New curriculum (and some teacher appreciation)

10 09 2010

I’m really glad I’m not a teacher.

Or a student at school level, for that matter.

Lately I’ve been spending quite a bit of my time developing a Language Teaching Approaches document for OUP. While everything I’ve read up on is interesting and useful, I now know more about these ‘issues’ and methods than I ever thought I would want to.

So, the Department of Education has seen it fit to change the curriculum. Out with the old, in with the new. We need to focus on basic literacy and numeracy skills. We need to get the children to build up their knowledge…

And we (‘we’ meaning ‘me’) should ask the important question: wasn’t this done before?!

The whole point of going to school is to gain and broaden your knowledge, of learning and applying skills, and at a very fundamental level to focus on literacy (as well as the importance of language and communication). But no, now we hear that the previous curriculum was lacking, that basic skills aren’t being developed (here I might add ‘fully’ or ‘sufficiently’/ ‘satisfactorily’, if I were them). First the one system was ‘bad/wrong’, and had to be changed to a new curriculum, which I was subjected to for a few years before – thankfully – going on to the 10th grade and continuing high school ‘normally’, i.e. by taking subjects and working hard, not being subjected to strict curriculum criteria and borders.

Now I work at a publisher who has been named the best education (and academic!) publisher at the Sefika awards, and I am in the lucky (yes, that’s sarcasm) position of having to deal with all this new curriculum BS. When I started here almost two months ago (give or take two days), I began developing a Language Strategy we could use to approach our future (school) books, although of course I couldn’t finalize it until the new CAPS documents became available. The same with this Language Teaching Approaches document: I did a lot of research and read up on things, working with the NCS documents in the interim, until the CAPS documents were finally available this week (though only at the end of it). Not really anything outstandingly new or different, although of course perhaps I wouldn’t be able to tell since I’m not a teacher.

But still, I have to ask: what have the teachers been doing up until now, if not trying to help the learners to develop their skills and climb the educational ladder to success?

My mum is a teacher, and she works extremely hard. She does her own lesson planning, compiles the modules the children have to work with, sits until what time at night to mark and assess their work… and then people say teachers are so lucky to have four holidays a year… *pffft* Teachers work their arses off, people! They don’t really even have holidays! They have things to assess, planning to do, workshops to attend… and whatever else is expected of them. During short holidays they can only spare a day or two to relax, then it’s back to work. During longer holidays, they do get more of a breather, though of course they still have to plan things, ensure that documents meet certain criteria, etc. etc. ad infinitum. See where this is going?

It becomes even worse now that there are curriculum changes, because meetings need to be arranged to have planning sessions and discussions, but none of that can happen until more information becomes available – and yes, it’s available now, but schools close in two weeks time (here in the Western Cape, at least, that much I know), and one cannot expect teachers to have long meetings during a supposed ‘holiday’ when they have other work to do… so when must it be done/ take place? After school, for an hour or two, sometimes even longer – and when you get home then, you still have marking to do, your daily planning to check… and what about your family?

Teachers should be treasured, but a lot of students don’t seem to appreciate the fact that their educators do so much in able to help them reap the benefits.

That’s why I get so frustrated when I hear about strikes taking place. The last public sector strike (which includes teachers) lasted nearly a month – all because they wanted 1,6% more than the government was offering them!! *shake head in disbelief* Teachers didn’t go to their schools for weeks, and what happens now? Because 80% of the teachers weren’t at the schools to educate the learners – this is in Gauteng – the children now have to go to school until 7 PM to enable them to catch up with all the work they missed out on. And whose fault is it? Yes, the teachers. Because of their stubbornness, they as well as the learners must now suffer. I understand that teachers don’t make the best salaries (I know), but really – 1,6% and a R200/300 housing allowance extra? Was that worth dragging the name of education through the mud?

I don’t think so.

But that’s probably enough of a rant. It’s ironic that I’m working at a schools publisher, because my Significant Other (and my mother) encouraged me not to go into teaching – I’m too soft for it, anyway – and now look where I find myself. At least I’m dealing with students from a distance. I only hope that my contributions here will help the wider schooling public, and help the new curriculum along.




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