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Improving learning outcomes through curriculum strengthening

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is committed to strengthening the curriculum to enhance its relevance to equip learners with sustainable skills and competencies for the future to transition effectively from school to work, higher education and for entrepreneurial opportunities. 

Ms Cheryl Weston, DBE’s Director for Learning Recovery and Curriculum Strengthening, explained that, “the draft South African Competency Framework was developed during 2022, through public consultations across all nine provinces with teachers, learners, officials at district, provincial and national level, local and international academics, experts on learning sciences, Civil society organisations, Labour partners, Business organisations, School Governing Body Associations and formations, first year students  and youth through face to face workshops, webinars and working group activities. The Framework will guide the process of infusing competencies across five levers for change: Curriculum Policy, Teacher Development, Learning Environment, Assessment and LTSM, with the focus placed on a Competency-infused Curricula.

To this end, a multi-stakeholder Consultative Conference took place at Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg from 9 – 10 September 2023, with approximately 450 delegates attending. The purpose of the workshop was to consult with a wide range of education stakeholders including officials from circuits, districts and provinces, learners, teachers, School Governing Bodies (SGBs), teacher unions, on the process of curriculum strengthening and the draft Competency Framework, with the aim of igniting deeper, critical conversations to take the process forward. The objectives of the consultations are to gauge overall stakeholder buy-in in relations to the concept of curriculum strengthening and the components of the Framework such as skills, values, characters, knowledge, and other cross-cutting priorities. Input was also invited in relation to classroom content, drawing on teaching and learning strategies and support required for effective implementation for alignment across the sector.

Ms Weston added that, “curriculum strengthening will not result in a rewrite of the curriculum, but build on the strengths of the current CAPS to address gaps. New content and additions will be restricted to a maximum of 20% impact on subjects. Teachers should be assisted through continued strengthening of disciplinary knowledge and competence of teaching their subjects, along with the development of pedagogical support guidelines and videos for best practice. There will be a shift from formal assessment such as tests and examinations, recording, pass rates, school performance and international testing to learning. LTSM should provide a range of sources of information, and encourage learners to think critically, encouraging them to do their own research wherever possible. A values orientation is encouraged, modelling a learning environment that incorporates the core values and models the competencies. There must be sufficient resources to facilitate digital skills and broader access to reading materials and parental involvement to ensure that competencies and values are reinforced in the home and community”.

The DBE is supported by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), UNICEF and Save the Children South Africa, with JET Education and the University of Pretoria as the research arm, in its endeavour to implement the strengthened curriculum along with the accompanying Framework, and a comprehensive report will be developed to consolidate stakeholder concerns, ideas and recommendations on both the curriculum strengthening exercise and the South African Competency Framework, which will be presented to the sector for adoption.

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