Monday, 27 April 2015

Changing the World, one Red-Schooler at a time!

Starting out as a principal in 1997, I have never known anything but change in education! We have been through 'right sizing' of schools, transferring of teachers to other schools (usually using the 'last in, first out' method), banning corporal punishment, Bengu's OBE, then the NCS, now CAPS.....and so it continues. In fact, a lot of very experienced teachers and management staff at schools left at the end of 1996 because they were then concerned that South African education as we knew it, was going to crumble. I am so pleased they did, because that opened up a place for me to manage our little microcosm of South African society! Believe me it hasn't been all 'honey and roses'! I have often felt frustrated, despondent and angry but when I review the past 18 years, the overall view is very positive because change can be cathartic! All the outside change has encouraged us at Pinelands North to continually re-evaluate what we do, and how we do it.
This continual process has kept us on our toes, and every time a new curriculum has been developed, it has encouraged us to review what we do, and plan an even better curriculum for our children. This has meant that when other schools were told to 'throw out' physical education, needlework, woodwork and music, we adapted these subjects to fit into the new curriculum. Now, when most schools who were teaching isiXhosa have stopped, we added more time to our week just so we could keep it. Another subject which has been dropped in grade 4 to 6 is Economic Management Science....we also added time for this subject because of our belief that each of these brings an added value to our South African society. Here is how:

  • All South Africa's children need at least 3 languages! How could the curriculum developers agree that only 2 languages would be compulsory? The culture, acceptance and communication value of knowing 3 languages is very obvious!
  • Needlework and Woodwork used to be gender segregated subjects when we were at school. Now grade 4 to 7 children at Pinelands North all do both, in addition to Technology. This means that all children learn how to use a sewing machine and overlocker, and to use wood, tools, hammers and nails. Most of us wish we had had this opportunity as every extra skill one learns, is one more opportunity to create work in the future.
  • Economic Management Science was a subject all children loved, and parents wished they had had at school themselves. Children learnt about bank accounts, mortgage bonds, saving and how to start a business. Children at Pinelands North in grade 4 to 6 still learn entrepreneurial skills and have a Market Day every year to practise their business building skills.
  • Music and drama are now 'back' in the official curriculum but at Pinelands North our children have continued both these subjects since they were introduced in about 1998. The skills learnt in these subjects, and during the other opportunities for public speaking and poetry recitation they have during a regular school year at Pinelands North, mean that our children are prepared to 'stand up and be counted' when they need to voice their opinions.
  • We also teach a 'hidden curriculum'. This is the 'stuff' that doesn't have lesson assigned to it but is subtle and underlies all our interactions at school. It is about empathy for others, about caring for animals and learning about other cultures, religions and peoples so that interacting with difference is easy in the future.
Our 'Red Schoolers' are prepared in their primary years, to take on the world. School is not only about learning 'subjects' - it is about learning how live in a future changing world - a world that demands you be the very best person you can be.  Our children leave at the end of their primary schooling 'the best they can be', able to change the whole world or....... just their own if they wish. That makes me very proud!

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