Teaching within a prescriptive school curriculum: implications for teacher agency and professionalism.
Walbrugh, Taniqua Allin.
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The schooling system within South Africa over the last decade and a half has been characterised by several curriculum changes with the goal of providing quality basic education different from that provided by the Apartheid government. The several iterations of curriculum change sought to respond to the various challenges that the new curriculum philosophy presented as a response to the wide range of issues and critiques. At present the school curriculum is framed within the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) and has been in existence for the past three years. Now is the right opportunity to research how the CAPS curriculum is experienced by all. However, for the purpose of this study, the research on CAPS will be focused on teachers’ experiences of teaching within this curriculum framework. More specifically, the focus is on teacher agency as teachers’ negotiate the CAPS curriculum within their context of teaching. Although the literature review provides some understanding into the implementation of a prescribed curriculum and its theoretical influence on teacher agency, no solutions and suggestions are offered. It is to be simply accepted that teachers have to teach the set curriculum in order to be successful in the eyes of the educational departments as there are numerous factors determining successfulness. Additionally, although Emirbayer and Mische (1998) Samuel (1998) and Apple (1993) provide a theoretical and conceptual framework for understanding teacher agency in curriculum, there is a practical gap as only theoretical and conceptual understandings are provided; ignoring practical understandings. Emirbayer and Mische (1998) provide great insight as to what influences agency and how teachers teach, yet it does not refer to manners in which teacher agency is utilized when restricted by a curriculum. This study provided a practical understanding of how to recognise agency under a prescriptive curriculum; through adoption, adaption and neglect. In addition, Apple (1993) offers support on understanding the basics of curriculum through state theory; however, theory relating to the context of implementing a national curriculum is limited, especially in relation to South Africa. I feel that my study attempted at bridging this gap, bringing forth new ideas, concepts and theories around the phenomenon of how teachers teach within a prescriptive school curriculum.