Newspaper clipping  - The Star – 30 October 2009

Education gets makeover from Motshekga

From next year, pupils across the country will do fewer projects and teachers’ workloads will be reduced. This will be the effect of some of the changes to the National Education Curriculum that were announced yesterday by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Education experts say the changes are significant and many see the move as a first in a series of many changes to the much-debated Outcomes Based Education system.

Some of the more significant changes include:

  • Matric pupils will no longer produce portfolios. At present these count for a percentage of their total year-end marks and in 2008 thousands of matric results were not complete because their portfolio marks were lost;
  • Pupils across the grades will do fewer projects in the year;
  • Children in grades 4-6 will do fewer subjects next year – six instead of eight – a move that teachers’ union SADTU says will enable teachers to focus on deeper understanding;
  • English will be introduced earlier than grade 3 for pupils who want to use English as their language of learning. At present, English is introduced for non-mother-tongue pupils when they reach grade 3.

This becomes effective when the new school term starts in January.

Many of the changes are an attempt to limit the time teachers spend on administration so they spend more time in class teaching. From 2010, teachers would only have one file for administration purposes, said Ezra Ramashela, president of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA.
  “They are cutting out the things that don’t work. In a way you could call it a slimming of OBE,” he said.

Raj Brijraj from the South African Council for Educators said:
  “This has been some time coming. But we ask the minister to go one step further and make sure teachers are better equipped for the classroom of today.”

There is also a plan to provide children between grades 4 and 12 with their own textbooks in every subject. Guidelines at present do not exist on textbooks and many provinces do not hand out school textbooks.

Salim Vally, from the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg, warned that many of the problems in education were not necessarily because of the curriculum. He said some of the issues that needed to be dealt with were teacher training, early childhood development and access to books. Vally said only seven percent of schools in the country had libraries. In some provinces, only two percent had libraries.

Gustav Niebuhr, head of curriculum service for the South African Teachers Union, said:
“What is interesting is that it seems we are going back to the old system of doing things. The issue of subject advisers caused much frustration to teachers, making them do unnecessary work.”

Professor Kobus Maree from the University of Pretoria commended Motshekga on her efforts.
“The challenge now is to have teachers in class seven hour a day,” he said.