Evaluating OBE

Minister of Education Kader Asmal launches an independent review of Curriculum 2005.

ALTHOUGH Curriculum 2005 is being reviewed by an independent team of educationists, millions of government money is set to be spent on new materials for piloting Grades 4 and 8, to be phased in next year.

Many are asking why Minister of Education Kader Asmal is going ahead with the implementation of the grades when aspects of the new curriculum are now under review.
Asmal last month announced that a team of independent educationists will evaluate the implementation of outcomes-based education (OBE) over three months. The team, headed by education academic Linda Chisholm, is made up of 11 independent education specialists, including The Teacher’s columnist on OBE, Emilia Potenza.

While the move has been largely supported, educationists believe the decision to go ahead with implementation particularly in Grade 8 (the first year of high school) will bring about the same massive problems so far experienced with Curriculum 2005—poor quality and difficult-to-understand materials, inadequate training of teachers and confusion around the curriculum itself. A tender has recently been put out by the national Department of Education for the development of new learning and training materials to pilot Grades 4 and 8 later this year. Materials developers had a mere two weeks to put together extensive OBE materials for the pilot.

The same rush to produce materials in the past three years led to the confusion which currently surrounds the new curriculum. Information from the provinces shows that Grade 7 training materials brought out by the national department last year, which cost R1,5-million, were hardly used, because of the poor quality of the materials and because teachers did not receive proper training. Curriculum developers now fear that the whole process is likely to be repeated again with the new grades. Although Asmal stressed that the review is not a departure from OBE, the independent evaluation is clearly a response to many of the problems with its implementation. Asmal last week criticised the unnecessarily complicated version of OBE which has been handed down to teachers. However, Asmal said, “Outcomes-based education is here to stay.”

He added that Curriculum 2005 was an attempt to transform education to “the human rights-inspired, lively, activity-based, colourful, learner-centred and entrepreneurial activity that it should be for all learners. And, with the new outcomes-based curriculum, we are combining rather than separating the acquisition by all learners of the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that reflect more closely life outside and after school.”

The review team includes: Themba Ndlovu, University of Natal’s School of Education lecturer; Emilia Potenza, independent consultant; Haroon Mohammed, director of the Gauteng Institute of Curriculum Development; Joe Muller, head of the University of Cape Town’s School of Education; Penny Vinjevold, independent consultant; John Volmink, pro-vice chancellor of Natal University and executive director of Natal University Development Foundation; Leona Ngozi, Grade 1 teacher at Ukhanyiso Primary in Katlehong; Beverley Malan, lecturer at Vista University; Cassius Lubisi, lecturer at University of Natal’s School of Education; Lebs Mphahlele, chief education specialist, National Centre for Curriculum Research and Development, Department of Education.

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, March 6, 2000.

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