Examining curriculum change in English language teaching from O-level to the IGCSE curriculum in four selected high schools in Swaziland.
This study was undertaken to explore curriculum change from the General Certificate in Education (GCE) Ordinary Level (O-Level) to the International General Certificate in Secondary Education (lGCSE) with regard to English language teaching in four high schools in the Manzini region of Swaziland. The study investigated teachers' perceptions of the curriculum change and how they implemented it. The impact of the training teachers received in preparation for the introduction of the IGCSE English curriculum was also explored. An interpretive research paradigm using qualitative methodology was chosen for the study and was driven by the following critical research questions: 1. How do teachers experience curriculum change from GCE O-Level to IGCSE with regard to English language teaching? 2. How was this change implemented in the Form 4 English language classrooms? Qualitative methods comprising semi-structured interviews and non-participant classroom observations were used for collecting data. Data from interviews with teachers were analysed thematically through the use of the constant comparison method, while classroom observations data were qualitatively analysed by using themes that emerged from the observation schedule designed for the study. The data from classroom observations were triangulated with data from interviews with teachers to ensure validity of the study. The study used the body of literature that relates to second language acquisition (SLA) and learning, with specific reference to social constructivism, bilingualism, communicative language teaching and task-based language teaching approaches, literacy and the genre approach as the theoretical framework. The theoretical framework facilitated an understanding that knowledge or meaningful learning is constructed by the learners as they interact using the target language. The results revealed that the teachers used a constructivist approach towards teaching which comprised the communicative language teaching and task-based language teaching and learning approaches. The IGCSE curriculum emphasizes the use of these approaches. The findings also indicated that teachers were inadequately prepared for teaching the IGCSE English curriculum as some of the workshop facilitators were less informed than some of the participants; and that they were only given guidance for conducting assessment in the oral skill without training them how to teach it. Also, the language aspects such as grammar, writing and reading were left out when the curriculum was reviewed, as a result teachers reverted to using the structural approach when teaching grammar, as opposed to the constructivist approach. Findings showed that as much as the IGCSE English curriculum was said to be good, the reading skill was inefficiently taught. IGCSE does not give learners quality education since the tasks learners did were cognitively unchallenging. In view of the theoretical framework of the study, the IGCSE English curriculum produces skills-based, vocationally inclined learners who are not geared towards pursuing academic university education. Listening comprehension was found to be the most problematic language aspect since the learners could not understand the English native speakers' accent when they listened to passages from tapes and CD's during examinations. Using the genre approach to essay writing findings showed that teaching essay writing was not well grounded. The study recommended that the curriculum be reviewed and teachers be taught more effective approaches to teaching essay writing as well as reading comprehension. It was also recommended that the Ministry of Education should assist teachers with additional resources and multimedia for teaching listening skills including CDs and listening to talk shows and in teaching essay writing. The study further recommended that localisation of the curriculum to SIGCSE should be postponed until a suitable curriculum is identified and that further research be conducted which would include a larger study that would be a true representation of all high schools in the four regions of the country.