Plan to sal­vage school year ham­mered out

Sunday Times - - News - By PREGA GOVEN­DER

● An ear­lier start to the school day, evening and week­end classes and scrap­ping “nonessen­tial” parts of the cur­ricu­lum in cer­tain sub­jects.

These are among the “pos­si­bil­i­ties” the depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion is look­ing into, along with scrap­ping the June and Septem­ber school hol­i­days.

Ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga will make fi­nal pro­pos­als to a spe­cial cab­i­net meet­ing sched­uled for this week.

Depart­ment spokesper­son Eli­jah Mh­langa said a de­ci­sion on the June ex­ams that were to have been writ­ten by tens of thou­sands of part-time pupils, as well as pro­gressed pupils who wrote only half their sub­jects last year, will be an­nounced shortly.

“We were sup­posed to start print­ing ques­tion pa­pers on April 1 and we have not been able to do that,” he said.

“It’s prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble [to have the ex­ams in June]. In terms of the man­age­ment plan, we have al­ready missed some op­er­a­tional dead­lines in terms of lo­gis­tics, mark­ers, check­ers, exam cen­tres.”

He said dis­cus­sions about this exam took place at a spe­cial meet­ing be­tween the di­rec­tor-gen­eral of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion and the su­per­in­ten­dents-gen­eral of the provin­cial ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ments on Fri­day.

“There was a po­si­tion that was taken but it will still need to be given to the min­is­ter.”

He said that one of the op­tions is “switch­ing” these ex­ams to a later date. The min­is­ter will make the fi­nal de­ci­sion.

A com­mit­tee is also look­ing at whether the writ­ing of the June ex­ams by pupils in grades 1-12 should go ahead or be post­poned.

Teacher unions want these ex­ams scrapped.

Pushed on whether the in­ter­nal June ex­ams will be post­poned, Mh­langa said: “The en­tire school cal­en­dar has now shifted, so any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

Com­ment­ing on the pro­posal to ex­tend the school day, he said that schools start­ing at 7.45am could start at 7am.

“The breaks could be short­ened. Teach­ers could teach un­til the af­ter­noon and maybe learn­ers could go home and come back and lessons could go on into the evening.”

Speak­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity of re­mov­ing the “non-core” el­e­ments of the cur­ricu­lum in some sub­jects, he stressed this does not im­ply “the skip­ping of the es­sen­tial el­e­ments”.

“This is just a thought. I don’t know whether the com­mit­tee will pro­pose it or not.”

He re­ferred to the shut­down of schools in Vuwani, Lim­popo, dur­ing com­mu­nity un­rest, say­ing that the cur­ricu­lum con­tent had been re­viewed to en­able pupils to catch up with the loss of teach­ing time.

“Dur­ing that time, we looked at the nonessen­tial text in the cur­ricu­lum that could be skipped with­out com­pro­mis­ing what learn­ers should know. The Vuwani sit­u­a­tion could be an op­tion. The peo­ple are work­ing to­day and to­mor­row be­cause the plan needs to be fi­nalised.”

Basil Manuel, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Teach­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion of SA (Nap­tosa), said the depart­ment’s na­tional cur­ricu­lum and as­sess­ment task team was look­ing at stream­lin­ing the cur­ricu­lum “so that the im­por­tant things are taught”.

“We did say cer­tain chunks of the cur­ricu­lum that are not build­ing blocks for next year could be re­moved from this year’s cur­ricu­lum. In ev­ery cur­ricu­lum in ev­ery sub­ject there are cer­tain things we do which seem to be im­por­tant for a grade but in fact you don’t re­fer to them again in later grades.”

The min­is­ter was in agree­ment “that these things need to be looked at”.

“There are peo­ple who are say­ing to us there are some sub­jects which you can drop to make sure the crit­i­cal ones hap­pen. If a de­ci­sion is made to say we are go­ing back and we are go­ing to have three sub­jects, no­body can be sur­prised.”

Manuel said their view was that the in­ter­nal ex­ams for grades 1-12 pupils, in­clud­ing the June ma­tric ex­ams, should be scrapped “be­cause that’s cur­ricu­lum time and you must be teach­ing in that time”.

He said Nap­tosa sup­ported the plan to scrap the hol­i­days or greatly re­duce them.

“I don’t be­lieve there’s a sin­gle teacher out there who be­lieves we are go­ing back and a few days later we are go­ing to have three weeks’ June hol­i­day,” he said.

Ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Mary Met­calfe said that be­cause of the time lost, teach­ers will need to ad­just their ex­pec­ta­tions of what chil­dren can learn by the end of the year.

“Par­ents’ pri­or­ity must be to keep their chil­dren feel­ing sup­ported and en­gaged.”

Pic­ture: An­to­nio Muchave

Min­is­ter of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion Angie Mot­shekga will present the cab­i­net with a plan for the school year.

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