Exploring the experiences of foundation phase educators within a context of curriculum change in English literacy.
Tolmen, Priscilla Selishna.
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The year 1990, marked significant political changes in South Africa, and heralded a defining change in education as significant changes were implemented in the curriculum as one of the many attempts to rectify the injustices of an apartheid system and Bantu Education. The importance of improving literacy at the Foundation Phase (Grades 1 to 3) has been a major challenge for the new curriculum (National Education Evaluation and Development Unit – National Report 2012). Although education has become more accessible for all learners, the results in Literacy, especially in the Foundation Phase have not improved, as is evident from the results from the Grade 3 Systemic Evaluation in 2003 and 2007 and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2006 and in 2011. Learners reading and comprehension levels continue to be low, and writing, reading and verbal skills are inadequate. The poor results of learners and their difficulties experienced in Reading has compelled the Department of Education to re-evaluate the curriculum and modify it to boost learner performances in English. The observation of this poor performance and of the several changes to the curriculum (particularly in literacy in the case of this study) provides the rationale for this research to be undertaken. This thesis was aimed at identifying the challenges experienced by Foundation Phase teachers in English as a first additional language within a context of a changing curriculum. The study is an interpretative one and uses a qualitative, case study approach. To obtain the data, four educators were purposively sampled, and requested to participate in semi-structured interviews in which their experiences with curriculum change were explored. Observations of their lessons and documentary analysis were also conducted to elicit richer data. The study, which is located at a public school in the urban area in the Pinetown district of the Mafukuzela Gandhi Circuit, Kwa-Zulu-Natal, South Africa, serves to explore the experiences of Foundation phase educators. The researcher, who is an educator for 19 years is motivated by personal, political and contextual factors and asks the following critical questions: 1.What changes have been effected in literacy (English) in Foundation Phase? 2. How do Foundation Phase teachers experience these changes? The literature review focused on curriculum change and how this had affected the teaching of English Literacy in the Foundation phase with special emphasis on educator’s strategies and approaches to teaching this subject. The conceptual framework of the use of New Literacy Studies approach which regards Literacy as a social practice and how this facilitated learning is explained. The study suggests that while the participating educators are happier with the CAPS system and make attempts to use it, their lack of training as Foundation Phase educators, large numbers of children who have no English language background, as well as lack of home support in terms of homework follow up, and the poor the socio-cultural background works against an effective implementation of the CAPS policy. It is suggested that the Department of Education provide regular and constructive support so that educators can be successful in the classroom. In this study, it was argued that experiences in English First Additional Language pedagogy within a context of changing curriculum is a complex and difficult process and requires careful planning, adequate time, funding and support and opportunities for successful teacher engagement.