CAPS: a no-brainer?

Destiny - - Good schools report -

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

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