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By Gustav Thiel, Gudrun Heckl, Nalisha Kalideen and Sapa
Teachers fear for their jobs because of the sweeping curriculum changes for grades 10 to 12 which are to come into effect in 2004.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) are also worried about the time it will take to put the programme in place - and its cost.
The further education and training (FET) range of subjects, announced on Tuesday, will cut the current 124 subjects to 35.
The proposals will be gazetted by October 21, and the cut-off date for comments by interested parties is the end of January.
Darius Cornelissen, spokesperson for Naptosa, said: "It seems at this stage that many teachers could be made redundant by the new curriculum. There is already a great deal of worry among them."
He believed not enough teachers existed to cover all the new subjects envisaged.
Sadtu's education officer, Shermain Mannah, said training in the new subjects would take more time than allocated by the department.
"The FET has new fundamentals, and the content is specialised knowledge that teachers will need.
"If you have never taught tourism before, you can't just go on a three-month course and get a diploma in it."
Sadtu was also concerned that there might be a lack of trained people to teach an essential course, such as maths.
She said implementation costs would probably run into billions of rands, as some teachers would need new qualifications.
"If they want to implement it in 2004, they need to have learning support material such as textbooks. These will have to be completely new books because the curriculum is new. It takes a minimum of 18 months to do that," said Mannah.
Dr Cassius Lubisi, the chairperson of a ministerial project committee appointed to develop the curriculum, said it was an extension and "logical conclusion" to the Outcomes Based Education (OBE) 2005 curriculum.
"The government decided on the OBE 2005 curriculum in 1997, and it was implemented between 1998 and 2002 for grades up to 9," said Lubisi.
In 2000, the education minister asked for the curriculum to be reviewed, and on the basis of the review, the curriculum was revised and adopted on April 16 this year.
"But the question still remains, was it right to let learners already in the OBE 2005 curriculum go into the old curriculum in Grade 10? It's the same curriculum used during apartheid, and so it was a logical conclusion to devise a new curriculum for the 21st century," said Lubisi.
Another compulsory subject will be life orientation, which will cover matters like self-esteem, career guidance, sexuality education and HIV and Aids.
Helen Zille, the Democratic Alliance education spokesperson in the Western Cape, said it was vital that school principals and teachers were consulted about the new curriculum.
"The downside is that many teachers of subjects that will no longer be offered face an insecure future.
"While some will become redundant, there will be a serious teacher shortage in the core curriculum areas," she said.
Tony Lelliott, an educationist and dean of the humanities faculty at Wits University, said the FET would just give the pupils' results in the exam, and they could not tell how they fared overall. This could result in the possibility that tertiary education institutions could begin their own admission tests.
Pupils will then have to choose a total of three subjects from the following:
Rating will still be linked to percentages achieved in different subjects:
Below 40 percent = not achieved
40 to 49 percent = partially achieved*
50 to 65 percent = achieved
65 to 79 percent = achieved with merit
Over 80 percent = achieved with distinction
*May be promoted in subject if they achieve in all other subjects.
Some subjects that may be dropped
Islamic studies; Bible education; Scripture; religious studies; classic music; bookbinding; classical Greek; PE; lithography; Lozi, Kwanyama and Ndonga, first languages; 7 shorthand courses; 7 snelskrif courses; information skills; civic responsibility; TV & radiotricians work; watchmaking.