievements in order to improve the school’s morale. Important to note is that teachers and learners should collectively commit to achieving full syllabus coverage and subsequent mastery.
The programme’s also implements a Youth Leadership initiative, which seeks to instill values that empower learners as leaders. That is, learners are empowered to lead their own learning and development at school, community and beyond schooling years. The programme has six distinct core values:
- Awareness: Participants become aware of themselves and their goals;
- Focus: Participants have to become aware of the importance of focus in achieving one’s goals;
- Creativity: Participants recognise their creative side;
- Integrity: Participants reflect on the importance of integrity in leaders and as well as in themselves as individuals;
- Perseverance: Participants are encouraged to identify an experience of themselves persevering through a challenging and frustrating situation on an individual and team basis; and
- Service: The notion of serving and valuing others is instilled in participants
Both Mavuso and Makube are confident the current quality of the curriculum intervention has potential to empower both learners and teachers with critical skills. The success of the KST District Whole School Development model can contribute significantly to the country’s education system if replicated nationally. Schools that are part of the programme have shown remarkable academic improvements at both foundation and senior phases. Last year, DBE’s curriculum delivery report revealed that the Free State province demonstrated improvement from lower grades, with gradual movement towards the national senior certificate.
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