Design analysis of the Grade 9 technology curriculum in South Africa.
During the years of apartheid (pre 1994) there were two main streams that one could follow while studying at school viz. academic or technical. The majority of South African learners followed the more traditional academic stream allowing some to enter careers as doctors, lawyers, policemen/woman, school teachers and the like, while the remainder ended up jobless. Those pupils who followed the technical stream were considered by some of the more academically inclined persons, to be the 'duller' type of pupil, who could learn a trade and end up as a blue-collar worker. As the cost of technical education has always been much higher than the purely academic courses, the number of schools offering technical subject courses in South Africa has always been in the minority. The entire scene changed after the banning of apartheid (post 1994) and the introduction of the notion of globalisation. Rapid developments suddenly appeared world-wide especially with the introduction of new technologies, mainly in informatics. Suddenly the world seemed to be a much smaller place as one could e-mail, fax, or use a cell phone anywhere in the world at the touch of a button. In order for South Africa to become part of the new world order, and to think about global markets, certain essential changes had to be made firstly to the local environment. A depressed economy needed rejuvenation. There was a growing awareness that serious change was needed in the way children think and learn at school and to start aligning ideas with international trends. To do this, the Department of Education in Pretoria (DoE), decided to radically transform the education sector by introducing a new system of education known as outcomes-based education (OBE). The new OBE system brought with it mixed reactions from the South African public and from the teachers within the system. Many teachers did not want to accept that education could be done in a different way than they had been used to, in the past twenty to forty years. Younger teachers on the other hand did embrace change but are still trying to get the right balance within the prescribed parameters laid down in national education policy documents. To try and achieve such balance, the minister of education called for an independent review committee to re-work the general education and training phase curricula in order for them to be made more 'user-friendly' as many complaints had been received about the policy documents being overly complicated and unmanageable in the normal classroom situation. This process was concluded in May 2001 and Technology education remained as one of the eight new learning areas within the general education and training phase (GET) of South African schooling. The first draft of the Technology education curriculum was handed out for public comment in October 1997 and was used as the basis for a pilot study at selected schools in 1998. This information was used as the basis for analyzing the design of the Technology curriculum at grade 9 level. Grade 9 was selected as it is the final exit from general education and training (GET) into further education and training (FET), and because it was the starting point for the pilot project in 1998. Valuable data was available at the pilot project school sites to be used in this study. Not all the provinces were able to initiate a pilot project due to a number of reasons but those that did viz. Kwazulu/Natal, Gauteng, and the Western Cape were visited individually to collect data. This study therefore 'unpacks' the Technology curriculum into component parts using an analysis tool developed from a theoretical framework. This unpacking of the parts allows one the opportunity to critically check whether or not certain important aspects of the design were omitted either intentionally or unintentionally by the design team (NTT). Chapter one orientates the reader and sets the scene from where I, as researcher, locate myself and what the prevailing conditions are like at South African schools. The study problem is highlighted as are the obstacles that have tended to have an impact on the final curriculum design. Chapter two provides an overview of the related theory associated with the field of curriculum study. Technology education is discussed as broadly as possible within the framework of the new OBE education system for South African schools. Chapter three discusses the methodologies applied to ensure reliability and validity of the findings. The design analysis tool is presented with an explanation of each of the eight components. Chapter four relates an interesting story about the findings. A description of the educational sites is presented together with descriptions of the educators at the six pilot schools, as well as some background of the national technology design team (NTT). All recorded evidence was gathered during personal visits to the schools and individual meetings with the design team members. Chapter five provides a discussion of the data to analyse the Technology curriculum. In this way the reader is directed to the problem areas that were identified and supported the purpose of this curriculum study. Chapter six firstly answers the three critical questions posed in Chapter one. An alternative model for curriculum design and development is presented. This theoretical model is intended to reduce the weaknesses of the present curriculum design if applied to any similar initiative in the future. This will allow educators greater freedom to do what they do best - to teach from a curriculum policy that they clearly understand and are trained to deliver. In this way South African schools and all learners will be rewarded by being well prepared for a variety of challenging careers in the global world that we live in.