Great Expectations, Weak Foundations: Challenges of Educational Reform in South Africa

By Blandina Makina.

Published by The International Journal of Educational Organization and Leadership

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This paper is on teacher training in the context of educational reform in South Africa. It draws from a study that was carried out to determine the implementation of a new teaching approach, outcomes-based education, by a group of teachers studying by distance. The transition to a post-apartheid democratic government in South Africa (1994) saw numerous changes, particularly in the educational field. These were meant to address the disparities of the apartheid system and help build a society defined by values of equality, increased participation, democracy, redress and equity, which had been denied by the apartheid government. Among the numerous initiatives to improve education was the introduction of a new approach to teaching and learning, outcomes-based education (OBE). This approach was used as a transformational tool in a new South Africa and aimed at equipping learners with the necessary skills, values, and attitudes to take their rightful places in a democratic society.
Undergirded by the notions of mediation and learner-centeredness, OBE introduced a whole new way of looking at teaching and learning, resulting in a change of roles for both teacher and learner. Preceding the introduction of this approach was an array of policy documents that were meant to guide teachers and ensure smooth implementation. Twelve years after its introduction, OBE was scrapped under claims that it was not suitable for the country. This paper specifically examines the space where the teachers met policy. The thesis is that it was difficult to meet policy-makers’ high expectations because representations that teachers had built of their roles were deep-seated and policy directives alone were not sufficient to set off their evolution.

Keywords: Outcomes-based Education, Learner Centeredness, Policy, Teaching and Learning, Educational Transformation

The International Journal of Educational Organization and Leadership, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp.25-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 275.892KB).

Dr. Blandina Makina

Lecturer, Department of English Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

I have been a teacher of English as a second language for eighteen years and a lecturer for sixteen years. My teaching experience spans different countries (Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa) and contexts (high school, colleges, and university). I am passionate about teaching. Currently, my job entails training teachers of English using the distance mode. My interests include English language teaching and learning in ESL contexts, curriculum development and learning styles. This paper is based on research I conducted for my doctoral thesis (submitted on 30 August 2011). I observed my students' teaching practice to assess the impact of the methodology module that I teach; the aim is to improve the quality of teacher training that I offer.