Newspaper clipping – The Mercury – 7 July 2010

Radical school changes welcomed

Pupils and teachers will have their workloads reduced when the new school year starts next year, thanks to a new school curriculum announced yesterday.

Addressing a media briefing on the review of the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement in Pretoria yesterday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the reviewed statement would allow for more centralized teaching methods and the narrowing down of subject material for pupils.

It would mean fundamental changes in the workloads of both pupils and teachers. These include:

  • Pupils will have the option of learning in their mother tongue for the first three years of school.
  • A reduction in the number of projects for pupils, with every subject in each grade consisting of its own concise curriculum, mapping out what teachers must teach and assess.
  • The number of subjects for intermediate-phase pupils is to decrease from eight to six.

“That means that in grades 4 to 6 technology will be combined with science, and arts and culture will be combined with life orientation, and economic and management sciences will be taught from grade 7,” said Motshekga.
In addition, grades 3,6 and 8 pupils would do externally set assessments    for literacy and numeracy for year-end results.

This comes after a 2008 survey conducted by the Education Department found that only about 36 percent of pupils could read and count by the time they were eight or nine years old.

Motshekga said year-end results for grades R to 3 would be 100 percent continuous assessment based from next year. For grades 4 to 6, 75 percent would be continuous assessment and 25 percent would be year-end exam results. Grades 7 to 9 would be 40 percent continuous assessment and 60 percent year-end exams, while grades 10 to 12 would be 25 percent continuous assessment and 75 percent year-end exams.

The new Schooling 2025 curriculum would replace the highly criticized outcomes based education (OBE) system introduced in 1998. However OBE would not be completely scrapped, but was being reshuffled to “remove the last ghost of 1998” with the aim of improving pupils’ performance.

The changes followed recommendations by a ministerial committee that reviewed implementation of the National Curriculum Statement last year. The committee supported complaints by teachers that they were overloaded with administrative work and that curriculum goals were unrealistic as some pupils lacked resources like study material and internet access.

This was the third time the curriculum had been reviewed since its introduction 12 years ago.

Motshekga said the changes, most of which would be phased in from the beginning of next year, would focus on providing pupils with in-depth skills and focus more on curriculum outcomes.
  “The main aim is ensuring that the National Curriculum Statement is repackaged so that it is more accessible to teachers,” she said.

By next year, the department plans to have workbooks for all pupils from grades 1 to 6.
  “We will pilot the workbooks in schools in 2010 and they will be available for use in all schools in 2011. The project will provide resource support to 6.5 million pupils and approximately 180 000 teachers in nearly 20 000 schools. This will place workbooks in the hands of every pupil in the system,” the minister said.

Education expert Graeme Bloch praised the reviewed statement saying the “back to basic” approach was a step in the right direction.
“The minister is not saying that OBE is dead, but I think it is and that’s important….now the focus will be on the foundation of numeracy and literacy,” he said.

Bloch warned though that more still had to be done about school infrastructure and teacher development, among other things, to improve the education system on a more holistic level. He said the decrease in subject numbers and teachers’ administrative duties would make their jobs easier.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union was concerned that the reviewed statement was silent on teachers’ training but welcomed that reviewed curriculum, saying:
“We believe implementation of the recommendations will benefit both pupils and teachers.”

David Khuzwayo, a teacher at Enkukhwini Primary School, KwaDudkuza, said teachers were unhappy with how the curriculum stood. He said teachers put in a lot of work without seeing good results.
“Teachers are overburdened with a lot of useless administrative work which limits the time dedicated to teaching. Many teachers are depressed because there is no clear plan of how to do their jobs. We welcome these changes,” he said.

National Teachers Union vice-president Allen Thompson said the changes would allow teachers to spend more time in the classroom instead of on tedious administrative requirements.
“We welcome the amendments. They seek to reduce the massive workloads teachers struggle with. We also welcome the combining of the curriculum policy statement and the assessment policy statement, because the department will now tell teachers what topic to teach, when to teach it, what kind of assessments to conduct and how many,” he said.

However NATU was concerned about the combination of subjects in the intermediate phase, saying teachers would need support to implement the changes.

Anthony Pierce of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA said its members looked forward to the “simplified, repackaged and more coherent curriculum. The short-term relief removes the administrative burden and allows teachers to get on with the task that they are paid to do. The numerous projects and portfolio files placed an untold burden on pupils and teachers. The provision of workbooks is a step in the right direction, provided they all reach the schools and do not lie in the district office,” he said. – Sinegugu Ndlovu, Nontobeko Mtshali and Sapa