Ringing in the changes

Most would agree that the review of C2005 was necessary and a courageous move by the Department of Education (DoE). It was a candid acknowledgement of fundamental weaknesses in the emerging education system, a positive end to the trial-and-error period of transition.

The point needs to be made, though, that the real meat of the revised curriculum -the eight learning area statements and assessment standards for each – urgently need to be released. Many in the education sector are waiting with bated breath for these crucial guidelines so that they can finally move forward with certainty.

Perhaps even more important than the changes made through this review process, though, will be re-establishing a sense of stability and continuity. Educators must be assured that the massive shifts that have characterised their working lives are finally subsiding and certainty replacing them. The risk, otherwise, is to give the impression that the education system is in a relentless state of flux, endlessly lurching from one grand plan to the next. There has to be a sense that we are at last getting somewhere, and that the destination is approximately permanent.

But as positive as these improvements to the curriculum may be, it’s hugely frustrating that the same commitment to driving change can’t find its way to key school-based issues. One burning issue that comes to mind is that of language. Accommodating the mother tongue of learners is detailed and guaranteed in policy after law after bill of rights. Yet learners are still denied instruction in the language of their choice. Perhaps the most disturbing side to it is the fact that some schools use language as the basis for marginalising or excluding groups of learners.

The question is why the fine policies and laws around the issue of language aren’t being implemented with the same level of political will that is directed at curriculum changes. Is it too expensive to do so? Does it have to wait its turn on the education department’s “Things to do” list? Or does it touch on such sensitive areas of our society that insisting on fair language practices at schools is like fooling with a time-bomb?

Whatever the reason, the longer these discriminatory practises are allowed to continue, the more the public faith in the government’s ability to really transform education will be undermined.

Meantime, another area of the education domain is undergoing change: your favourite guide to education, the Teacher, has a new editor. Edwin Naidu has moved on, and I’ve now got the job of keeping you all well informed – if not always smiling. But don’t expect too many radical changes from our side: I wouldn’t want to shake up your worlds more than they are already!

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