School history curriculum overhaul mooted

The history curriculum is due for a major makeover in a bid to make the curriculum Afrocentric and relevant to South African learners.

The department of basic education announced on Tuesday that it has reappointed the ministerial task team that recommended in June this year that history be compulsory for grades 10 to 12.

Editorial: History’s crucial lessons

The team — led by Professor Sifiso Ndlovu — has been asked to “set the direction of history education for the country going forward”, according to a statement released by the department.

“Inside and outside of the education sector there has been a lot of excitement and anticipation regarding the overhaul of our history education in schools, which has been characterised by many as perpetuating a colonial or western perspective,” Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in the statement.

“I have absolute faith in the team of experts that are going to be forging the way forward in terms of how we teach our young people about the past. I believe that a comprehensive, well-rounded and accurate teaching of history will help our learners understand themselves better and assist the country in moving forward together,” Motshekga added.

READ MORE: History is our school’s power tool

The ministerial task team will not only develop a new history curriculum for Grades 4 to 12 but will screen textbooks to ensure their alignment with the new curriculum and propose history teacher development programmes.

When the team made its initial recommendations this year, it raised the point that the way history is currently being taught in schools is “sanitised” and makes the part of the curriculum that deals with Africa topics and themes, too “touristy”.

“The history of Africa needs to be given the depth and breadth it deserves. The archaeological past needs to be reintroduced at a higher level, and dealt with in a more sophisticated manner,” the task team said in the report.

READ MORE: Education task team — History should be a compulsory school subject from 2023

The team further said the curriculum does not place enough emphasis on indigenous and pre-colonial knowledge in higher grades, where this history is critical because older children can make “deep connections” with the content.

“The consequences are that most of these students struggle at university because the content is pitched at a higher, sophisticated level — taking for granted that students have necessary skills to unpack it,” the report stated.

“To put it bluntly, the CAPS [curriculum assessment policy statements] curriculum sets up students for failure at university.”

READ MORE: The way history is taught in South Africa is ahistorical ― and that’s a problem

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