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WHENEVER Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga is quizzed about the Limpopo textbooks saga, she’s always at pains to explain that not having books doesn’t mean the pupils have not been able to learn.
The new textbooks, for Grades 1 to 3 and 10, are the start of the implementation of the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (Caps).
Caps, simply put, is the consolidation of existing policy documents which is supposed to make it easier for educators – teachers, principals and district officials – to get their job done.
The dean of education at the University of Johannesburg, Sarah Gravett, said it’s important to note that broadly speaking, Caps is not a change to the curriculum, but rather a change to how the curriculum, the current one being the National Curriculum Statement, will be delivered.
She said there were “small changes” to the curriculum, “tweaks” as Motshekga put it, and it’s those changes that Limpopo pupils have missed out on.
As much as pupils and teachers could make do with their old textbooks, because the content is largely the same, Gravett said Motshekga needed to recognise that Limpopo pupils and teachers had been disadvantaged compared with those who had been using the updated books all year.
On curriculum changes in general, Gravett said: “I do think we tend to make changes too quickly if something doesn’t work out immediately. If it doesn’t work, instead of making small changes we say let’s start from scratch. This is often linked to politics… in some of those cases I think we’ve made some errors.”
When last year’s matric pass rate was announced – 70.2 percent from 2010’s 67.8 percent – education analysts said one of the major factors that led to the improvement was the fact that the National Senior Certificate statement had been in place for four years then, and teachers had had time to come to grips with it. This subsequently improved curriculum delivery and academic performance.
Before, regular changes to the curriculum meant that while teachers were being orientated and trained on one thing, something else would be introduced and teachers and trainers would have to grapple with that.
Fortunately, Gravett said, Caps – which will be further rolled out in Grades 4 to 6 and 11 in 2013 – is set to make things easier and more concise for teachers.
“I think it’s (Caps) necessary,” Gravett said.
She said before there were too many policies which often contradicted each other and led to confusion.
She said the national department would come up with a policy which then went down to the provinces, where each province would interpret the policy in its own way and the same thing would happen when the policy filtered down to the districts.
“Now we have one very clear document that encapsulates everything,” Gravett said.