OBE changes ‘removing the last ghost of 1998’

The outcomes-based education (OBE) system would not be completely scrapped but would be modified to improve the performance of school pupils, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Tuesday.

Admitting the old curriculum had major problems, Motshekga said her department was reviewing the design and methodology of the OBE system.

“We have and will continue to make changes on an ongoing basis where they can be made with minimal disruption. We expect better outcomes from the system,” she told media in Pretoria.

Acknowledging that the curriculum had been reviewed twice since its introduction 12 years ago, Motshekga said the latest modifications were basically “removing the last ghost of 1998” but it did not amount to a wholesale abandonding of the system.

“We now talk of a national curriculum and not OBE … It can’t be true that we are phasing it out, we want to ensure stability and no fatigue.”

Some of the changes in the system included the reduction of the number of projects for pupils. The department had also since the beginning of the year, done away with the need for portfolio files of pupils’ assessments and discontinued the “common task for assessment for grade nines”.

This followed recommendations by a ministerial committee tasked with the review of the implementation of the national curriculum statement in 2009.

Continuous assessment changed
The committee backed an outcry by teachers that they were overloaded with administrative work and that curriculum goals were unrealistic as some pupils lacked resources like study material and access to the internet.

The council of education ministers last month approved the reduction of a number of learning areas in the intermediate phase from eight to six and that English be taught together with mother-tongue instruction.

Motshekga however emphasised that English would not replace pupil’s home languages in the early grades.

The policy of continuous assessment had also changed, particularly for grades seven to nine. Matrics remained unaffected, with 75% of their marks coming from the year-end exams and 25% from continuous assessment.

Motshekga said the phasing in of the curriculum and assessment policy statements in the foundation phase would take place next year to allow time for the orientation and training of teachers.

“We will phase in other grades in 2012 so that we can make the necessary preparations,” said Motshekga.

She said because some of the changes had policy implications, her department would keep to due process and would invite public comment.

“Our overarching priority is to bring about a fundamental change in schooling outcomes.” – Sapa

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