Curriculum responses to community-based air pollution : an ethnographic study.
The study aimed at exploring curriculum responses to community-based air pollution. This was done through an analysis of educator and learner perceptions of community-based air pollution and an examination of how the curriculum (teaching and learning content) responds to local air pollution. The key forms of the study - (what are the perceptions of educators and learners to community-based air pollution and how do educators and learners respond to community-based air pollution within the formal curriculum). Ethnography as a qualitative methodology was adopted in the study. This methodological tool created spaces to understand curriculum responsiveness in the context of wider social and political power relations in the South Durban Basin. Ethnography suited the study since it was a unique example of educators and learners in real situations and lived experiences, and enabled a clearer understanding of the theory and praxis of curriculum. The primary research methodology used in order to gather data to answer the research questions was observation, participant observation and interviewing of educators and learners. This study was conducted with educators and learners in the Further Education and Training phase (Grade 10), within the Human and Social Sciences in the year 2006 . Curriculum responses to community-based air pollution in Geography and Life Orientation were investigated. Learners were traced from previous primary schools in the area and who were in Grade 10. It was found that all participants in the study were knowledgeable and well informed about air pollution through consistent exposure to local air pollution. Collectively, they presented a sense of enduring struggle against community-based air pollution. They have been part of the struggle for clean air for many years and reside in the South Durban Basin. Participants display perspicuity in respect of how air pollution infects and affects them . Attempts at including community-based air pollution into the curriculum have been sporadic and at times incidental from learners' point of view . On the other hand, educators' responses were very constructive and established . Furthermore with reference to curriculum response to the subjects Geography and Life Orientation, both educators and learners responses were similar in that they displayed sophisticated accounts of knowledge of community-based air pollution. There was a deep sense of understanding of content and related to lived experiences. It was also found that educators and learners choose to live optimistically amidst the air pollution at Valley Secondary. Issues of class, poverty and powerlessness emerge from the data - these govern the lives of educators and learners. Participants in the study provided several motivations for Environmental Education to be included as a separate subject for future curriculum initiatives by the Department of Education. The recommendations included a strong need for responsive teaching to community-based air pollution. Learners should also be guided on how they should handle air pollution incidents. Recommendations in respect of re-organising the existent Environmental Club at Valley Secondary School also emerged. There is a clear sense that schools in the area should mobilise against the cooperate giants. Recommendations were provided for Curriculum Planners , Policy, and Policy Makers at the level of the Department of Education for the inclusion of Environmental Education as a separate subject rather than a devolved input.