Category Archives: Curriculum

First Additional Language for the Win!

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. Ludwig Wittgenstein

The benefits of bilingualism are manifold. Recent research into brain plasticity and functioning are revealing more and more advantages to learning a second (and third) language. From improved cognitive ability  and higher test results across all subjects, to behavioral improvements and increased tolerance and empathy, the list goes on and on. Hey – being bilingual even wards off dementia, helps prevent Alzheimers and delays brain atrophy by about 7 years!

With all these benefits, why do our South African school students (and their parents) complain so much about their requisite First Additional Language? Shouldn’t the inclusion of a compulsory second language in our school curriculum be applauded and encouraged? All the studies on bilingualism concur that it makes no difference what language is being acquired; the benefits remain the same. Continue reading First Additional Language for the Win!

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Wildely Out of Touch with Our Teens

Hamlet and The Picture of Dorian Gray are the prescribed texts for South African government schools’ Grade 12 English First Language exam this year. As my Matric students might say, “Whaaaaaaaaaaaat??!!?”

Please do not mistake my alarm for a personal aversion to these texts. I am a classicist at heart and will defend the inclusion of Shakespeare in the English curriculum till my dying day. “Hamlet” is one of my favourite dramatic texts; dense with existential anguish, wit, dramatic irony and a great big knock-down-drag-out in the final act. I adore Oscar Wilde and am loving revisiting “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” in preparation for helping my private Matric students.  I’m chuckling away as I reread it, giving frequent mental nods and bows to the genius of Wilde and his acerbic wit. I, however, am not an 18-year old student.

Continue reading Wildely Out of Touch with Our Teens

One Size DOES NOT Fit All

Imagine if schools issued school uniforms in the same way that they issue education? Imagine if they decided on an average shoe size that students in that grade ought to be wearing and issued each child with a pair of shoes in that size?

It doesn’t take much effort to extend the metaphor to envisage the struggle of students for whom the shoe doesn’t fit. Students whose feet haven’t quite yet grown to the expected “norm” would swim about in their shoes, tripping and stumbling, not managing to keep up with the others; no matter how hard they tried. Those who happened to have larger feet would be in a different kind of discomfort; feet squished into a painful, blistering space that hobbled and injured them. It sounds cruel, doesn’t it? Of course schools would never do that – and parents would never allow it. So why do we allow a “one size fits all” approach to curriculum design, teaching and testing?

Continue reading One Size DOES NOT Fit All