Online education: The answer to schools’ failure to complete curriculum?
Online Education Provider, Brainline, says recent reports indicating that 66% of schools failed to complete the CAPS-curriculum last year, while more than half have not been able to cover the first phase of curriculum during the first portion of the 2021 academic year is of grave concern.
CAPS refers to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement, which gives teachers detailed guidelines of what to teach and assess on a grade-by-grade and subject-by-subject basis. The South African Teachers Union (SAOU) has just released a survey, indicating that the majority of member schools have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures. Brainline CEO, Coleen Cronje, says the aftermath of the pandemic on the academic environment has been catastrophic.
‘The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our schooling system as schools had to close from the end of March to June, with many learners only returning in August. A lot of teaching and learning time was lost during this period, therefore contributing to the fact that many schools were unable to complete the required curriculum. It is yet unclear how this backlog will affect learners and their ability to catch-up on critical elements in the curriculum,’ she says.
SAOU has indicated that 54% of learners are lagging behind when it comes to languages while 46% are behind in maths. The group most affected are those in Grade 1 – 3 and Grade 4 – 6. Cronje says the pandemic and how various schools coped with the academic responsibilities exposed the impact of South Africa’s ongoing inequalities, in particular the digital divide.
‘It is clear that learners from disadvantaged communities and those in rural areas, without the luxury of reliable and affordable internet access, suffered the most,’ she noted.
Many schools are still making use of a rotating roster whereby learners only attend school on alternative days, putting more pressure on adhering to high academic standards and completing the curriculum as required. Cronje says while there has been calls for the Department of Basic to scrap the rotating system, now is the opportune time to look at restructuring the current traditional school system by phasing in e-learning or online education elements.
The pandemic has made online access to learning and teaching essential and urgent. It is therefore important that the basic education authorities partner with the private sector to empower learners and teachers programmes with data, devices and ICT training as a start. This will go a long way to ensure a fairer education system as e-learning and mobile learning could serve as an additional learning resource that can assist in accessing learning tools,’ Cronje says.
Online education has already been embraced by schools and universities around the country and the world. Cronje says it is estimated that 31.18 million South Africans have access to the internet, while there are 28.9 million active mobile users. She says it is therefore of the utmost importance that the online classrooms enjoy more prominence.
Meanwhile, Cronje says as an online school, Brainline, who also adheres to the CAPS-curriculum, has been able to continue uninterrupted. She says learners have been able to access online classes, provided by qualified teachers.
‘We were in the fortunate position that all our academic activities are online and therefore we could continue without any interruption to our classes. We have also seen an increase in our enrolment numbers, not only last year during the school closures, but also during the first part of 2021. Many learners have indicated that they preferred the stability of the online platform to that of the traditional classroom. It is important to note that home or online education has evolved significantly and are now based on individual needs. home education can provide a safe space for children who may have found the traditional schooling environment challenging,’ says Cronje.
Cronje says Brainline has just started with its second academic cycle and the school is still enrolling learners for Grade R – 11. Brainline is IEB recognised. Learners who are enrolled with us to complete their final examinations and who fulfil the requirements for this qualification will receive their National Senior Certificate (NSC), as issued by Umalusi.
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