Ms Alena Coetzee, a Senior Education Specialist from the Gauteng Department of Education, is every excited about the new curriculum of the government schools. She addressed staff members from the College of Education on 31 May 2012. Not only was she most knowledgeable about the progression from Curriculum 2005 (C2005) the Revised National Curriculum Statement (RNCS), she was also able to comment on the current move from the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS). CAPS is not a new curriculum, but an amendment to the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) Grades R-12, so that the curriculum is more accessible to teachers. Every subject in each grade will have a single, comprehensive and concise Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) that will provide details on what content teachers ought to teach and assess on a grade-by-grade and subject–by-subject basis. There will be clearly delineated topics for each subject and a recommendation on the number and type of assessments per term. Outcomes and assessment standards are now called topics and themes and learning areas are now called subjects. The Department of Basic Education has a five year plan to support teachers. She indicated that in-service training must be provided and that management should get on board with CAPS training. She also pointed out that Grade 3 teachers have already missed out on CAPS training.
Ms Marianna Naude, the new Principal of the UCECE nursery school, joined her and also shared her ideas as an experienced teacher (from the perspective of somebody who has worked with trying to practically implement the changes). According to her South African learners in the many township schools are struggling and even though the NCS had clear outcomes, teachers could decide what to teach based on the outcomes, and when and how they would teach it in the classroom. As a result when learners moved from one school to another, they would develop learning gaps as the teaching sequence would not always be the same in different schools. Another problem is that many teachers believe that learners are only learning when they engage with a worksheet while others love group work. According to Ms Coetzee you only know for sure that learners comprehend something when they are able to explain how they arrived at their answer. Too few teachers know how they are going to get the children to understand the content or how they will access the learning of a particular knowledge item. Assessment is the key to the learning process and many teachers are confused by the terminology. They don’t know about rubrics, grids and continuous assessment. They even don’t know if they are mediators or teachers anymore!
Student teachers and recently graduated teachers struggle to apply their training because how they were taught doesn’t always correspond with the reality in schools, so it confuses the young inexperienced teachers. For instance, in mathematic teaching, primary school learner-teachers are expected to know that they need to work with the concrete to show and develop the learner’s number concepts, that they should be able to break down and build up numbers, double up or to halve numbers, make use of number lines, etc. Instead the young teachers find themselves teaching by rote.
Another problem that urgently needs attention is the acceptance of little ones into Grade 1. Too many are being allowed despite the fact that they are still too young and should rather go to Grade R. When the children are underage, it is actually detrimental as they are still in a stage where they want to play. Not only do classes become too full, the little ones are often being challenged beyond their abilities.
According to Ms Coetzee many teachers still don’t know how to work with the concrete (body – non-body), representative and abstract concepts as described above to teach basic mathematical principles. Instead of criticising our teachers, we need to motivate them to start applying these methodologies correctly. In this way we can help our teachers to “fly” and enjoy their work. We need to focus on:
• alleviating a lack of knowledge
• stopping the culture of blaming each other
• assisting teachers to do phase planning, because the Grade 4 teacher must know what happened in Grade 3; and
• encouraging self-analysis and reflection.
The speakers concluded by mentioning that a collaborative approach would be ideal and that all stakeholders involved in teacher training should benefit from such an approach.