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On Life Orientation

19 June 2013, 09:32
So I pretty much have one A in the bag for my Matric year - Life Orientation. A joke, to most people, but to others it is a completely unfunny waste of time, resources and money. Life Orientation has some redeeming qualities, but for the most part it is seen as an easy pass by students and an embarrassment to our country by everybody else. I want to propose a transformation, and not a scrapping, of this subject as I think it could be used to do some real good. 

Life Orientation is divided into six main sections, right from the Primary School. These sections are developed and embellished over the years:
  1. Development of Self in Society
  2. Social and Environmental Responsibility
  3. Democracy and Human Rights
  4. Careers and Career Choices
  5. Study Skills
  6. Physical Education
I think that some of these are mostly a colossal waste of time, others are too difficult to implement properly but some are extremely valuable and make Life Orientation uniquely special in its position as a compulsory subject. There are three options for any one section: remove it, alter it (by enhancing or altering the focus or when it is taught) or else highlight it. 
ImpactBefore I begin, keep in mind that Life Orientation is a compulsory  subject from Grade 4, and that the CAPS document recommends spending about 2 hours per week (out of 27,5; Maths and the two Languages get about 4 to 5 hours a week, and in high school the three elective subjects get 4 hours each).Not all schools adhere to these times strictly, but the impact that a change in curriculum or syllabus can have shouldn't be understated. A simple glance at your child's timetable should tell you how much time they spend learning Life Orientation, and I'm sure all parents know too well the monetary bite of a project in Senior Primary - so what happens with Life Orientation is very relevant to your child and your wallet and therefore to you.
Senior PrimaryI think that Life Orientation should be scrapped in the Senior Primary, except for PE. Life Orientation should be kept in the high school because it presents valuable information that students might not get otherwise because they take one or other elective subject, but in the SP where all subjects are compulsory, Life Orientation's whole scope can be distributed among those subjects. Sections 2 and 3 can be distributed between Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. Section 4 can fall into EMS.
Section 1 & 5 should be scrapped both in SP and in High School. The former because morality education does not have to be confined to one or two hours a week. We all know what the answers to the questions are (easy A's - which distort a correct rating of our education system) but few children recall the words of Scripture when temptation falls, let alone LO. The school and community should let children know that if they are being abused at home they can speak to a trustworthy adult - you don't need to spend much money on a textbook to do so. As for Section 5, it is to be assumed that each subject teacher (or the one class teacher) is giving your child advice on how to study for specific subjects (History differs to Science), and in general. I learned more about how to study from my Arts and Culture teacher than my LO textbook.
Physical Education should be retained in Senior Primary as it is very valuable. It should not be for marks though (I don't think it currently is actually). Schools should be allowed to scrap the PE lesson in favour of having actual sports and sports teams. Whichever way there should be pressure on schools to get kids active, but in their own ways.
High SchoolNote well that by High School I mean the FET Phase, from Grade 10 to 12.
Life Orientation should only be introduced as a subject (and yes, a compulsory one) in Grade 10. If I could have my way I would call it Civic Education, because that's more the role I see it playing. Again, the morality chapters are redundant and a waste of time and marks and quite frankly unrealistic - Life Orientation as a formal subject is just not the forum. However, we should consider keeping the Sex Education and Relationship parts of it. The study skills section is even more redundant than in SP.
Social and Environmental Responsibility is a very important section. I believe it should have been emphasized in Senior Primary - but instead of having them colour in posters about water and hungry kids though, we should have had kids really interacting with their society and environment. Maybe in Grade 10 a Social Project undertaken by individuals or groups, and in Grade 11 an environmental one. And that's the project for the year. Or else two projects (social and environmental) in each of these years. No projects in Grade 12. But it's unnecessary to waste class time talking about littering and contour farming in Grade 10 and 11 - we can just cut straight to the projects.
I also think, though, that the best way to educate kids about caring for the environment is to have a no-litter policy at school, or to plant gardens and such. The fact that we're not allowed to litter at my school (at all) has embedded itself much deeper into my conscience than reading three pages in a textbook. So the school should just practice what they preach. Just as with the morality section, social and environmental responsibilities are not so formal that they need to have much class time. 
Physical Education should not be compulsory in Grade 10, 11 or 12. In elk geval, most teenagers have a good reason to want to get fit anyway, and it has nothing to do with what's written in the LO textbook.
The only two sections that should have any class time in the FET phase, and should be taken really seriously, are Careers and Career Choices and Democracy and Human Rights. The former should fall to the background, but should still make up slightly under half of all the class time (which will be less than two hours a week). Students need to know about tertiary education, how to make it without a degree, the competitive job market and even the nasty truths like BEE and job/university quotas and discrimination. They should be hearing about entrepreneurship, whether or not they take business subjects. In fact the scope of the subject section should be expanded to include Financial Planning. Even kids learning Biology, Physical Science and Geography should learn about how the economy and political development (like strikes) can affect their lives, and how to plan for all these things and how to get jobs and keep jobs. They should learn about the cost of studying and living. You know - Life Skills. I'm sure everybody agrees that this is important and is a really good use for a compulsory subject: Most kids won't get much advice anywhere else and having a textbook which functions more like a handbook should be really good for helping them be future minded people. We could rename the section Future Planning, or something catchier. 
The second section - Democracy and Human Rights - is very important. It should be the main focus of the subject in Grade 10, 11 and 12 (about 60/40 with Future Planning). It should be more like Civic Education. Students should be taught about rights and responsibilities and expected to know them all. They should know how laws are made, and how parliament works and exactly the role of the executive in government. Perhaps even a study of the Constitution would be in order, along with tough discussions about current affairs and the constitutionality of current policies.They should learn about the political history of this country and know who COSATU and the ANC are, why people still love them and exactly why the DA gets so uptight when people insult Helen Suzman. They should learn about this country and its people and its cultures and religions - time should be taken to make sure we're not producing ignorant racists and xenophobes. Learn about our history - and not just Apartheid, please, but everything that led up to it too. Perhaps even some of the history sections can be trimmed from the History syllabus to make space for something else there. We should learn about each other so that we stop fearing each other. We should learn that nobody owns our vote, and that Democracy means everybody has a voice and should use it. We should learn how to be good citizens and South Africans.
ConclusionThrough all these modifications I believe we can create a subject which would craft and produce people with some kind of direction in life and a good idea of what awaits them, on top of being good citizens. Strong individuals and strong citizens - that's how the country grows, that's real nation building, and it can all start with LO.

It was a bit long, but I felt that I wanted to give a complete look at the syllabus and I tried to justify everything I wrote. Tell me what you think about Life Orientation - do you agree with my proposals or do you think it should be completely scrapped? What experiences are you having with your own kids who are doing the subject, or else what experiences have you had with the subject yourself?
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