When a curriculum is seen as poison

When a curriculum is seen as poison

MASERU – A policy introduced by the government in 2011 for pupils to proceed to the next level irrespective of their academic results has come under the spotlight again. Deputy Education Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa thinks the policy is what the country needs “to make children not feel embarrassed”.

But others contend that the policy is “ill-planned”.
Rapapa, speaking at the Friends Meeting debate on education last Friday, defended the new curriculum as good and relevant to the needs of Lesotho.
The debate between teachers’ organisations, the minister, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) academic Dr Mosotho George and Case Advocacy Service (CAS) was organised by Transformation Resource Centre (TRC).

Rapapa said parents can discuss with teachers for a child to repeat a class if they feel that their child is not ready to proceed to the next level.
This means teachers, unlike in the past, no longer have powers to decide whether a student should repeat or proceed.
“Children feel embarrassed when they have to repeat a class,” Rapapa said.

Rapapa said both the secondary and tertiary institutions as well as the labour market should prepare themselves to accept the children.
Many teachers who were present agreed with Rapapa.
Representatives of the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) and the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) applauded the government for coming up with the curriculum.

The curriculum itself – the subjects taught or topics taught within a subject – may be good but the way it is handled could be wrong, some participants at the debate said.

The National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) has as one of its focal areas the revision of programmes and curricula of educational institutions to meet the demands of Lesotho as a developing country and to cater to industry-specific needs.

It was observed that the curriculum reform was constrained by the nature of the final public examinations, which emphasised only on cognitive skills.
The new curriculum is said to be a shift in education policy intentions – from an undemocratic and examination-oriented education system to a more process-oriented curriculum with a greater integration of assessment with teaching and learning, according to the Ministry of Education.
The curriculum was reviewed because there were concerns about its relevance to the daily needs of Lesotho.

The ministry came up with a policy meant to ensure access, quality, equity and relevance.
The policy rearranges the education system for schools into two levels of basic education, which covers the first 10 years of formal schooling from Grades 1 to 10, and the final two years of secondary education, Grades 11 and 12.

Basic education is intended to form the basic foundation for secondary, technical, vocational education and lifelong learning.
Secondary education is expected to pursue the goals of preparing learners for the world of work and further education at tertiary level.
The problem here is if the child does not grasp the very “industry-specific needs” taught at school and “merely knows how to wipe off mucus from his nostrils” as one teacher put it, that child will be passed on to the next class.

Another problem that this arrangement poses is that more learners are entering the secondary phase with schools being ill-equipped to accommodate their great numbers, participants said.

Since no child repeated a class from Grade 1 since 2011, those children are now in Grade 8 and there are inadequate classes for them.
Participants at the debate asked Rapapa if the government was ready for implementation when it introduced the curriculum.
“The only problem is that stakeholders were not sensitised enough about these changes,” said Rapapa.

“The ministry was supposed to have held public gatherings for parents and sensitise them but it did not happen,” Rapapa said.
“This could help solve the problem because everybody would have had a voice. A consensus would be reached on how to approach the whole issue,” he said.

’Mamokete Sebatane, from the Case Advocacy Service, said children had become victims of ill-planned policies.
She said some high schools expel children when they fail citing lack of space because of large numbers of students from lower classes.
She urged the ministry to quickly solve the problem “because the children’s human rights are being trampled upon”.
She argued that education is a basic right and the government has a mandate to protect it.

“As the schools and the government are politicking about this the children are suffering,” Sebatane said.
“I want to know what the ministry is doing to effect this right,” she said.
“Why can’t teachers be fired when children fail?”

Rapapa said the objective is to ensure that no child fails in class hence the introduction of this curriculum in 2011.
“If you see the problem now, let me tell that it has always been there since 2011 and it just manifests now because the children are entering secondary level in large numbers,” he said.

“We cannot just come out and say we change the curriculum now. What do we replace it with?” the minister said.
Dr George said if, according to some observers, the curriculum is a poison talking about it does not change its potency as poison.
“I have not studied this curriculum but I think if it is a poison, do something about it quickly instead of just talking about it,” George said.

Staff Reporter


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