The effect of continuous curriculum policy changes on the professional lives of foundation phase teachers in post-apartheid South Africa.
This study sought to investigate the effects of continuous curriculum policy changes on the professional lives of foundation phase teachers in post-apartheid South Africa. Since the inception of Curriculum 2005 (C2005) in 1994, there have been several policy initiatives aimed at the Foundation Phase. These include: The Revised National Curriculum Statement (2002) , followed by the Foundations for Learning Campaign and the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) in 2012. This study aims to understand the process and experience of change from a teachers‟ perspective, as teachers‟ participation in education policy formulation has been limited or non-existent. The study sought to answer three critical questions: Why have there been continuous curriculum policy changes in post-apartheid South Africa? What are the implications of continuous curriculum policy changes for foundation phase teachers? What are the effects of these changes on the professional lives of foundation phase teachers? The literature review sought to explore the motivation for continuous curriculum changes and the implications that these changes have for foundation phase teachers. The literature review indicates that policy changes derive largely from two contending imperatives, namely pedagogical enhancement and/or political symbolism. The qualitative data generated for the analysis is underpinned by the interpretive paradigm using data collected through structured interviews. Foundation phase teachers from three primary schools were selected to participate in the study. The questions have also been explored using relevant theoretical explanations that derive from empirical data. This study has been framed within four theoretical frameworks, namely: Foucault‟s (1991) theory of governmentality, Jansen‟s (2002) theory of political symbolism, Carnal‟s (1993) theory of change, and Hargreaves (1994) theory of professionalism and intensification. The analysis reveals that continuous policy changes lead to intensification of teacher workloads and poor uptake and implementation of new/revised policies. As the trajectory of curriculum policy change reveals, teachers who have hardly been able to internalise pre-existing policies are required to engage with new policies. The data reveals that frequent policy changes have resulted in uncertainty and confusion among teachers, and contrary to the policy rhetoric, do not improve the performance of learners, as is evident from South Africa‟s poor performance in international literacy and numeracy tests. Nor does it assist with teacher development. The haste usually associated with the policy process results in the use of the much maligned “cascade” model of teacher development. Policy bureaucrats, who have inadequate understandings of policy, superficially cascade these understandings to teachers through quick-fix workshops. The study contends that the state of policy-flux is counterproductive and can be attributed to the phenomenon of governmentality. This is an attempt by the ruling party (which governs policy development almost exclusively) to be seen to be making substantive changes, but these changes remain at the level of policy rhetoric and policy symbolism. The report concludes with the assertion that for policy to have substantive force, there needs to be more productive policy dialogue among practising teachers and policy makers. It is still possible to infuse a sense of legitimacy in the policy process, if teachers are positioned at the centre of the endeavour rather than at the margins.