News clipping – Sunday Times – 17 October 2010

Publishers relieved at delay of new curriculum

The much-anticipated death of Outcomes-Based Education will be delayed for another year, the Department of Basic Education has announced.

While this may not be good news for pupils, it has delighted publishers, who have been given a breather to produce quality textbooks.

Textbook publishers and authors were distressed about the original deadline for implementing the amended curriculum: they had been given until March to supply books that usually took 18 months to produce.

The department announced that the changed curriculum, set out in draft form in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements, would be implemented in 2012, with next year being used for preparation. The reason, said the department’s spokesman, Granville Whittle, was to ensure things were done properly.
“Minister (Angie) Motshekga says we must hurry slowly. Obviously, we need to work with urgency to get this done but we also need to take the entire system with us…”

Whittle said the publishers’ issues were “absolutely one of the concerns” that led to the decision, which was made by the Council of Education Ministers.

Before the announcement was made, the executive director of the Publishers’ Association of South Africa, Brain Wafawarowa, said 90 of its members were responsible for producing 95% of school textbooks – and all had raised concerns about the original deadline. He said the initial target dates were impossible.

Although several textbook authors and publishers told the Sunday Times the changes to the curriculum were to be celebrated, they highlighted some problems with the amendments. They said many textbooks would have to be started from scratch – a claim denied by the department.

One author, a teacher who did not want to be named, said the new curriculum required all textbooks to be rewritten, although they might be able to use “bits and pieces” from existing ones.

A publisher, who also asked for anonymity for fear of losing textbook commissions, said the changes would mean schools would need to buy a lot of books.
“It should be of concern to parents and PTAs as to how they will fund the wholesale implementation in one fell swoop,” she said.

However Whittle said:
“There is the perception that it’s a new curriculum. This is not the case…We are refining and clarifying the content of the curriculum and they won’t need lots of new textbooks.”

Another author, teacher Marion Higgs, said books would have to change “quite a bit” – and she was worried that the new policy was being pushed through too quickly.
“It’s a pity; the minister is moving in the right direction, but unfortunately there’s a political sword of Damocles to do it quickly,” Higgs said.

The smallest change could destabilize the fragile school system:
“Unfortunately when it comes to education, the crises take longer to develop, (and) by then it’s too late,” Higgs said.

Once the new policy has been finalized, preparations for 2012 can begin.

By Kim Hawkey