History to replace Life Orientation in high schools

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By Emma Hanly

The recommendation to remove Life Orientation from the curriculum, and introduce History as its compulsory replacement for Grades eight to twelve, has been approved and is now in the early stages of implementation.

The national Department of Basic Education first made the proposal 2014. In the years since, there has been feedback from multiple stakeholders regarding the change, which should be fully implemented by 2023.

National Department of Basic Education Director, Waheeda Carvello, is responsible for the general education and training band for grades R to nine. According to Carvello, the end aim of the change is to strengthen the curriculum where it needs strengthening – but the process of such a drastic change will take many years to implement.

Carvello says that it is likely that the school day will increase with this change.

There have been mixed reactions from teachers. History teacher Lianne Horwitz believes that both good and bad comes with the change. The good is that History teaches critical thinking, evaluation skills, and academic writing and speaking – all of which Horwitz thinks are in need of improvement in the curriculum.

Horwitz is, however, concerned: “If history is taught for two hours per week, by people who are not true historians (because there are not enough of us), then history may become watered down.” Her solution to this would be to rather introduce a subject like civics, which would incorporate aspects of South African history, but would also include insight into various levels of government, as well as sociology and psychology. According to Carvello, the civics component is entailed in Life Orientation, which was introduced during the revamp of the curriculum in 1996.

During this revamp in 1996, a decision was made to use English as the base language for education in South Africa, leaving the curriculum to be translated from the base into other national languages. Carvello believes that this choice was a great injustice to the learners of South Africa, because the translations were often “complete gibberish”. According to Carvello, it has been found that this has led to almost a four year deficit amongst some learners who do not speak English as their home language, compared to those who do.

A long-term goal of the department of Basic Education is to completely review the curriculum by 2025. This review is driven by a need to strengthen the curriculum by introducing 21st century skills in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and more importantly, to decolonise education in South Africa, with the hopes of creating equal and qualitative education for all.

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