Our curriculum

Every discussion about education in South Africa centres around the class numbers and teachers who have no control and similar related issues.

Rarely does it centre around WHAT our children are learning!! As my kids progress through the grades I am getting more and more concerned about WHAT they are learning.

Cameron starts exams today. His first exam is art and music. I can’t draw nor can I play an instrument BUT I understand what a rich subject this could be. There is so much to learn about our local art and music never mind internationally. What do they learn? The 5 ballet positions. My son has to learn how to place his feet for ballet. SERIOUSLY? WTF?

When I tweeted how much I find this subject a waste of time someone replied something along the lines of it sparking interest in a child who could go on to do great things in art – FAIR COMMENT BUT I am not convinced that this is going to spark an interest in ballet? For music he had to learn an animal orchestra – he had to learn the animals (11 of them) and their corresponding instrument – WHY? It has no value? It is simply learning the donkey is the strings and the duck is the piano.

In his Social Science book he has about 6 sheets on how to make clay!! REALLY SIX SHEETS on how to make clay!!!!!! Different sheets with slight differences but all about how to make clay? Is there nothing else age appropriate they can learn in this subject?

Kiara is currently reading a book about soccer. It is the most boring book ever – she doesn’t like soccer, she doesn’t play soccer – SHE is a SHE so why give her a very boy book? AND then why give her a British book where they call it football and the adults say “sod off”. Are there no other books out there?

In all fairness the maths and English (apart from the crap choice in books) they learn does seem to be adequate but there is more to life than maths and English.?

Are you kids in primary school yet? Have you found this?

15 thoughts on “Our curriculum

  1. In terms of the animals and their instruments – this is actually a learning activity around Peter and the Wolf, which has some rich learning activities beyond simply which instrument represents which animal.

    One of the biggest things with the current curriculum and how it is implemented in our primary schools is through integrated themes and activities – at least, that is how my daughter’s primary school handled it. So, in English they would read the story of Peter and the Wolf, and write a comprehension test on it. This then filters through into Art, where they do both comprehension of the story and the music associated.

    Unfortunately, our children sometimes have to suffer through lessons that do not appeal to them, but it is over so quickly and they can easily balance those things with the things that do appeal to them.

    • Vanessa – this wasn’t Peter and the Wolf – we did that already and I am ok with that! I just don’t see the value in learning that a pig = a violin.

  2. We’re not there yet, but this all sounds a bit disturbing to me. We definitely didn’t learn things like this in school. I had anticipated that the history taught at school would be different of course, but I’ve kind of assumed that the rest would stay more or less the same. My colleague’s daughter is now in grade 1 and he’s constantly moaning about the sheer volume of work she has to do at home, but he hasn’t complained about the subject matter yet.

    • Louisa – the foundation phases are ok – they still teach the basics – although I do have my doubts about the method. They definitely get more homework than we ever did!

  3. I don’t mean to be rude, but there are a LARGE number of girls who do enjoy soccer and have gone quite far in the sport. Putting kids into a corner and saying “don’t make my boy learn ballet” or “don’t make my girl learn about sport” can seriously alienate and emotionally harm those who may not conform totally to the gender identity most commonly associated with their sex. Also, in a mixed-gender/sex school, teachers have to try to appeal to all of the children, being somewhat well-rounded in what subjects their reading covers. We will all read things we hate in school.
    Also, it may be that the budget only allows for one or two books on each reading level, so…they have to simply do their best.
    That said, you do have a fair point about your children being uninterested. My suggestion is to supplement with things they are interested in–take your son to a museum or play and your daughter to a library or bookshop to let her choose something she is interested in and spark the joy in reading.

    • Frank – fair comment about the gender thing – the teacher knows my child well enough to know we battle with reading AND she knows her well enough to know she is going to hate a book about soccer and not want to read it.

  4. Mmmm…I have mixed feelings on this one. The non-gender specific stuff honestly doesn’t bother me. In fact, ALL kids at Waldorf schools are expected to knit. Having said that, I do think that it’s a bit short-sighted for them to expect Grade3’s to read British slang at this point – as far as I’m concerned reading is still formative during this period.
    I understand that they are meant to reach specific outcomes but I do wish that they can use methods and everyday examples that kids can relate to. This is why I would LOVE to homeschool. On the other hand, them being forced to study a lot of crap is also kind of a life skill that is being learned. I told Child1 the other day that in life (i.e. at school, in the home, in the workplace) one often has to do things that one finds stupid in order to accomplish a particular goal and that in his case, the goal = pass grade 6 and proceed to grade 7. It’s like learning to drive. No one actually walks around their car and does a pre-inspection but it IS required for you to pass the driving test.
    I don’t remember him doing ballet stuff in Grade 4 A&C. I do remember them learning about different religions i.e. Islam and Buddhism and Judaism etc. I must check his books to see what they did. This year’s A&C wasn’t too bad. He had to do line-dancing for an assessment last term (they had to dress up and everything and got marked on it) which he hated (obviously) but I know that many other kids enjoyed that experience. I guess one can’t please everyone. And they had to produce a number of crafty stuff using different materials i.e. metals and paper and clay etc. He seems to have enjoyed that.
    As far as I understand, those teachers get a list of topics to choose from. They (along with the Head of Dept) usually do planning and decide which one they are going to do to achieve a specific outcome with the kids within a particular learning area. I would actually ask the teacher WHY they cover specific topics and what the intended outcome is. If they can’t tell you that then I think you have a BIG problem.
    AT the moment I have a problem with Life Orientation. It covers mostly health-related topics (HIV, nutrition, communicable diseases etc) and I would like for them to do things like how to draft a CV or how to buy a house or how does compounded interest work. THAT to my knowledge is Life orientation. And it’s real stuff that we deal with every day in a South African context.

    • Re: Life Orientation. I think the Department follow HIV, nutrition etc because, for the majority of South Africans, buying a house will never be a reality, while HIV very much is. That said; I think the curriculum lacks proper emphasis on HIV/sex eduction, especially in the intermediate phase.

  5. So far for us, foundation phase is okay, just a lot of work and some of it is too difficult in relation to their age sometimes.

    Laura, I think the pig=violin is a learning technique, it helps to teach them to study with association.

  6. shew thanks for the insight of what to expect in future. My daughter will be starting gr1 next year at the moment in gr r she also gets lots of homework to do mainly contructing rhyming words as well as additional and subtraction (teachers explaination is that it will prepare them for gr1 and what will be expected of them) at the moment though im also having a problem of the amount of kids in her class that have been recommended to do occupational therapy (at least 90% of the class is doing ot on the schools recommendation. Yesterday we got a letter from the principal saying that its not only her school that has so many kids needing additional therapies outside of school its either speech and language,occupation therapy or play therapy i mean really these kids havent even made it into gr1 yet and there is so much expected of them

  7. I have not reached there yet, but I have heard my co-workers complaining. The biggest complaint my one co-worker had was in Life Skills her daughter had to learn what “An*l S*x” was. She was 12! I am all for S*x education but that seems a bit extreme.

    We have decided to enroll Little OL in a Montessori preschool and will more than likely carry it on all the way through till Grade 12. We are now just holding thumbs that she gets in. We submitted the application yesterday.

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