Dramatic changes for learners

2012-01-14 07:58

Dramatic changes await learners of inland schools who go back to school this coming week.

Learners of coastal schools, which opened this past week, already found changes which include that all public primary schools are required to offer four subjects to Grade 1-3 pupils – a home language, first additional language, numeracy and life skills.

It is compulsory for pupils who will use English as the medium of learning from Grade 4 onwards to take it as a subject from Grade 1.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga gave the assurance that English would not replace home languages in the early grades but would have to be an additional language for pupils who would continue using it as a medium of learning.

The move is in line with the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (Caps).

Motshekga said she was optimistic that by teaching pupils English from the first year of schooling, learner performance would be improved, which could eventually affect matric results.

“Matric examination papers, except for home languages, are set in English. If a pupil is struggling to understand the question he or she cannot be expected to do well in that subject,” Motshekga explained.

Professor Francis Faller of the Wits School of Education praised government for introducing Caps, saying it is a positive move towards improving the quality of education in South Africa.

“Many teachers complained that the old curriculum lacked clear direction. But I believe the new one is exactly what our school system needs at this moment – although some would argue that it is too prescriptive,” Faller said.

On the issue of teaching English from Grade 1, Faller said it would be an advantage to pupils who were forced to make an overnight transition from being taught in their home language to English when they get to Grade 3.

“This has been a particular disadvantage to a majority of the pupils,” he said.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) shared Faller’s sentiments.

“Analysis of the matric results indicates that language instruction remains a challenge for English second language candidates,” said general-secretary Mugwena Maluleke.

But, he said government needed to provide more resources to expand home language tuition and improve the quality of English tuition.

Caps is not the only intervention that government is introducing this year. Last year, 6 million Grade R to Grade 6 pupils were provided with literacy and numeracy workbooks for teaching and assessment.

This year it plans to extend this to Grade 7 to Grade 9 pupils. Each workbook is made up of 128 easy-to-follow worksheets to improve listening, reading, writing and numeracy skills.

According to Motshekga, the department received positive feedback from teachers about the workbooks.

Faller said there were differing views about the workbooks but he believed a good workbook is better than not having one at all.

“Workbooks will assist teachers in pacing and sequencing their work. In the past teachers had to decide on their own what to teach in class and when. But with workbooks in place you have some structure to follow,” he said.

Caps will be implemented in the intermediate phase next year.

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