Curriculum: What parents need to know

Earlier this month I gave a presentation to parents and other interested parties on curriculum in South Africa. But to truly understand the importance of curricula I had to place it within the landscape of educational institutions within South Africa.

I also wanted to make it very clear that any chosen curriculum is not the end in itself, rather it is a means to an end. Before you can evaluate your child’s curriculum you need to begin to answer or at least consider what it is that your child wants to do after school.

For learners in the public schooling system the landscape, curriculum and related matters are defined and work well: you child will follow the National Curriculum (called CAPS) will write the exams administrated by Umalusi (the CAPS Examination Board) to obtain the National Senior Certificate or NSC. The NSC is well understood by the Matriculation Board, an independent body that certifies all school leaving certificates and functions as a service of Universities South Africa. Should your child have the correct marks in the correct subjects they may enter university to study.

However, what if you choose to function outside of that system, for whatever reason. You might want to follow a different curriculum for example an international curriculum such as Cambridge. What if your child’s objective is not to enter university? What if the subject choices available in CAPS does not suite what your child wants to do? How do you make the right choices?

I trust that the presentation will answer some of your questions and explain most of the institutions that make up the South African educational landscape. I do want to end this blog with 6 questions you need to be asking your self when evaluating a change in curriculum. I should also point out that the order of the questions is as important as the questions themselves:

Q1 – What career will my child likely follow – i.e. how do they intend to earn money? (if “own business” possibly skip to Q4)
Q2 – What ‘course of study’ would they need to follow to start that career – this will give you the course specific entry requirements at a tertiary instittion
Q3 – What tertiary institutions offer that course – this will give you the general entry requirements to those institutions
Q4 – What subjects do I need to have at school to meet the above requirements
Q5 – Which curriculum offers me this subjects and the skills I need in their career and is there an independent Examination Board that reviews quality and issues Certification
Q6 – Which curriculum material is the best align with the chosen curriculum

Finally, please note the following points:

1. While curriculum developers function in a regulated market (albeit often self regulated but independent and under public institutions such as Universities) the curriculum materials market is unregulated. Anyone can publish a “textbook”.

2. Most independent curriculum material providers in South Africa provide textbooks that align with CAPS and will require learners to write for the NSC.

3. The two most well known curricula in South Africa is CAPS and Cambridge. However, there are MANY providers of curriculum material!

To download the presentation click below.

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