Education requires an evolution

Our last two blog posts have looked at two identified trends in education which we feel are knocking on the door more than ever. The first trend we identified was the expanding role that the Sustainable Development Goals are going to play in schools in the future. And the second trend, looked at the fact that schools are going to need to adapt faster than ever to the changing landscapes of our economy and the world of work.

Our third trend explores the adaptions required in the way we teach and learn. Our pedagogy and educational approach is always required to adapt over time, both in methodology and in content.  

The past few months have been unprecedented in so many ways. Never before has our education community been grounded to a complete halt like it has in 2020 as a result of COVID-19. This forced hiatus from the classrooms, to-do lists, sports fields and staff rooms have left a large amount of time for reflection.

A large component of my own personal reflection was directed at deeply rethinking the curriculum structure and make-up here in South Africa and how it is realised in many different ways across the nation.

The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) is the national curriculum for South African schools. In short, it is a vast curriculum which has been critiqued heavily as being too content-heavy, with large emphasis on assessment as a medium for performance.
Without taking anything away from the design and curation of the CAPS curriculum, but in light of the recent challenges facing us all, I feel that we need to rethink the role and influence that curriculum plays on both the educator and the learner.

First, educators. They are the driving force of our schools and institutions and have long been regarded as one of the most valuable members of society. Without teachers, there really would be no future. Sadly, our society doesn’t value teachers as much as they should and the past few months have been powerful in revealing the valuable members of our society – those who maintain the backbone and posture of our communities. One then has to beg the question of why our teachers are constantly inundated with large task-lists, admin and extra work that may very well deter them from their core focus and aim – creating valuable learning experiences for their learners. 

Second, the learners. As a relatively recent graduate of school and in my short time in schools as an educator and coach, I have noticed a large amount of work-related stress and pressure on learners. To further that and perhaps more worryingly, I have noticed a deep apathy toward the content taught and the relevancy it has to a teenager growing up currently.

Globally, students are calling for environmental, social and economic change – millions of students are taking to the street demanding change from the top.

Within educational institutions around the world, students are calling for the decolonisation of the primary, secondary and tertiary education systems. And to focus back in South Africa, in light of the recent pandemic and the vast national changes that have ensued, students are facing higher demands and as a consequence, higher stress levels and associated difficulties.

Thousands of citizens and activists marched to Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, forming part of a global movement that demands an end to the age of fossil fuels and embraces a new age of renewable energy and climate justice. 20 September 2019. (Photo: Leila Dougan/Daily Maverick)

The thing is, our education systems were calling for drastic changes before COVID-19.

It is all good and well for me to identify what is wrong with our systems without paying any attention to solutions and alternatives. And in writing this, I don’t exactly know what all the solutions are at this current time. But I do feel that an opportunity has been thrown our way in the form of a global pandemic, for us to re-imagine and re-prioritise our education.

I feel that we have been given an opportunity to rewrite the daily lives of both learner and educator; to revamp school buildings and facilities which have long been calling for it; to better support and equip educators in lower-resourced schools; and to make learning relevant and applicable to all students.

The upcoming times are going to be tough and unpredictable for educators, curriculum-advisors; department employees; parents and learners. 

All the answers we are searching for may not just be lying around the corner. They are far off and will require us to be innovative and resilient in light of many challenges.

But, taking the necessary steps now in rethinking our curriculum may pay off in the long term. After all, we should always be focused on creating the type of education to sustain the  generations of tomorrow.

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