SA all set for ‘new OBE’?

2010-01-04 00:00

WHEN schools start the new academic year next Monday, teachers will be expected to start implementing some of the changes to the Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) curriculum, which is currently under review.

However, just how prepared they are to carry this out is questionable.

Teachers have expressed frustration that the little information they have received on the changes has come largely from the unions or the media rather than from the Education Department.

A local principal said the information he has received has been largely from the teacher organisations he belongs to.

“In terms of what the changes are and how that translates into action, there has been very little information coming from the department of Education,” he said.

Other teachers said news of the death of OBE as it was previously been taught was met with mixed reactions.

Some teachers said they are relieved as they felt burdened by the administrative workload OBE presents, but others expressed frustration at the wasted effort and training they have had to put in.

“OBE had fatal faults. It was cumbersome and very paper-intensive. But teachers hope history does not repeat itself in another failed curriculum. This is the fourth curriculum change since 1997,” said one.

The Witness understands that many principles of OBE will be retained (see box on page 2).

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union regional secretary Willie Naidoo hailed the changes, saying they were long overdue, but expressed concern over the implementation of the immediate amendments because of the short time frame.

“The department might have missed the boat in terms of planning and advocacy for 2010 because the reality is, when you start planning in 2010, you get results in 2012.”

He said the amendments seek to give greater detail on the curriculum, which has often been labelled as being too ambiguous, resulting in teachers making their own interpretations.

In the past, teachers were expected to develop an annual work schedule along with the content, which according to Naidoo, resulted in the outcomes being different at schools in urban, suburban and rural areas, since resources and pupils’ socio-economic environment differ. Teachers’ own knowledge also influenced the content.

He said the changes stem from a national education summit in May 2009 at which participants gave their impressions of the system up to 2009 with a lot of input from teachers.

“They identified problems and came up with solutions and what they understood to be good practice … it is what they have been asking for. Teachers have been saying that they were not curriculum planners, but classroom practitioners. Give us material and we will teach. And with the content specified we’ll return to basics and the frills will be left out.”

Basil Manuel, the provincial chairman of the National Association of Professional Teachers of SA (Naptosa) described the changes as a bold step in the right direction, but said there is a desperate need for them to be explained more practically and in good time to avoid confusion.

“People are tired of reading the long philosophies and intros. I would like to see the department translate this thick document into … an intelligible, simply structured roadmap that will stipulate what changes will occur in 2010, 2011 and in 2012, so teachers and parents can know what they are preparing themselves for.”

While Manuel admitted that the apartheid system had faults, he said it had a methodology that delivered.

He said the department should make better use of subject advisors to improve the OBE methodology.

A spokesman for the Basic Education Department, Granville Whittle, said draft circulars on the changes were dispatched to all provinces for them to distribute to all their schools, and a newsletter detailing changes for January was sent to all provinces for distribution to schools.

“We ran a massive media campaign to inform teachers. Also, we have distributed thousands of copies of that newsletter to our union partners and have asked them also to distribute it to their members. So the campaign has been massive and all teachers should be aware of it by now.”

Whittle said any teachers or schools wanting additional copies of the newsletter should contact their call centre or his office at 012 312 5024.

The KZN Education Department has not responded to The Witness’s queries on the province’s state of readiness to adopt the changes.

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