Ndisihloniphile isikolo...After yet another long meeting with my supervisor, analysing and pouring over the curriculum documents relevant to teaching reading in the Foundation Phase, it finally dawned on me: education reform is a process. I have always taken this for granted...or this has never been important to understand as I have always sailed through school and achieved accordingly with no conception of the hardships that some peers may have had with understanding their learning. I have never had to contemplate what gradual progress and growth really mean in the context of education. It’s only been through the Masters that my personal experience of learning as well as looking at the process of change in the curriculum reform in South Africa that it has begun to sink in: change is a process. And meaningful change is an arduous and even painful process.
On the level of the curriculum analysis: I have analysed the Revised Curriculum Statement from 2002 tracking the level of focus on reading relevant to teaching reading where isiXhosa is the LoLT. After looking at documents from the Foundations for Learning Campaign (2008), I realised that there has been a gradual recognition in the curriculum for the errors in Curriculum 2000 when curriculum reform was first introduced. In 2000 there was a need to recognise the change that needed to happen in education, a process that began in the 1990s when the new South Africa was about to be born. We amalgamated over 10 departments of education into 1 education system. And whether critics like it or not, in the context of South Africa’s history, this was a milestone.But there were glaring omissiona about the reality of many schools in marginal areas in South Africa.
This led to problems with interpretation. The basics of teaching reading were jettisoned in many schools leaving us with the OBE curriculum that was misunderstood by teachers in the 2000s. The introduction of OBE assumed that teachers would embrace the new curriculum, the wonderful values it espoused and great results would be guaranteed for all. What was forgotten though, was that education reform happens within a social context where individuals such as teachers, parents and learners who have a vested interest in education are part of a society in transition. With a vision of where education can be in this country-where it can be about social justice and equality-we didn’t have a sense of the process it might take to get there. The birth of South Africa meant that growth had begun, not that we had arrived and the same applies with the curriculum: having a new curriculum from a divided system of education was only the beginning. So OBE had the learning outcomes and the assessment standards, but without the recognition that starting with the outcomes in mind also means having a vision of how to get there. And without the recognition of this transition that we are still making in South Africa, the curriculum has not been a tool for liberation because siye saphanga ubude (we bit more than we could chew), in isiXhosa we say “we gulped down growth/expectations”.
And so we sit with an education system that appears to be at a standstill because the assumption is that another curriculum shift is underway. But the new curriculum known as CAPS is an attempt to address the process of achieving the outcomes and supporting teachers further. I’m anticipating this shift to have it’s own costly mistakes, but it is part of the process of learning and getting things right in this country’s education.
On a personal level: I have taken my own growth for granted and have been learning through the Masters “it takes a lifetime to know who you are” (from Stimela’s song, Go on). Somewhere while growing up I missed the memo that I am on a journey (and I’m still not sure about the destination) and journeys have detours. I have agonised with life and trying to “find my feet” in the midst of trying to understand the topic I chose for my Masters project to the point where I convinced myself I would not finish and not finishing would mean I am a failure.
So I persevered and I am still not finished with the thesis and the deadlines I set seem to be going awry, and that’s okay. Life happens and it’s allowed to happen. My education for the past 2 years became fused with my own growth that I’ve never given myself the chance to do because I have been too concerned about keeping things together. And when things fell apart it took me a while to be okay with things falling apart, but somehow, they’ll come back together again, and fall apart again and the journey will keep unfolding.
I once told someone I was trying to find my feet and his response seemed so trite, but in retrospect it was true. He told me that while trying to “find my feet” I’ll realise that I’ve always had them and they’ve been firmly planted to the ground. Clichés are often viewed with derision and taken for granted, but somehow, this is where some truth lies in understanding what life might be about: Life is a journey...enjoy the ride!