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Five Reasons Why CAPS is Harming Our Children

I am tired everyone…

I am tired of parents phoning me in tears about their child’s progress. I am tired of hearing of children as young as 7 being diagnosed with anxiety and stress related disorders. I am tired of parents sending their children to me for scholastic assessments, when there is nothing wrong with their child. I am tired of parents asking me how they can help to alleviate the mountains of homework their child is receiving everyday.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not tired of the parents, I will be here for them and their children till the cows come home, if need be. I am tired of an education system that is causing this deluge of phone calls. In my 25 years of being a remedial therapist, I have never been inundated with so many intervention requests.

There is something very wrong with our current education curriculum and I am tired of being part of a system that is directly harming our children.

When CAPS was introduced, I was working at a school that was chosen as a pilot school. I was given the intermediate phase curriculum to look over. After carefully analysing the Maths and English curriculum, I asked for the assessment protocol. After seeing it, I immediately went to my principal at the time and said to her that this curriculum was going to cause academic issues, before the first lesson had ever been taught. I am not telling you this to brag, I am telling you this because it amazes me that the curriculum advisors for the DOE didn’t pick it up. I am sure most of them have higher degrees than me, so how, just by looking at the curriculum did they not pick up the faults I did.

This curriculum has me livid, for FIVE main reasons:

  1. It is too content heavy. It is obvious that if you place too much content into a curriculum, children will not have the time to create a solid foundation of the concepts taught. Content heavy curricula cause children to gain a very superficial knowledge of the course work and this does not allow for the building of a solid foundation. The other thing that is happening is that because teachers are struggling to complete the immense amount of content in class, it is being set as homework tasks. Children are already overburdened with homework and this extra work just increases the amount of home studies needed to be completed after school. Research is showing that homework is actually detrimental to a child’s development for a number of reasons (something I will be covering in a future post). I work with children in primary school who are sitting with 2-3 hours of homework every afternoon. We are very quickly wearing our children down. They are not engaging in enough free play or simple ‘ME-Time’ and this causes serious emotional and social developmental delays. They are tired and this causes them to underachieve, which causes the adults in their lives to get upset, which then causes the child to begin to opt out of the learning process, because the burden just gets too heavy to bear.
  2. There is no time for consolidation. The biggest issue I picked up on in the CAPS curriculum is that most subjects jump from topic to topic, with no time for consolidation. Very few children are able to cope with the hopping around of concepts. Once again it does not allow for depth of knowledge to form and it confuses any child that has average to below average processing skills. The majority of children need concepts to be consolidated, and not just once. This has left many children feeling overwhelmed, anxious and stressed as they struggle to keep up with the pace set in the classroom.
  3. It is too rigid. In speaking to educators, one of their biggest complaints, is that CAPS has taken away any professional initiative they may have had. They are unable to slow the pace down if needed, or recap concepts if their learners have struggled to catch on, due to the fact that they need to keep up with the schedule set in the curriculum. Many educators also feel that CAPS has sucked all the creativity out of them. With the large amounts of content that needs to be taught and the fast pace set, they are barely managing to get the course content covered never the less trying to make lessons fun and interesting. I understand the premise of the rigid curriculum, but if the focus of the curriculum was skills development and not content, we would not need this rigid curriculum to ensure that all learners in the country were at the same place at the same time.
  4. Children are over assessed. I have said this for many years: tests are not the best way to gauge a child’s understanding of the content. Tests assess whether a child can write a test and nothing more. Assessments entail many skills and if a child does not test well, it does not necessarily mean that they do not understand the content. It just means that for one or another reason, they do not perform well in tests. Introducing assessments in Grade 1-3 is ludicrous, in my opinion. We are placing an unnecessary burden on our children when they are not emotionally ready to handle the pressures of assessment. At this age, teachers are very capable of determining if a child in their class understands the concepts taught or not, without formal assessments. The amount of teachers and parents that are pressurising 6-year-old children into doing better in tests is frightening. I have in this past week alone, dealt with 4 parents, whose children (between the ages of 7 – 10) have been diagnosed with anxiety related disorders, stemming from assessment related stress. This is most definitely not what education is about. Assessing in the early years serves absolutely no purpose and should be scrapped immediately.
  5. We are not producing thinkers. In a world where knowledge of facts is no longer valued, we are veering way off course. The work place has specifically stated for quite a few years now that they seek people with critical and creative thinking skills, and above average problem solving skills. Content heavy curricula do not allow for the developing of these skills. Educators are way too busy throwing content at children, they have no time to teach their learners how to acquire knowledge through critical and creative thinking. All CAPS is doing is producing little robots that are only expected to regurgitate what was taught in class. At a time in South Africa when future entrepreneurs are going to be vital in order to help save the economy, we are currently developing adults who are going to find it difficult to self-start, find initiative and come up with original ideas. The developing of problem solving, critical and creative thinking skills takes time, it does not happen overnight. If we hope to produce thinking adults in the future, we need to start developing those skills at grass roots. Right now the CAPS curriculum is solely focused on assessments, content and regurgitation of facts and that leaves no space for skills development.

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