Equal Education (EE) welcomes Minister Motshekga’s statement on death of OBE

Home | Equal Education (EE) welcomes Minister Motshekga’s statement on death of OBE

EE welcomes the changes announced by Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga in regard to the curriculum and its implementation, and we agree with her that these signal the beginning of the end of Outcomes Based Education (OBE) as reflected in the original Curriculum 2005 and the current National Curriculum Statement (NCS).

In her statement to the National Assembly on November 5, 2009, the Minister stated:

“The question on everyone's lips is why we do not, as Mamphela Ramphele always wants us to do, declare the death certificate of outcomes-based education, OBE? I must say that we have, to all intents and purposes, done so. So if anybody asks us if we are going to continue with OBE, we say that there is no longer OBE. We have completely done away with it."

Equal Education endorses this step on the part of the Department of Education. This follows a contribution made by EE to the Department of Education’s National Curriculum Statement (NCS review panel in response to a call for Public Comment on the) made in July 2009.As we explained in our submission, OBE is harmful to education, particular for poor and working class children:

"Apartheid-era content, as defined by Christian National Education [CNE] attempted to indoctrinate young people into a narrow ideology and worldview. The curriculum changes, which began in the mid-1990’s, correctly set out to move away from such practices. The fundamental mistake however was to say that where apartheid education had a highly specified narrow content, the new curriculum should have an underspecified, open-ended, thin content. This choice was made in the pursuit of diversity and progress in that it intended to make relevant the everyday experiences of all children, rather than prioritising the culture of one particular group. The first error was to assume that teachers would be able to devise curricula and lessons for each unique setting. Rather, most of our teachers need specified curricula and lesson plans to help them deliver a quality education to their students. This is support that teachers deserve. The second error was to assume that poor children would be advantaged if their everyday experiences became the basis for their education at school. Instead this has resulted in poor children being further removed from the international knowledge economy into which they must be inducted if they are to become global citizens, and players in the national development of South Africa. In truth, the crucial first step in levelling the playing fields is to ensure that poor children acquire literacy and numeracy of the same standard as their privileged counterparts, so that they can go onto study mathematics, science, language and much else – this is the challenge of quality and equality in South African education, and it has been set back by our national curriculum choices."

In our submission EE critiqued the NCS noting that teachers were not adequately prepared for it, having received only a week’s training. The NCS negatively impacted teaching time by giving teachers a heavy administrative burden. And furthermore, for students, the resource-demanding NCS deepened existing inequalities by favouring those students in well-endowed schools with access to resources that would enable them to perform better than their counterparts in the majority resource-poor schools.

The Minister struck a similar chord in her address to Parliament in which the changes were announced. She stated that, “In order for there to be learning outcomes and educational experiences of the majority to improve, we need to focus attention on dedicated, inspired teaching based on a curriculum that is teachable.” She also explained that the emphasis of the changes is to ensure “that there is more time for teaching and learning.” We agree with the Minister that teachers are key to the realisation of quality education.”


As announced by Minister Motshekga, from January 2010 the following changes will take effect:

• Learner portfolios are discontinued, and more weight given to exam marks. • Number of projects reduced to one project per subject. • Promotion and progression requirements will be finalised.

• Learning materials will no longer be developed by teachers, rather textbooks developed by experts. • Targeted in-service training that will be subject specific and targeted only where needed will be provided for teachers from 2010.

• “Subject advisers” will not develop the curriculum any more, but rather focus on the delivery, implementation and moderation of the curriculum.

• As part of the Foundations for Learning Programme, which establishes the non-negotiables of resources, teacher planning and effective teaching, and focuses on reading, writing and mental maths each day, extensive learning and teaching packages for Grades R to 6 will be distributed to all primary schools at the start of the school year in 2010. Beyond 2010 the following changes will be implemented as part of the 5-year plan from 2010 – 2014:

• The number of learning programmes (subjects) will be reduced. This will reduce the overload on learners and allow more time for language teaching and learning during the transition from Grades 3 to 4.

• All learners from Grade 4 to 12 will receive their own textbooks for every learning area. Textbook selection will be done nationally. • Education policy will be streamlined and clarified.

• The department will develop a set of simple, coherent curriculum documents per subject per phase from Grades R to 12. These will be syllabi which spell out aims, objectives, learning areas, methodology and assessments are in simple and clear terms.

• Monitoring will be done by the new National Educational Evaluation Development Unit.

It is important to note that these changes come on the back of a wide and thorough consultative process. As the Minister explained:

“The review panel reviewed documents and conducted interviews and hearings with teachers from all nine provinces as well as with teacher unions. They received electronic and written submissions from the public. In the process of their consultations – that they undertook across the country – there was a remarkable consensus amongst teachers and unions about what the problems were. The team also reports that there was an overwhelming sense of the overall commitment of teachers across the country to try to improve learner performance.”

These developments are commendable and praiseworthy. Unfortunately they follow more than 10 years of denial about the failings of OBE.

As the Minister herself acknowledged, remedying the curriculum will not fix education in the schools of the poor and working classes. To do this we must incentivise teachers to teach in those schools, improve the training of teachers, improve accountability and community involvement, and increase resources. As the Department of Education and the country’s teachers now focus on the vital task of improving basic literacy and language skills, Equal Education will intensify its campaign for a National Policy on School Libraries. According to the DOE’s 2007 national Education Infrastructure System (NEIMS) Report, only 7% of schools in South Africa have functional libraries. Equal Education will be hosting a meeting on 27 & 28 November with activists from around South Africa to discuss the country-wide up-scaling of the Campaign for School Libraries. We are building up to Human Rights Day, 21 March 2010, when we will be holding marches and youth gatherings around the country, including a 10,000 person march through the City of Cape Town. We reiterate the call of our campaign: One School, One Library, One Librarian.

For more information contact: Yoliswa Dwane 0723427747 Lukhanyo Mangona 0825958600