PLEASE NOTE: DATE EXTENSION FOR PUBLIC COMMENT: 18 October 2010
As per previous posts on this issue, I’d like to remind readers about the proposed changes in the South African Curriculum and the opportunity for parents, teachers and interested parties to comment on these changes. Monday 27th is the last day in which to put forward your comments for the Intermediate and Senior Phases (Grade 4-9). October 11th is the cut off for comments with regards to the Foundation Phase (Grades 1-3) curriculum changes.
If you are not aware of the proposed changes please see these posts:
National Curriculum Statement: Education in South Africa – this post outlines what our rights and responsibilities are as concerned citizens in relation to the education policy.
CAPS Feedback – this post outlines exactly how to formulate your letter and to whom to send it to.
Most importantly … if you’re keen to know what some of the main objections to the curriculum are, please open this letter (see link below) from the Pestalozzi Trust which outlines their main objections and concerns. It is quite acceptable to forward this letter with a covering letter of your own, stating that you concur with the contents, instead of formulating your own letter. Worth it, if you’re running out of time!
Below, I address some of my main concerns about the proposed curriculum. This is by no means exhaustive as it only covers that which I’ve been able to glean in the very short time given to the public to read and comment on the curriculum. It also doesn’t take into account the proposed changes in the Foundation Phase, as these changes have not all been released to the public yet. I don’t claim to have a complete handle on all that is proposed or has been proposed in the past. For what it is worth, these are my thoughts:
- Focus has shifted away from skills-based education (OBE) back to content-based education of our previous government. Most alarming is that the content is specified right down to the half hour of every day of every week of every term. While this is helpful for teachers with little to no resources, it is not healthy for an entire population to be taught the exact same material without scope for alternate views; options to focus on region-specific opportunities of study and allowing parents/teachers to introduce content material that makes best use of their resources and gifts.
- Religious studies has been re-introduced, despite being removed from the previous curriculum. In discussing the proposed changes to Curriculum 2005 in 2002, many hot beds of contention were discussed. Religious studies was one of these. Much of it was removed after much discussion and pressure from the public. In this new, revised version, it seems as much of the previously debated issues have been “slipped” back in.
- The Education Department requires that all religions are taught with equal weight and value. While the ideal may be laudable, the execution is impossible, because the ideal, in itself, actually presents either a pluralistic religious stand point or a secular humanist stand point. Therefore, students will learn about all other religions through a religious filter that ultimately defines how they are supposed to view the said religions.
- Religious Studies has been used as a catch-all for all areas of civil responsibility and general citizenship. For example, under the banner of Religious Studies, students are required to learn about looking after the environment; protecting animals; being “safe” from sexual abuse; making responsible decisions such as obeying traffic rules all from a religious perspective. Not only are most of these issues more easily taught outside of the realm of religion, but also, learning about sexual abuse and “being safe” under the banner of all religions is confusing and misguided at best. Take, for example, that in many religions, what is deemed as sexual abuse according to our constitution, is part and parcel of normal religious practise – Hindu temple prostitutes for example, or child arranged marriages for another.
- All educational institutions for school-going aged children will be required to follow the details of this curriculum. Although the SA Schools Act calls for independent and home schools to follow the minimum requirements of the National Curriculum, the proposed revised curriculum does not lay down a minimum requirement. Therefore, we would be required to follow the curriculum as it is proposed, in all the detail proposed. This is not only unwise, as outlined above, but it is also not feasible for many private and home schools currently use different curricula. Requiring all institutions to learn the very same specific content is attempting to create a narrow-minded society with none of the diversity that is necessary for freedom and growth.
- Assessment requirements are rigid and specific and do not cater for the home schooling set up. Assessments are necessary in a classroom set up where teachers need to provide parents with adequate feedback and in order for teachers to keep track of how students are doing. In a home school environment, parents can see from a day-to-day basis how their children are doing. Dozens of varying forms of assessment are unnecessary and take up valuable time, better utilised elsewhere. Again, the curriculum has not taken into account the SA Schools Act’s requirement of homeschoolers to follow the minimum requirements of the National Curriculum, and so, again, no provisos are built in to accommodate the home schooling families.
It is all fine and well making criticisms without suggestions. Again, while I have not had the luxury of time to formulate my thoughts on these topics carefully, I do have one or two suggestions that may be worth while. Click ‘read more’ to follow through to these.
Suggestion to Change Format and Weight of Curriculum Requirements:
I would suggest that the Department of Education (DOE) inserts a tier-like structure into the curriculum. The overarching tier will cover the most broad and fundamental outcomes for each subject. The second tier would cover more specific outcomes and broad content topics. The third tier would cover a sample curriculum that all schools could use, but would not be bound by. This tier would look similar in detail of content that the current curriculum proposes and would be beneficial particularly to under-resourced schools.
Grade 9 History, Term 1,
Overarching Requirements: Conflict Resolution in South African History
General Requirements: Period of 1910-1945, highlighting perspectives of Black South African, generally, and specifically to the child’s province; White Afrikaans and English South Africans, generally and specifically to the child’s province and so on….
Specific Requirements: (Example Curriculum): insert detailed content as per current curriculum proposal as an example for schools to use as a guideline
The overarching requirements need not be fixed to a specific general requirement. Each phase should include a selection of overarching requirements that should all be covered while the child moves through that particular phase. Teachers should be given the freedom to plan which content/skills best falls under which of the overarching and/or general requirements.
In this way, home and private schools can easily and honestly tailor their current programmes to fit the overarching requirements. Thus creating diversity in knowledge and skills, but also ensuring that certain fundamental basics are maintained.
Suggestions with regards to religious studies:
In terms of religious studies, I would suggest that since we do live in a multi-religious land, it would benefit students to learn at least a little about each other’s religions. However, it should not be the vehicle through which all areas of society are examined. I think that schools should include religious studies as a segment of the broader subject of Life Skills. I would suggest that it is clearly presented from a secular humanist point of view – in other words, the segment is introduced by explaining what secular humanism is and what it means in terms of other religions. That way, students should hopefully have a clear understanding as to where the bias lies in interpretation of religious studies. Thereafter, studies should only include a basic overview of religions in terms of basic doctrine and culture. Students should be given the opportunity to present their own religions and/or given opportunities to dialogue. It should not be pivotal to all studies, as each student should be given the freedom to study at school through the lens of his/her own worldview.
Do you have any suggestions you’d like to add here? Please feel free to comment. There is great value in diversity of opinion!