Critical factors for successful curriculum implementation are many and varied. There are also different ways of approaching the issue of implementation. Chapter One pointed to those conditions which have resulted in variability of impact and experience amongst and between schools. This Chapter addresses the question in relation to the implementation of Curriculum 2005 as a curriculum change strategy.

The same issues that have constrained successful implementation are those whose improvement would make for strengthened implementation. The argument of this report is that implementation has been hampered by the structure and design of the curriculum, the quantity and quality of training provided, the quality, availability and use of learning support materials and the capacity of provinces to support implementation and especially teachers in classrooms. But these on their own are not enough to ensure successful implementation. Underlying each of these in turn are three major issues. These three are: resources, feasible time-frames and regular monitoring and review.

The successful implementation of the structure and design of the curriculum, orientation and training, learning support materials and support to teachers were all constrained in the first instance by adequate financial and human resources. Although the very emergence of a new curriculum to replace that of apartheid education was an achievement, its structure and design was compromised by the availability of human and financial resources to construct it. Teacher orientation, training and development were limited by the quantity and quality of training and trainers, both of which are financial and human resource issues. The quality, availability and use of learning support materials were undermined by scarce financial and human resources. Provincial capacity to ensure provision, training and support for teachers in classrooms has suffered because of the shortage of both human and financial resources. And implementation in classrooms has been hamstrung by inadequate physical and learning resources.

Just as the structure and design of the curriculum, teacher preparation, learning support materials and provincial capacity to support implementation were constrained by limited resources, so each aspect of implementation was affected by the time-frames adopted. Too-tight time-frames were unrealistic at a time when newly-constituted departments not yet operating to full capacity and without adequate budgets were expected to simultaneously formulate and implement policies and programmes across every area of education. Chapter Seven shows how provincial capacity to implement Curriculum 2005 was undermined by an extremely high turn-over of leadership and management at all levels of the system. Many schools also had no principals in the first four years of the newly-established Departments of Education. These difficulties were compounded by policies such as those for the redeployment of teachers which had the effect of creating an extremely turbulent context in provinces and schools. In this context, the implementation of Curriculum 2005 within the time-frames decided upon was simply unmanageable.

Implementation of Curriculum 2005 was accompanied by a number of assessments and evaluations. These were in different ways concerned with teacher orientation and training, learning support materials and provincial capacity. This Report reviews them in order to discover their main implications for successful implementation. Without such a process of regular monitoring and review, curriculum renewal cannot occur. Ongoing research on curriculum change, supported at all levels, is critical both for its constant improvement and for generating the debate and discussion that is central to an informed citizenry within a democratic society. Monitoring and review on their own cannot effect change, however. They need to be supplemented by wise judgement and decisive action in key areas.

Efforts to implement without adequate resources and within existing time-frames has meant that the processes of implementation have sometimes been counter-productive to the broader aims of educational transformation. If a principal goal of implementing Curriculum 2005 was to overturn the legacy of apartheid by enabling teachers to change their understandings of what is possible and thereby transform classroom practice, then the results to date have not been encouraging.

Former Model C schools appear to have been able to implement Curriculum 2005 with greater ease than the majority of schools largely because of being better resourced. The will to introduce Curriculum 2005 has been strong in the majority of black schools because of the link between this curriculum and the goals of educational transformation. This commitment has however been inhibited by poverty of resources manifested at different levels. In addition, as Chapter Six shows, policy overload and inadequate training have further impeded curriculum change in the majority of schools. In order for enhanced understanding and practice in all schools it is necessary that those factors hampering implementation be properly addressed.

One of the main problems linked to these underlying issues has been the lack of consistent co-ordination. From evidence gathered for this Report, it seems that this is because curriculum has not so far been seen as the overarching idea that embraces all aspects of schooling. The result has been a dispersal of roles and responsibilities both between different directorates in the DOE, but also between the DOE and the provinces. This is partly because curriculum is not yet seen as the core business of departments of education. Seeing curriculum as core business would mean centralising the co-ordination and resourcing of curriculum in the Director-General´s office in the DOE in order to ensure that the overall co-ordination of provision, allocation and distribution of resources is taken far more seriously than it has been to date.

In conclusion, then, strategies for strengthened implementation need to be focused on those areas which have impeded successful implementation (curriculum structure and design, teacher orientation and training, learner support materials and departmental support). Their success, in turn, depends on adequate resourcing, feasible and manageable time-frames and regular monitoring and review. For these to be effectively co-ordinated, the curriculum component of the DOE and provinces needs to be strengthened and curriculum itself come to be seen as the principal lever for change.





C 2005 has three distinctive sources, each with its own lineage and its own specific contribution to the conceptualization and design of C2005. These are:

These three sources are in some respects compatible with one another and in other respects not. This Chapter will examine their particular contributions to and implications for C2005; the curriculum design process and design features of C2005, as well as responses to them. The Chapter then provides an analysis of the principal assumptions and contradictions leading to problems which require attention.

Learner-centred Teaching

During the apartheid years, the principal pedagogical alternative to the education system´s Fundamental Pedagogics was ‘progressive education,´ a form of learner-centred education nurtured in the liberal universities and the English private schools. In the 1980s the progressive learner-centred approach was linked to an egalitarian transformative project for South African education, and the result, People´s Education, was presented as the alternative to ‘apartheid education.´ The main features of People´s Education that were absorbed into contemporary policy (Kraak in Jansen in Christie, 1999) were:

The main features of this framework survived intact through successive versions of curriculum policy development – through NEPI (1992), IPET (1994), ANC (1994) - and they are central to C2005 (DOE, 1997a). Another dimension was added through discourses of ‘competency – based´ education and training which were common in South African training circles in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, in the discussions between labour and business, ‘competency´ transmuted into ‘outcomes´. This led to the National Qualifications Framework (DOE, 1996 and NCDC, 1996), a framework which requires all education and training provision to be competency or outcomes-based.

Outcomes-based Education

There are different kinds of outcomes-based education. They differ as to how outcomes are designed, specified and assessed. However, the principal feature common to all outcomes-based education is a distinction between inputs and outputs. Outputs (also described as standards) are centrally designed and prescribed, while inputs are discretionary, and generated and managed locally. Inputs include what teachers and learners bring to learning, indigenous particularities and priorities, textbooks, management and support systems. Since these vary across learning contexts, the key input of what is taught and how it is taught should be as little prescribed as possible (Malcolm, 2000). Quality is defined and assessed solely in terms of outputs.

OBE is thus generally seen as promoting equity (through the statement of outcomes) but taking account of differences (by maximizing discretion in the inputs). However, in reality the quality of outcomes is heavily dependent on the inputs. The success of outcomes-based education therefore depends centrally on the quality of the teachers – their content knowledge, their facility with different teaching methods, and their access to learning programmes and textbooks.

The language of ‘outcomes´ entered the language of curriculum reform in ANC documents (1994) in a particular form. This formulation did not radically separate inputs and outcomes and still prescribed a ‘core´ curriculum. However, in 1997 a fully-fledged model of outcomes-based education was set out in Curriculum 2005: Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century. This model specified outputs in the form of outcomes, left inputs largely unspecified and proposed a continuous assessment model in which criterion-referenced assessment underpinned classroom assessment.

With the implementation of outcomes-based education in various countries across the world it has become clear that ‘questions of content and conceptual understanding are troublesome in outcomes-based education´ (Malcolm, 2000). Indeed, in all OBE systems questions of conceptual coherence, content, sequence and progression have only recently begun to receive attention. This has not resulted in a return to a ‘content-driven curriculum.´ Rather it has meant recognition that teachers require, as a matter of equity and accountability, greater guidance and support in content specification. This has happened in one of two ways: either by stipulating finer and finer levels of outcomes or by ensuring conceptual coherence through guidance on inputs. The successive phases of C2005 development have done mainly the former. These curriculum design and development processes are examined below.

An Integrated and Non-disciplinary Division of Knowledge

The term ‘integration´ has come into educational debate in South Africa from three different directions. These are related but not identical. They include first, the discussions in the early 1990s around the proper relation between education and training, second, a specifically curricular initiative called ‘integrated studies´, explored in a few independent schools in the 1980s, and third, the view that schooling is a preparation for life and work. These debates have all had a bearing on the development of learning areas in Curriculum 2005.

The definition and selection of the eight learning areas for C2005 grew out of these diverse strands but also built on the curriculum framework produced in 1994 under the previous regime which proposed a division of fields of study into seven learning areas (DOE, 1994). C2005 has added Economic and Management Sciences to make up the eight learning areas. C2005 has also added to the basic knowledge fields a set of design features. These promote strong integration within and across the learning areas and integration of learning with everyday life.

Implications for C2005

The philosophy of progressive learner-centered education, outcomes-based education and an integrated approach to what is to be learnt, have all influenced the design of C2005. But this has resulted in certain incompatibilities.

First, strong integration requires thematic continuity. In other outcomes-based education systems these are either suggested or illustrative. But C2005 has prescribed these in the form of phase organisers. In this sense, outcomes-based education is at odds with such a prescription of input design features.

Secondly, progressive learner-centred education has influenced C2005 documents, the training of teachers in the new curriculum and the illustrative learning programmes and support materials provided by the Department of Education in a number of ways. Some of these ways, like the focus on the learner, have been positive. But the polarised schema of South African progressivism, useful as it was in the 1980s as a mobilising tool, seems now, with the implementation of C2005, to have hardened into dogma. This has resulted, for example, in the ‘prescription´ of preferred teaching methodologies, namely group work. Indeed, for some, outcomes-based education has become synonymous with group work (Khulisa, 1999; HSRC, 2000). ‘An alarming number of teachers think if you do group work you are busy with OBE´ (Botha submission). This is clearly at odds with the discretionary spirit of outcomes-based education which promotes considerably greater flexibility and teacher discretion.


The White Paper for Education and Training (1995) called for the transformation of the school curriculum and the establishment of democratic structures to develop this curriculum. In line with this injunction, the post-apartheid administration declared that curriculum development would be a ‘fully participatory process´ with ‘the teaching profession, teacher educators, subject advisers and other learning practitioners playing a leading role along with academic subject specialists and researchers´ (DOE, 1997a).

In addition, the Department of Education adopted the principle that the curriculum should ‘emerge´ or ‘evolve´ and should not be designed as a finished package for implementation by teachers (Rensburg [Deputy Director General, DOE] and Hendricks [Director DOE] interviews). In these terms, ‘even the design had to be developmental´ and was ‘based on the principles of consultation, collaboration and co-ordination´ (Hendricks interview).

Between 1995 and 2000 a wide range of committees was responsible for different curriculum design activities. These committees, their composition and their function, are set out in Table 1.

Table 1: Composition and Functions of Structures that Developed C2005





Consultative Forum on Curriculum (CFC)

Representatives of national and provincial education departments and national stakeholders in education

August 1995

To oversee process of curriculum restructuring

Initiated two investigations

Structures for Development of National Policy Regarding Curriculum

A Curriculum Framework for General and Further Education and Training

National Curriculum Development Committee (NCDC)

Replaced CFC as more representative structure

March 1996

To consider public responses to above documents

To reach consensus on a Lifelong Learning Development framework for South Africa

Learning Areas Committees (LACs for each LA)

Members nominated by stakeholders (30 – 40 on each LAC)

July 1996

To write a rationale for their LA and learning area outcomes, which reflected the critical, cross-field outcomes.

Co-ordinating Committees (one for each education phase

Representative of education stakeholders (approximately 26 per co-ordinating committee)

January 1997

To identify cross-curricular issues in the learning areas and to cluster the LAC outcomes for the development of learning programmes.

Technical Committee

(assisted by Reference Group)

Appointments made by nomination through the Government Gazette

Reference group; three reps from each LAC and two teachers from each LA

February 1997

To develop the work of the Co-ordinating Committees towards one broad curriculum (reduce SOs, endorse ACs and RSs)


DOE officials, provincial representatives and various stakeholders

Sept 1998

To develop performance indicators


DOE officials, provincial representatives and various stakeholders

Nov 1998-

Feb 2000

To develop Expected Levels of Performance

Looking back, the C2005 curriculum development process had the positive effect of involving a large number of people. This had not happened at a national, officially-sanctioned level in South Africa before. Interviewees commended the developmental and capacity-building opportunities provided (Hendricks interview, von Papendorf submission).

However, because the C2005 development structures were established on the basis of stakeholder representation, curriculum and subject experts were often excluded or felt alienated from the curriculum process (Botha, Sieborger and Schreuder interviews, IEB submission). Some of South Africa´s most well-known and respected historians, for instance, who were keen to participate in the development of a new curriculum, felt excluded from successive waves of curriculum development (Seleti, 1997). At the same time, many of those who became involved in the curriculum development structures had limited expertise or experience in curriculum issues (Lehoko [Chief Director DOE], Botha and Hendricks interviews, IEB submission). A second problem that arose from the stakeholder representation approach to curriculum design was that representatives changed from meeting to meeting. This meant that there was not always continuity amongst the personnel in the successive phases of curriculum development and this had an effect on the resultant design.

In addition, there was not always continuity amongst structures in the development of C2005. For example, the Learning Area Committees which consisted of over 30 members each developed the specific outcomes, but a thirteen person Technical Committee was responsible for reducing these and developing the assessment criteria and range statements related to each specific outcome. Although the Reference Group appointed to assist the Technical Committee contained three representatives from each Learning Area Committee, they played a negligible role in the work of the Technical Committee (Sieborger, Glover interviews). The performance indicators were developed by newly constituted structures which in general did not contain members of the Learning Area Committees or Technical Committee. Finally, the Expected Levels of Performance were developed by yet a fourth structure. Finally, the different learning area structures rarely co-ordinated their efforts so that successive features like specific outcomes, assessment criteria, range statements and performance indicators were developed in different ways across the learning areas (RADMASTE submission). Because of the lack of continuity and co-ordination between the various departmental managers and committees involved in the development of the framework, the curriculum documents not surprisingly contain examples of lack of continuity, inconsistency and incoherence.

The problems of continuity were compounded by the tight deadlines set for the completion of the various curriculum development phases. Interviewees repeatedly reported that too little time was given to the development of complex and highly contested documents. While the DOE recognised that curriculum design was complex and required considerable time for design, testing, piloting, re-working and delivery, it also saw ‘a need to place a premium on those issues which need to be addressed most urgently within existing realities´ (DOE, 1997a). The haste to provide a definite break with the past curriculum clearly compromised the quality and coherence of aspects of the C2005 design (Hendricks interview, von Papendorf, IEB and CEPD submissions, Malcolm, 2000).


The Learning Areas

The policy framework for C2005 is set out in Curriculum 2005: Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century (DOE, 1997a). The document provides the framework for Early Childhood Development (ECD), General Education and Training (GET), Further Education and Training (FET) and Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET). The skills and knowledge to be covered in C2005 are divided into eight learning areas.

Curriculum 2005: Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century implies that C2005 applies to ECD, GET, FET and ABET. However, details of the curriculum are currently only available for the GET band in the policy documents of October 1997 (DOE, 1997b, c, d). These policy phase documents declare an intention to develop a National Statement, but this has so far not been implemented.

The Learning Programmes

The General Education and Training (GET) band (Grades R to 9) is divided into three phases: Foundation Phase (Grades R -3), Intermediate Phase (Grades 4 - 6) and Senior Phase (Grades 7 - 9). The learning areas are presented in different combinations in the three phases of GET. The combinations are known as learning programmes - ‘the vehicles through which the curriculum is implemented´ (DOE, 1997b).

The policy framework also suggests ‘notional time´ to guide ‘the relative weighting of learning programmes within a Phase´ (DOE, 1997b). These guidelines are presented in the following table.

Table 2: Guidelines for the Weighting of Learning Programmes in C2005
Foundation Phase
Life Skills
Flexible time
Intermediate Phase*
Natural Science and Technology
Arts and Culture and Life Orientation
Senior Phase*
Natural Science
Arts and Culture
Arts and Culture and Life Orientation

*Flexible time 5%

Each learning programme has specific outcomes and each specific outcome has three to four assessment criteria. The assessment criteria in turn each have range statements and performance indicators.

Critical Outcomes (COs)

These are the ‘broad, generic cross-curricular outcomes which underpin the Constitution and which are adopted by SAQA´ (DOE, 1997b). These outcomes are intended to ensure that learners gain the skills, knowledge and values that will ‘allow them to contribute to their own success as well as to the success of their family, community and the nation as a whole´ (DOE, 1997b).

Specific Outcomes (SOs)

The specific outcomes were derived from the learning areas and refer to the ‘specification of what learners are able to do at the end of a learning experience´ and include ‘skills, knowledge and values, which inform the demonstration of the achievement of an outcome or set of outcomes´ (DOE, 1997b). The specific outcomes are not grade specific.

Assessment Criteria (ACs)

Each specific outcome has three to four assessment criteria. They establish the criteria against which a learner is assessed to have achieved the specific outcome. ‘The criteria indicate, in broad terms, the observable processes and products of learning which serve as culminating demonstrations of the learner´s achievements´. The assessment criteria ‘do not themselves provide sufficient details of exactly what and how much learning marks an acceptable level of achievement of the outcome´. For this reason ‘the assessment criteria are explained and detailed in the performance indicators´ (DOE, 1997b).

Range Statements (RSs)

Each assessment criterion is described in terms of range statements which ‘indicate the scope, level, depth and parameters of the achievement´. They include ‘indications of the critical areas of content, processes and parameters of achievement the learner should engage with to reach an acceptable level of achievement´. The range statements provide guidelines but make provision for ‘multiple learning strategies, for flexibility in the choice of specific content and process and for a variety of assessment methods´. They therefore do not ‘restrict learning to specific lists of knowledge items´ (DOE, 1997b).

Performance Indicators (PIs)

Each assessment criterion also has performance indicators which provide details of the content and processes that learners should master as well as details of the learning contexts in which the learner will be engaged. They ‘allow statements of the quality of achievement, that is, whether the achievement is at the level required or whether the learner has surpassed this level´ (DOE, 1997b).

Expected Levels of Performance (ELPs)

These are written for each learning programme by grade. They are expected to ‘inform parents, educators and learners in transparent and rigorous ways what is considered quality work and what to aim for and whether their performance or products measure up to valid and credible standards nationally´ (DOE, 2000g).


Organisers are ‘the tools by which the outcomes are grouped for planning´ (DOE, 1997b). There are two types of organisers -Phase Organisers and Programme Organisers. Phase Organisers are prescribed by policy for each learning area and each phase. Programme Organisers were used in the training for C2005. They are ‘themes´ chosen by teachers from everyday life to reflect local social priorities and are now widely advocated as the starting point for the planning of lessons. ‘Macroplanning´, a concept used for planning with organisers, was used in training for the Grade 7 level.

Responses to the Design Features

The introduction of the above design features as well as terms for their implementation appears to have had two positive consequences. First, they provide a symbolic break with the previous flawed curriculum. This was part of South Africa´s ‘brave new world,´ a fresh start for education. Secondly, the new design features and terms challenged all those involved in the planning and delivery of education to think anew about things they had taken for granted; to re-think what should be taught and how it should be taught and assessed.

However, the overwhelming majority of public submissions to the Review Committee indicate that the terminology in the C2005 documents also creates a number of problems. First, the language used in the document is often vague, verbose, overly academic and adopts a specialist vocabulary. For example, ‘esoteric linguistic terminology´ such as ‘kinaesthetic response´ and ‘discourse markers´ are used in the LLC document for the Foundation Phase (Barnard submission). Secondly, existing commonly understood terms have been replaced with unfamiliar terms, which alienate ordinary people, as well as those with some experience of the education system. For example, ‘learners´ for ‘pupils´, ‘educators´ for ‘teachers´, ‘auditory skills´ for ‘listening skills´, ‘verbalise´ for say, tell or write, learning support materials for textbooks and other learning materials and resources.

Thirdly, different users employ the same terms quite differently. A key example of this is that the Department of Labour, DOE and SAQA use ‘outcomes´ to mean different things (Parker interview). There are also various understandings among designers and users of the meaning and function of specific outcomes, assessment criteria, range statements and performance indicators. Interviewees and submissions to the Review Committee agree that there is not a common understanding even among DOE officials of these terms. It also means that there is no agreement on the way in which many terms are used. This is not surprising given that there is inconsistent use across the learning areas of assessment criteria, range statement and performance criteria. In some learning areas the range statements expand on the assessment criteria and the performance indicators expand on the range statements. But this is not true for all the specific outcomes in a learning area and it is not true for all learning areas (RADMASTE submission). Finally, there are considerable differences in the way ‘integration´ is understood.

When a wide range of people complains about the ‘jargon´ of C2005 they point to the above problems and the confusion and frustration caused by the language used in the C2005 documents and the terminology associated with the curriculum structure.


Introduction – The Values and Purposes of C2005

C2005 is regarded as a key project in the transformation of South African society. C2005 is directed towards achieving ‘[a] prosperous, truly united, democratic and internationally competitive country with literate, creative and critical citizens leading productive, self-fulfilled lives in a country free of violence, discrimination and prejudice´ (DOE, 1997a).

This posed a dual challenge to curriculum designers:

The goals to address the above challenges are expressed in the critical outcomes, the curriculum design feature that guides the overall learning purpose of the curriculum. The question is: has the curriculum been ‘designed down´ in such a way that all learners have as great a chance as possible of attaining the critical outcomes?

The descriptions of the learning areas for C2005 emphasise the role, especially the social role, of each in the reconstruction and transformation of South African society. Some of the eight learning areas are dedicated to this goal. For example, Life Orientation is described as ‘fundamental in empowering learners to live meaningful lives in a society that demands rapid transformation.´ The other learning areas are also expected to promote social and developmental values. The description of MLMMS indicates that this learning area should ‘empower people to work towards the reconstruction and development of South African society.´ In the same vein Economic and Management Sciences is described as ‘fundamental in preparing citizens of South Africa to understand the critical importance of reconstruction, development and economic growth for a sustainable economic future.´

The apartheid legacy runs deep and clearly requires that the curriculum of post-apartheid South Africa deal forcibly and systematically with issues of justice, democracy and respect for diversity and difference. However, it should also address the means to promote innovation and economic growth as the basis for social development for all. In this view of curriculum, learners are enabled to contribute to society when they have been given access to the cognitive tools required by such a society (see also DOE 2000f). Seen in this light, the two challenges are indivisible: social transformation can only be successfully pursued through widespread access to high level skills and knowledge, and equally, innovation and development must serve the social values of our new democracy. A high knowledge and skill curriculum thus becomes the means to promote social justice, growth and development. The sections below examine whether the C2005 structure, content and suggested pedagogy allow for optimal achievement of these overarching social purposes.

Design and Structure of C2005

The documents reviewed, the interviews and submissions, all indicate some or other breakdown in the translation of the C2005 policy and guideline documents into learning programmes, learning support materials, assessment tasks and lesson plans.

The evaluation documents and commentaries on C2005 suggest that this is happening for two reasons:

Commentaries on and evaluations of C2005 have, almost without exception, focussed on its implementation. Such commentaries leave the structure unexamined and take it as a given. It is the task of this chapter of the report to investigate the design and structure of the curriculum. To do this it is necessary to start with a simple model of curriculum structure which allows us to establish the key nodes and processes of any curriculum structure and the key ways in which these can vary. Such a curriculum model then allows us to see what version of curriculum structure we have in C2005, and then to establish what such a version can and cannot do under specified conditions.

Every curriculum includes a demarcation of knowledge. This demarcation is of two sorts:

Different learning areas have different requirements in terms of integration and progression. Some knowledge areas (arts, culture, technology) require relatively little in the way of design to encourage learners to explore the connective relations of the field at their own time and pace. The steps of progression are largely implicit. Other learning areas presuppose an overt stepwise ladder of concepts and skills that must be organised in a more sequential and phased way to facilitate cognitive access (mathematics, natural science, languages, and social science).

If we examine C2005 in terms of this simple template, there are two things which become evident:

The analysis below first examines the current design and structure of C2005. It then examines the relations within and between the learning areas and the implications of the above for curricular content and assessment.

The dominant design principle of C2005, integration, rests on five design features:

The reasons that integration became the dominant design feature of C2005 include the following: the designers saw themselves as needing to counteract the rigidities of the old subject-based curriculum; to make the curriculum more relevant to work and everyday life; to re-connect theory and practice. There are undoubtedly others. This has meant though that attention to integration has overshadowed attention to conceptual coherence and progression, which has had a number of unfortunate consequences. Shongwe´s assessment of the DOE MLMMS Grade 7 illustrative learning materials shows that the emphasis on integration has meant that the non-mathematical tasks have grown ‘like a tumour´ and ‘the body of knowledge that defines mathematics is obscured or dominated by the non-mathematical considerations´(quoted in Vinjevold and Roberts, 1999). The result is a weaker grasp of the central skills and concepts of mathematics, which in turn jeopardise higher skill acquisition.

This is not to say that C2005 designers gave no attention to features of progression. The range statements, performance indicators and expected levels of performance are intended to provide the vertical or progression features of C2005. But, because the main concern of the designers has been to foreground integration, there has been an under-specification of the requirements for conceptual coherence across all the eight learning areas. This under-specification has led to successive rounds of attempts to compensate for the under-specified content, sequence and progression. Each round of curriculum development was, it seems, unable to provide the needed specification because of the strong integration logic that dominates the model (Nel interview, Taylor submission). Consequently, there has been a proliferation of design features, but not enough clarity. The result is a curriculum that is ‘technically over-designed´ (PROTEC submission) yet remains under-specified.

This relative neglect of conceptual coherence – of sequence, progression and pacing – is particularly disabling for learning in those fields of knowledge where attention to progression is structurally important, namely, in languages, Natural Science, MMLMS, and HSS. These learning areas have an extended knowledge base, in that they extend up into the FET and higher education bands. The knowledge base is designed down from higher education and Further Education, and the GET band is, in an important sense, a preparation for these. This explains the concern about ‘how the conventional subjects will be coped with, particularly where there is a collapse of traditional disciplines in one area´ (PROTEC submission). Submissions from both geography and history subject groups claim that the HSS of C2005 compromises the capacity for learning in these areas. ‘A compulsory fusion of two academic subjects´, as is suggested by the Learning Area of Human and Social Science, ‘... based on a putative governing principle, for example “time and space”, might lead only to superficial observations about “social problems” or “environmental issues”´(History Departments of RAU, Wits and JCE submission).

Such a concern with preparation for further and higher education is sometimes phrased as a criticism. Schooling, especially in the GET band, should be a preparation for life and for citizenship rather than exclusively for further and higher education, which is, after all, not compulsory and caters for diminishing numbers of students. This is true. However, learning areas such as language, mathematics and science do not only provide skills for further schooling. They also provide all learners with ‘gateway skills´ – the basis for lifelong learning, be it in the market place, in civic life, at the work place or in further formal learning.

As the report on ‘Values, Education and Democracy´ puts it: ‘…our educational philosophy should provide learners with tools to solve the many problems that come with being human throughout the life cycle. We believe that these tools are the same as the tools of science, broadly understood, which are to bring all knowledge, however tentative and imperfect, of a problem, to bear on finding its rational solution.´ (DOE, 2000f, p. 8). Without these skills, learners do not have the foundation to progress in everyday life, work or leisure. They are also without the basis to progress in formal studies. If a design feature of the curriculum prevents articulation of the GETC exit skills and knowledge with FET entry requirements, then we will have an unacceptable failure rate at grade 10, and eventually insufficient high level skills for civic and economic success in a global world.

When learning areas with distinctive conceptual coherence requirements are driven mainly by integration requirements, then the potential for conceptual progression is retarded (Free State Education Department submission). The greatest hindrance to cumulative learning in learning areas with distinctive conceptual coherence requirements is a learning programme that has no conceptual sequence and hence no learning progression path. It is true that different learners approach learning in different ways, and might even learn concepts in a non-prescribed sequence. But this non-prescribed sequence must be an alternative route up the same conceptual ladder. There is no such thing as an alternative ladder, of optional and replaceable concepts, at least not in the gateway knowledge fields. From the reasonable point that learners may construct different paths, it does not follow that there should be no main path. If that happens, then a great many learners will construct or follow no path at all, which is the same as saying that no cumulative learning will take place.

For example, in order to teach the simple algorithm ‘2+2=4´, the teacher may very well ask the children to count the front and back legs of a horse. The legs of the horse are used to stand for the concept ‘4´. Once the algorithm is grasped, the conceptual ladder of the curriculum will then show that the algorithm ‘2+2+2=6´ should follow. The teacher may then use the 6 wheels of a truck to illustrate the task. Imagine, however, if the curriculum begins with a programme organiser or theme like ‘horse´, or perhaps ‘farmyard´. If these themes become the selector for what gets taught and learnt, the learner may never get to the second algorithm. Simplistic as this example sounds, this is precisely what we see in classrooms where teachers plan the lesson on the basis of programme organisers or themes only (Vinjevold and Roberts, 1999; Hoadley, 1999).

Programme organisers cannot drive conceptual development. The condition for success is a prior grasp of the conceptual ladder that should underlie the learning area. Where teachers have been seen to teach successfully by using programme organisers it is because a scheme of conceptual progression tacitly underlies the lesson (Botha, O´Connell and HSRC interviews). On the other hand, if teachers have no progression scheme and only use the programme organisers, no cumulative learning takes place, except for reasons external to the lesson such as support at home. Learners from poor and educationally deprived families generally do not have access to this kind of support.

We have argued that the emphasis on integration and the relative neglect of mechanisms to ensure sequence, progression and pacing is particularly disabling in those learning areas where conceptual coherence is structurally important. But what of those learning areas where conceptual frameworks are not as overt? These knowledge fields have strong relations to everyday life and are in fact designed to link to worldly concerns rather than to a conceptual ladder designed down from the FET. These learning areas are primarily governed by the requirement to make connective links rather than to pursue conceptual abstraction. Connections are thematically rather than conceptually justified.

How do curriculum designers ensure that in these learning areas there is not undue repetition or omission of knowledge and skills important to the GET band? Even more important, how is sequence and progression ensured? The learning areas based on the more traditional disciplines have sequence and progression clearly identifiable from their conceptual ladder. But in those learning areas that do not have overt conceptual frameworks it is the particular responsibility of curriculum designers to include mechanisms for promoting increasing levels of complexity. In other words, conceptual progression is also important in those fields that do not have overt conceptual sequences to draw on, and this poses a special challenge to curriculum design, one which is not visible in the present C2005 model.

To summarise, the C2005 curriculum model is strong on integration and weak on conceptual coherence or progression. It over-emphasises connective relations and fails to provide structured guidelines for sequence, progression and pacing for higher order cognitive skills, either for the traditional disciplines or for those learning areas which do not have overt conceptual frameworks. The result is the risk of under-preparing learners - both those proceeding to further training in the FET band and beyond, and those who end their formal learning career at the end of the GET band and who need foundational skills for lifelong learning.

The Learning Areas

Does the current division of learning areas and time allocated to the learning areas adequately support the teaching of the gateway subjects and their key skills namely reading, writing and mathematics? (Taylor and Alston submissions; Nel, Lehoko and Schlebusch interviews).

Recent classroom-based research indicates that literacy and numeracy skills are not being systematically developed in South African primary schools. Small wonder then that ‘We are bereft of a strong reading culture´ (DOE, 2000f). For example, the 35 school-based studies commissioned for the President´s Education Initiative concludes that: ‘Books are little in evidence and reading is rare. Writing is also infrequent, and, when practised by students hardly ever progresses beyond single words or short phrases´ (Taylor and Vinjevold, 1999). Subsequent studies support these findings (Hoadley, 1999; Schollar, 1999; Vinjevold and Roberts, 1999). Hoadley´s study of Grade 1 classes in the Western Cape found that:

Not once in the course of the eight days of observation were learners exposed to or required to use books. Reading consisted of working through lists of single words or sound recognition exercises. No class readers were seen or used. In the course of the observations in all four classrooms a total of five books were seen in the classroom: two Bibles, a Standard 3 Geography textbook, a book on art ideas for teachers and one large book covering the numbers one to ten with pictures and text in English. Two teachers read from the Bibles, the other books were not seen to be used (Hoadley, 1999 p. 16).

Proponents of the new curriculum deny that this is the fault of C2005 and claim that these problems were prevalent before the introduction of C2005. It is very likely that they are right, but this is all the more reason to ensure that these key skills are dealt with adequately in C2005.

In the Foundation Phase the three learning programmes are given equal amounts of teaching time (DOE, 1997b). In the Senior Phase LLC and MLMMS are allocated 20% and 13% notional time respectively, which constitutes less teaching time than they had in the previous curriculum. Those learning areas with an overt conceptual ladder require more concentrated teaching time than others do. Because the gateway subjects like language and mathematics provide the skills required to progress in all other learning areas it therefore seems reasonable that they should be allocated a special place in the curriculum design (see also Westerford High School and Coetzee submissions).

In fact, some schools have begun to make adjustments of their own – ‘We do it (i.e., C2005) on Fridays´ or ‘We teach before break and then OBE after break´ (Botha submission; North West province site visits). Others offer only one hour per week of Economic and Management Sciences, Life Orientation, Arts and Culture and Technology (Vinjevold and Roberts, 1999). This may be happening for practical reasons rather than because some subjects are being prioritised. In many schools, some of the new learning areas like Economic and Management Sciences and Technology are not being taught at all. This is largely because schools do not have the competent teachers, equipment or textbooks to provide for these learning areas (University of Pretoria, Venter and OrtStep submissions).

The DOE considered the high cost of implementing C2005 during its design and made the necessary budgetary projections (Rensburg interview). However, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework curtailed the expansion of education spending. It is now plain that there are simply not the necessary resources available in the short-term to provide the level of training and textbooks required to support teachers, especially those in the new learning areas.

In emergent learning areas like Technology and Economic and Management Sciences (EMS), the content and conceptual boundaries are not yet as neatly drawn as they are in the more established school subjects, so that their distinctiveness from other learning areas is not easily apparent to teachers. This means that a key topic, like entrepreneurship for example, forms the backbone of EMS in the lower grades, but is also treated in Life Orientation and in Technology. With the current under-specification of content in C2005, teachers are frequently at a loss as to what should be taught when. The result is undue repetition of ground already covered rather than conceptual development and progression. Common sense suggests that these topics should be taught within the same learning area.

Curricular Content, Pedagogy and Assessment

The dominance of outputs over inputs aside, outcomes-based education foregrounds four features prominent in curriculum reform the world over. These are:

Together, these features are responsible for a ‘paradigm shift´ in teaching and learning. In this perspective, the active learner becomes more visible, the active teacher becomes less visible (though very active behind the scenes in lesson design and materials construction), learning and outcomes become personalised, and the outcomes of learning are conceived of as skills, often generic skills (Muller, 1998). Positive as many of these developments have been for building learner confidence and teacher empowerment, they have come under critical scrutiny. In South Africa until recently the criticism has centred on the impracticality of these trends for South African teachers and classrooms (Jansen and Christie, 1999). However, in line with other countries which have adopted models of OBE, criticism has begun to focus on the ‘openness´ or lack of specificity of the curriculum. A number of the interviews conducted for the C2005 Review Committee as well as submissions have claimed that C2005 has left out or under-specified what is to be taught, how and at what level it is to be assessed.

What is to be taught: curricular content

Curricular content is by its nature never neutral. It is always connected to a social project. This does not mean that its specification should be avoided, however. What it means is that we should be as clear as possible about the social project to be supported. This report is predicated on a curriculum based on the values of social justice, equity and development; one that seeks to foster the values of human rights, anti-racism and anti-sexism, relevance, critical thinking and problem solving (DOE, 2000f). It is to a curriculum content for these values that we now turn.

Content knowledge is conspicuous by its absence in C2005 policy documents (NCCRD, 2000; Malcolm, 2000, Schreuder, 2000, CEPD and Wits EPU/SAHRC/CEPD submission). This is largely because C2005 designers, in line with one understanding of OBE philosophy, have taken excessive care not to prescribe content. Teachers are expected to generate content on their own. But this can also mean that the ‘teacher thinks that because the curriculum is not content-based then “any content is fine”´ (Department of Applied English Language Studies, Wits, submission). This clearly compromises the range, depth and quality of learning in all learning areas but also compromises the transformation agenda of C2005. ‘There is a danger that teachers can practise laissez faire curriculum development that pays little attention to, compromises or even excludes content related to human rights and social justice´ (Wits EPU/SAHRC/CEPD submission).

Some fields, like science and mathematics are especially dependent on the selection and sequencing of content (Malcolm, 2000; Free State Department of Education submission). Attempts to write outcomes for these learning areas without content will necessarily mean under-specifying them. It is likely that the C2005 cycle of development from assessment criteria to range statements to performance indicators and finally to expected levels of performance, all reportedly unsatisfactory, are so because it is not possible to specify outcomes without content or concepts (Schlebusch, 2000).

If lessons are developed inductively from programme organisers or activities as recommended in C2005 training, and if there is no curriculum document which specifies core content to be covered, then there is a real chance that teachers will miss out key content. In the case of mathematics, for example, it has been said that ‘Under these circumstances, classroom activities all too often lose sight entirely of mathematical knowledge…´ (Taylor submission). This problem particularly besets inductive planning in learning areas with overt conceptual progression requirements. Taylor reports that he and a team of textbook writers tried to write ‘activities, which would bring out the Specific Outcomes, Assessment Criteria, Range Statements and Performance Indicators' (ibid.). Upon completion of this, the writing team found that large chunks of mathematical content had not been covered. Theme or activity-directed lesson development is simply not a reliable guide to systematic coverage of content in concept-driven learning areas. When the content required for higher level skills is omitted, then the omission is critical (Taylor, 1999; Reeves and Long, 1999; Maja, 1999; Hoadley, 1999; Mc Donald, 2000).

For this reason, the design features of C2005 lead to an under-specification of content which places the acquisition of higher level skills at risk especially in the ‘gateway´ learning areas. This inadvertently undermines the key purpose of the new curriculum. When the under-specification of content is coupled with poor subject content knowledge and a policy that minimises the role of textbooks, then a great many teachers have no way of knowing when key content and concepts are bypassed.

How knowledge is to be assessed: assessment standards

A comprehensive assessment policy did not accompany C2005 in the first year of implementation. Many saw this as a serious gap given that ‘outcomes-based education depends upon knowing whether learners are making progress in relation to the outcomes of the curriculum´ (IEB submission). But even the National Assessment Policy that has since been developed (DOE, 1998) has some conspicuous gaps (IEB and CEPD submissions).

The most serious absence is that of the lack of specification of the destination of the GET – the GET certificate (GETC). The absence of clearly defined qualifications ‘makes education and training in this band directionless/unfocussed´ (IEB submission). Specifying the GETC requires ‘defining the standards which make up the qualification so that we can recognise it (the destination) when we reach it´. Without a clear exit outcome statement, curricula cannot be systematically ‘designed down´, affecting all levels of the GET. High schools, for example, cannot plan effectively for the implementation of the senior phase of the GET without knowing what plans are in place for the GET examination at the end of Grade 9 (Westerford High School submission).

This raises the question as to how schools will account for learning in the GET band. The assessment strategy promoted in the curriculum and assessment policy documents is predominantly internal and formative, using methods of criterion-referenced, continuous assessment but not assessment against a set of external standards. These latter are seen as constricting. Yet, as other countries that have experimented with OBE have found, there is no alternative credible method of demonstrating either to parents or to the state whether learning is happening or not, or to what extent. In other words, all assessment systems must serve accountability as well as developmental purposes (Malcolm, 2000). The difficulties with norm-referencing accepted, some form of clear norm-referenced assessment statements or standards is essential.

A second problem is that C2005 has designed outcomes at phase rather than grade level. This means that there are no grade-based benchmarks against which to assess learner performance (CEPD submission). We saw in the previous section on content that this absence has meant that teachers have no benchmarks against which to sequence and pace their learning programmes. Other countries which have introduced OBE have specified outcomes by levels rather than grades because of the very different competences of learners in the same grade. However, submissions to the Review Committee suggest that for the foreseeable future, South African teachers require grade-by-grade assessment guidelines and learning outcomes in order to establish a minimum acceptable level of sequence and progression (see for example Alston, Barnard, CEPD, Meyer submissions). The DOE itself recognised the need for grade-by-grade guidance, and ELPs for each grade were developed to assist in assessing learner progression. However these do not show clear enough levels of learner progression (IEB and CEPD submissions).

A third problem is that National Assessment Policy indicates that assessment should be based on the 66 Specific Outcomes. Many submissions to the Review Committee indicated that this is beyond the capacity of the most dedicated primary school teacher and has led to many problems (submissions by Alston, Lyttleton Primary School, Northdale Primary School, Bronkhorstspruit Primary School, Free State Department of Education). Teachers are exhausted and despondent about the assessment demands which take them away from precious teaching time. The outcomes are also addressed in a superficial and fragmented way. In these latter cases, critical aspects of literacy and numeracy, like reading and number concepts for example, are neglected in favour of covering the 66 outcomes (IEB submission).

In purely practical terms, ‘the amount of paper work required to produce assessment instruments to record all the data from the engagement with 66 outcomes and 237 assessment criteria and then convert the data into meaningful progress towards an outcome is indeed daunting´ (Free State Education Department submission). The above arguments are not against assessing learners for their integrative and cumulative knowledge and skills as required by the critical outcomes. It is in these assessment tasks that the cross-field integrative skills and real-life applications are most profitably assessed. However, a rationalisation of some sort or another of the outcomes to be assessed is clearly needed.

There are two final points to be made in closing this section. The first is that there appears to be a contradiction in the policy on learner progression. The DOE 1997 policy document for the Foundation Phase states that no learner should fail but should progress to the next level with their age group. The National Assessment Policy (1998) rules that learners may repeat a grade only once per phase. It is accepted that thinking around assessment and progression through the system may well have advanced, but this is not yet reflected in policy.

The second point has to do with the Quality Assurance directorate. This directorate is responsible for running the systemic assessments at the end of Grades 3, 6 and 9, but is presently not structurally aligned with the curriculum directorate of the DOE (see also Chapter Seven below). It is worth pointing out that until we have base line data from the systemic assessments, the system is ‘flying blind´ and we will not be able to design appropriate curriculum and teacher support interventions or assessment standards.


This chapter has suggested that the following features of C2005 require attention:

In contrast, conceptual coherence has been relatively neglected. The range statements, performance indicators and expected levels of performance are intended to provide the progression features of C2005. However, these have proved unnecessarily cumbersome and have, by and large, failed to act as mechanisms which promote sequence, progression and pace. This is largely because curriculum designers have attempted to avoid prescribing content.

The structure of C2005 as a result has too many design features and not enough content specificity (see submissions by Northern Province Department of Education, Free State Department of Education, Alston; Taylor, 1999).

This problem can be dealt with by reducing the redundant design features and including mechanisms which clearly and explicitly promote integration on the one hand and sequence and progression on the other.

Contents   |   Chapter 1    |   Chapter 2   |   Chapter 3   |    Chapter 4   |   Chapter 5  

Chapter 6   |   Chapter 7    |   Chapter 8   |   Chapter 9   |    Appendicies