Teachers must go by the book

03 April 2013 - 02:44 By KATHARINE CHILD

When schools in Limpopo did not have textbooks last year there was national outrage. But textbooks are not always used well in the classroom.

According to the Department of Education, teachers do not always use the materials provided.

"The effective use of materials in the classroom is below what is possible and desirable, even when materials were present," its annual performance plan report says.

As a result, the department has committed itself to training and supporting teachers in the use of work books.

Professor Elizabeth Henning, director of the University of Johannesburg's centre for education practice research, said the new curriculum had fantastic textbooks and work books.

"On paper, it is world-class."

But "people forget what it is like to teach. [Teaching] is [often] crowd management. There are classes of 30 or 40 or more students and some teachers have never learnt how to use a textbook in class," she said.

"Teachers have had to deal with three new curriculums in 10 years. It is too much."

UJ dean of education professor Sarah Gravett said the recently scrapped outcomes-based education curriculum had not considered textbooks useful.

"For a long time textbooks did not form part of the teaching and learning at schools."

She agreed with Henning that some teachers needed training in the effective use of teaching materials.

The new curriculum, called CAPS, places great emphasis on textbooks, along with work books with practical exercises, for every child.

The department has distributed 60million workbooks in the past two years, according to the report.

But even with books and support, many teachers do not complete the curriculum. The report says independent research showed "inadequate coverage and major variation between schools".

The 2011 research checked whether Grade 6 pupils at 2000 schools across the country had finished the mandatory four language exercises a week:

  • In the Eastern Cape, only 2% of the 142071 pupils monitored had done the four exercises;
  • In Gauteng, 6% of 132928 pupils had completed their weekly work; and
  • The Western Cape had the highest completion rate - 18% of the 70710 pupils surveyed.

Gravett said the CAPS curriculum had clear timeframes to help teachers plan work.

"It can help them develop a rhythm and ensure schools realise they need to plan. But it does have a disadvantage. Teachers might move on to new work when pupils need more time to grasp what they have already covered."

There was also the problem of teachers being at school but not instructing pupils.

The Department of Education was unavailable for comment.