CAPS: a no-brainer?
Many stress the need for revising the CAPS curriculum, saying it’s not producing the critical thinking skills pupils need to succeed in a rapidly changing world of work
The current CAPS curriculum is too contentand assessment-heavy.” So says Vanessa Barnes, a registered educational psychologist in private practice in Johannesburg, echoing the biggest CAPS criticism by education experts. This and other issues have led to multiple calls for a revision of the curriculum.
The heavy content and assessment requirements lead to a lack of consolidation, says Barnes. “This is because both the teachers and the pupils need to get through the curriculum requirements. To do this, pupils land up having to complete an inordinate amount of homework. If there’s no time for consolidation, then there’s no time to teach reasoning skills and application to everyday situations, which in turn leads to pupils thinking rigidly, rather than applying flexible and fluid knowledge to their schoolwork.”
Marina Goetze, a South African remedial therapist who’s recently become HOD of Special Education at Internationella Engelska Skolan Falun in Sweden, agrees. “When a curriculum’s contentheavy, it leaves no room for the developing of thinking skills. For children to become thinkers, researchers and innovators, they need time and space to play with and ponder the content, and to draw their own opinions and conclusions on it. This can’t happen when they’re being bombarded with large amounts of new content, because it doesn’t give children the time they need to really work with the information. A content-heavy curriculum also causes children to learn the material superficially. Before they can really grasp the information, they’re moving on to the next topic.”
“There’s over-assessment occurring in the foundation phases of school, particularly among six- and seven-year-olds,” adds Barnes. “These grades provide the foundation on which children learn. Over-assessing leaves no time for consolidation of some of the most imperative skills for learning, such as reading, writing and spelling. The alternative would be to have fewer assessment tasks and more time spent applying the skills learnt and correcting any difficulties a child may be having at a young age in order to prevent a bigger learning disorder developing later in life.”
Consolidation is the foundation of any good education system, agrees Goetze. “Very few children grasp and retain information the first time it’s given to them, especially when that information’s worked through as quickly as it is with CAPS. Children need to revisit work covered previously in different ways in order for it to become meaningful to them. In this way, it can be retained in their long-term memory.”
Besides the lack of consolidation and the development of the critical thinking skills pupils need, a content-heavy curriculum can also lead to learning difficulties, as well as emotional and behavioural problems. “This places undue pressure on the pupils, which has led to a noticeable rise in the number of children and