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Maseru working group: LITERACY AS AN AGENT FOR CREATIVITY

October 18, 2016 2:00 , by Nora Landkammer - 0no comments yet | No one following this article yet.
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by Maseru working group/Ba re e ne re

  1. KAKARETSO EA MELAO EA SEKOLO SA THABENG

This document was written in 1917 at a time when the world as a whole was experiencing a significant moment; World War 1. Males across the globe were drafted to go “defend their countries” at war. In the context of Lesotho what this meant really was that manpower was sourced from colonies to go fight for the protection of our colonizer’s interests. Many Basotho men, young and old, left their families, jobs and schools behind.

Thabeng High School was an all-boys school at the time. The school committed itself to producing gentlemen and future leaders of Lesotho who would among other professions, be employed by the government offices or become minister-teachers. Obedience, discipline, compassion and a staunch belief in Christianity were believed to be cornerstones of leading communities and building a civilized nation. Teachers were expected to always look neat, be time conscious and to take extra care of books because these two virtues were viewed as the path to a prosperous life.

Adherence to structural rules and regulations was taken very seriously, for example; no political activities in any form were allowed on the school grounds, using the school’s name without permission from the Head Master was prohibited and English was to be spoken at all times from Monday to Saturday so that students practiced their articulation and eloquence. Students also had to attend church twice on Sundays in full uniform and interestingly, writing to girls was strictly forbidden with dire consequences if violated.

 

 

  1. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN SOUTH AFRICA- FROM ITS ORIGINS TO PRESENT DAY BY WILLIAM ERIC BROWN.

The Catholic church is one of the most powerful religious institutions globally. Its scope of influence reaches as far as politics, socio-economic issues and education in every country it operates in. In Lesotho the church’s footprint was set through its missionary schools.

While Protestants rested their conduct on the doctrine that people could abide by their own interpretation of the scriptures, because the ability to do so was perceived as evident in every well-educated man. The Catholic church on the other hand insisted that such an education would imperil the faith of Catholic Children. It saw itself as superior and felt it had the right to include catechetical instruction as a general principle through which Catholic practice could be fitted into student education.

The “animosity” between the two churches (as caused by conflicting ideologies and practices), which began in Europe during the 16th Century spread to the developing Lesotho until the 1960s when the government took over the administrative role of teaching policies and instruction. Through-out the late 1800s through to the early 1960s Major examinations were assessed and qualified in Cape Town. Nevertheless, even as things began to change Lord Charles Somerset the British commissioner based in Cape Town at the time made certain that English remained the dominant language.

After independence in 1966, School leaving or senior secondary examinations were evaluated in England through COSC (Cambridge Overseas School Certification) model all the way up to 2014 when the first LGSE (Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education) examinations were taken.  The new curriculum, the policy that informed it, as well as the background knowledge provided in this paper, is where we kick off our research.

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PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION

The philosophy of education in Lesotho has evolved as a direct response to socio-economic challenges of the times over many years and generations. The foregoing aspects that form the core in formulating a philosophy of education were captured in the report on the Views and Recommendations of the Basotho Nation Regarding the Future of Education in Lesotho of 1978. Education should therefore provide technological skills to learners in responding to individual and social needs. In pursuing the educational aspirations, the currently emerging issues such as HIV and AIDS, gender equity, human rights and democracy, and others should be integrated within the educational process in a dynamic and evolving nature. In its entirety education provision must be geared towards enhancing self-realization, developing better human relationships, promoting individual as well as national efficiency and effective citizenship, developing national consciousness and national unity.

 

LANGUAGE POLICY

While acknowledging, as the Lesotho Constitution states, that Sesotho and English are the two official languages, and in recognition of the fact that there are other languages besides Sesotho and English, mother tongue will be used as a med um of instruction up to class 3 while English will be taught as a subject at this and other levels. From grade 4 English shall begin to be used as a medium of instruction and to be taught as a subject as well. The rationale behind this is that English shall cease to be an impediment to further learning and success. However, limitations in English language proficiency become a stumbling block towards orienting Basotho to see themselves as global citizens and participating in the development of policies and trends that affect their lives. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that literacy is developed to its most effective to serve the needs of children who do not have the best access to it.

 

With respect to “Linguistic and Literary”, the policy states that the curriculum should be able to, among other key areas, set the foundations of language and its usage. It states that language is a medium through which all learning areas can be adequately and effectively delivered because it promotes effective communication in all its forms. The policy states that the language and literacy curriculum should develop:

 

  • acquisition and understanding of linguistic skills necessary for effective communication in

different contexts,

  • application of linguistic, creative and other skills in promoting literary works for socioeconomic

Development because while education should address national aspirations, globalization exerts tremendous pressure on curriculum systems. Education systems should therefore take on the challenge of balancing national needs and globalization.

 

Integrated curriculum organization

The emerging trend towards knowledge production and problem solving is interdisciplinary, seeing life as an integrated whole with no distinctive compartments as reflected by various disciplines of knowledge. This approach recognizes that the learner is part of a community and that learning should take into account everyday experiences of learners. School life should thus be integrated with community life and that of the individual learner. This perspective does not negate or undermine the contribution of academic subjects in provision of knowledge, but rather advocates flexible use of knowledge beyond superficial understanding of isolated events. Thus curriculum integration organizes education to a more manageable and relevant approach. Two major strategies have been identified as best practices that may be adopted to produce the desired results namely; curriculum aspects and learning areas. Curriculum aspects highlight the life challenges and contexts in which the learner is expected to function as an individual and a member of the society. Learning areas indicate body of knowledge necessary to equip the learners with competencies necessary to address their life challenges. As good as this looks on paper it is however quite difficult to translate it to something doable and applicable. As such teachers and teaching administration encounter stumbling blocks in terms of implementation and assessment.

 

Assessment

Assessment should evaluate the attainment of educational and curriculum aims of educational programs at all levels. Thus there is need to broaden the modes of assessment to include the following: Formative assessment which comprises both diagnostic and continuous assessment/ classroom based assessment, monitoring of educational progress through national educational assessment carried out at regular intervals; and summative assessment (which usually tests mostly cognitive domain) for selection and certification purposes.

This aspect can be enhanced through more practical testing methods centered on what students create for themselves versus recreating only what they learned in the classroom.

 

Pedagogy

The framework calls for radical approaches to teaching which could be summarized as follows:

Pedagogy must shift more towards methods that can develop creativity, independence and survival skills of learners. In essence learners should assume greater responsibility for their own learning processes but where does this leave the role of the teacher and parents as the most significant stakeholders in students’ learning? Therefore, the new trend should be a move from teaching (spoon-feeding so to speak) to facilitating learning; from transfer of facts to student construction of knowledge; from memorization of information to analysis, synthesis, evaluation and application of information; from knowledge acquisition to development of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes; from categorized knowledge (traditional subjects) to integrated knowledge (broader learning areas); from didactic teaching to participatory, activity-centered and interactive methodologies.

 

In order to see that these are accomplished the policy itself states that: “To achieve the national educational aspirations and ensure successful learning, it is important to select knowledge and ideas to be learned carefully, bearing in mind the provision of necessary balance, the appropriate context and ideal perspective. In addition, the selected knowledge should be planned and organized in a manner that will foster commitment and motivation among all those entrusted with the success of the learning process, including the learners themselves. It should create enthusiasm and willingness to participate in the learning process.” A theory that will do us a world of good if strategically and effectively put into place. As it stands the gap between policy and implementation with regards to language and literacy is large and mostly strained due to excessive bureaucracy, resistance to change, little experimentation and lack of professional development.

 

Analysis of the language curricula

 

Empirical Study

Questionnaire - Student reflections

Questionnaire - Teacher reflections

Data analysis of teacher and student questionnaire-phase 1

 

CLOSED QUESTION ANALYSIS METHOD

The questionnaire data was arranged according to school and grade designation educator. The grade was disregarded due to the fact that the Leribe English Medium (Leribe district) and Soofia (Botha Bothe district) data collection processes were facilitated by teachers instead of the Ba re e ne re observers. (Refer to the field report)

STUDENT DATA

Responses were tabulated according to each pupil’s answer per question. After the responses were recorded they were then tallied to indicate how many students responded with either A, B or C then a chart representing this data is drawn. This chart aims to indicate students’ perceptions while comparing the schools per grade.  See figures 2- 4.

TEACHERS

The educator responses are tabulated in conjunction with the questions. These responses are self-assessment indicators meant to reflect the teachers’ level of confidence in their work and teaching styles, overall appreciation of teaching languages as well as their pupil’s responses. The responses are then tallied and tabulated in conjunction with each question. A chart demonstrating the data is also available (see figure 1). 

ANALYSIS OF EDUCATOR CLOSED QUESTIONS

The first questions measure the confidence level possessed by the teachers as language (Sesotho and English) education professionals. On a scale of 1-10 four out of nine teachers from both schools rated themselves 8, two rated 9 and only three rated themselves between 5-7. The confidence with which they assigned these ratings reflected their level of passionate for the languages.

Being that as it may, their ratings were based on the premise of traditional language education and not creative language education. Ratings assigned to the question ‘do you apply your own style to the teaching aids you have’, show a big gap between the higher (8-10) and lower (4-7) numbers on the scale. From this information we can conclude that most educators stick to the teaching aids mandated to them for the Sesotho and English curriculums. This gap was also witnessed for responses to the question, ‘do you read literature for pleasure’, where only four teachers rated themselves between 9 and 10.

Most of the teachers neglected to answer the question which asked the degree to which they apply their own creative licenses to impart knowledge. In essence the blank spaces reveal that most teachers do not deviate from structured modes of address nor do they use examples that are more relatable to by their students.

(See appendix 1, fig.1 educator chart)

ANALYSIS OF STUDENTS’S CLOSED QUESTIONS

The students in grades 4, 5 and 6 seem to enjoy reading and doing their homework in both Sesotho and English. However, they did not show signs of appreciating creative writing or reading for fun as a culture. The students viewed reading as unanimous with academic studying therefore they did not perceive it as an activity to engage in for leisure. Thus their understanding of questions 1 and 2 seemed to only reflect semiotic connotations of the words.

In relation, when students were asked, ‘which writings do you enjoy’, most of the Soofia students in grades 4,5 and 6 responded with ‘class work’ while the Leribe English Medium students in the three grades were split between composition and class work. This academic tunneling is further observed in students’ response to the question, ‘do you read for fun ‘, where grades 4,5,6 in both schools almost all answered no. From these results we observed that students could not differentiate between reading from studying. Reading therefore seems to serve only an academic function and not a cognitive or critical one.   

 

 

Appendix 1

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Figure 1 EDUCATION CHART SCALE 1-10

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Figure 2 GRADE 4 LERIBE AND SOOFIA

 

 

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Figure 3 GRADE 5 LERIBE AND SOOFIA

 

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Figure 4 GRADE 6 LERIBE AND SOOFIA

 

OPEN QUESTIONS ANALYSIS METHOD

Open questions were also grouped according to school, grade and educator. The content is then read through, grouped and themed.

OPEN QUESTIONS ANALYSIS: TEACHERS

Educators demonstrated hands-on involvement in their students’ education. Most of them portrayed expectations of excellence in their students through investing their energies in active learning rather than spoon-feeding information to students. When asked if they encouraged their students to engage in discussions about language, most of the teachers leaned in support of the practice because then students engage with language learning as both an independent and a collaborative effort.

Evidence of this conclusion in the responses given to the question; ‘do you encourage your students to think for themselves’. Most teachers outlined the strategies they employ to help their students think for themselves, for example: writing a topic on the board and then giving students the opportunity to voice their interpretations of it; encouraging students to carry out independent research on a certain topic and then present their findings to the class followed by a Q&A session aimed at challenging their critical thinking. Nevertheless, only one teacher went to the liberty of sourcing content from different media such as magazines, newspapers and novels in order to broaden students’ knowledge creation and dissemination.

Over all, teachers’ main objectives were focused on academic excellence and not necessarily on fostering or channeling creative writing/storytelling for literacy development. In response to question 5 (a two-way question) most teachers wrote that their students grasped the value of reading for academic function and no more.

 

OPEN QUESTION ANALYSIS: STUDENTS

Parallel to the initial observation in the closed question analysis, students seemed to confuse reading with studying therefore, their responses to the question; ‘do you think reading is important,’ presented reading as a tool for consuming academic materials only. Most grades 4, 5 and students in the two schools viewed reading as a means to remember topics covered in class, and something they use to pass tests and examinations as well as improves their spelling, writing and grammar. None of them mentioned using language as a tool for expression or culture.

In addition, a majority of the students supported the idea of being read to in class instead of reading independently.  Only a small percentage of the students lamented that being read to was a hindrance to their capabilities of acquire reading skills themselves. According to these students the ability to access and break down knowledge for themselves was essential to their survival and futures. Still, even they did not relate language as an art-form that they can use to channel their creativity and develop their understanding of themselves and the world they live in.

 

 


Source: Intertwining Histories

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