Asmal in hot seat

Minister of Education Kader Asmal faces some opposition to his plan to phase out Curriculum 2005

IT has not been a smooth ride lately for Minister of Education Kader Asmal, who has come up against unexpected opposition from some quarters around the decision to phase out Curriculum 2005 and phase in a simpler, more content-heavy version, Curriculum 21.

Asmal took the decision to appoint a review committee of independent educationists in February to look into the viability of Curriculum 2005, after several research processes pointed to problems with implementation and understanding of the new curriculum.

Although Asmal appears to have the backing of most of the officials in his department, some in the African National Congress (ANC), Cabinet and South African National Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) have criticised the move.

Sadtu general secretary Thulas Nxesi accused the minister of not bringing teachers firmly into the review process and of handing policy decisions over to academics and consultants instead, in an article in a weekend newspaper. He also criticised Asmal for notifying the press of his actions, before consulting all stakeholders. Some ANC members criticised Asmal’s “unilateral” decision at the ANC’s national general council meeting in Port Elizabeth in July, arguing that he did not consult widely enough with party structures before scrapping a flagship policy of the ANC.

Countering the criticism, Asmal’s media representative Bheki Khumalo said Sadtu had made “an excellent contribution to the review committee” and that the recommendations of the review were “in the main, in line with the submission by Sadtu”.

After some heated discussion among some Cabinet members about the decision to amend the curriculum in June, a two-hour meeting was scheduled to debate the issue further in Cabinet on July 18. However, at the time of going to press the meeting had been postponed indefinitely because Asmal was ill.

It is widely believed that the curriculum change has the backing of President Thabo Mbeki and ANC secretary general Kgalema Mothlanthe and will go ahead as recommended by the review committee. Asmal appointed review committee chair Linda Chisholm as a deputy director in the department to oversee the changes.

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, July 21, 2000.



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