Towards a new framework for reconstruction of the primary science curriculum in South Africa.
Raubenheimer, Carol Dianne.
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The purpose of this study is to ascertain, from a review and analysis of the literature, if any key messages emerge within which curriculum reconstruction of primary science education in South Africa can be undertaken. Firstly, three paradigms in education are equated with three philosophies of science and the compatibility of modes of inquiry are highlighted. It is argued that paradigms can be used as a form of analysis to locate particular approaches to the teaching and learning of science. Thereafter, an overview of major trends in science education is provided. The various views of and approaches to science education are analysed and located within particular paradigms. In order to assist in such analyses, a conceptual framework is developed. This draws on key determinants of curriculum development and locates these within each of the three paradigms. The framework is applied to a review and analysis of international emphases in primary science education, within which five different perspectives are identified. These are located within different paradigms. Science education in developing countries is considered thereafter and some recent trends in primary science curriculum development in South Africa are examined. It is shown that the recent syllabus revision process and the revised syllabuses in South Africa are still located in a technical approach to curriculum development. In seeking an alternative approach, the weaknesses of imported ready made solutions from more developed contexts are highlighted, and an exploration of alternative approaches that are more responsive to local contexts is then undertaken. Some innovative examples of curriculum development in other parts of Africa and South Africa are examined. From the review and analysis a set of key messages emerge for curriculum development in primary science education. In selecting appropriate programmes, it is vital that attention is given to children's' existing abilities and ideas, to the expected role for science in society, and to a particular society's values and norms. Material provision, of itself, does not bring about meaningful change, and teachers can and should be involved in the production of teaching materials. Another key message is that it is crucial for teachers to be involved in curriculum decision making, although they may need inservice support to make this possible. Approaches to inservice education must therefore give due consideration to this, and to developing classroom based teaching competencies. Finally, attention is given to some of the factors which may contribute to systemic change in science education.