Lesotho new Integrated Curriculum for primary schools in Lesotho

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1 Lesotho new Integrated Curriculum for primary schools in Lesotho The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) has introduced a new integrated primary school curriculum, designed to respond to the changing needs of education in Lesotho. The aim of the new curriculum is to enable the education system of the Kingdom of Lesotho to deliver Education for Individual and Social Development, equipping both individual citizens and the Nation as a whole to meet the challenges of the increasingly globalised world in which we live. This curriculum is also aimed at maintaining the core values and identity of Basotho culture and society. The new curriculum is already being used in Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 piloting Grade 7. From January 2018, all learners will be learning through it. What is an Integrated Curriculum? The Integrated Curriculum draws together knowledge, skills, attitudes and values from within or across subject areas to develop a more powerful understanding of key ideas. This involves the development of thinking skills, instead of the subject-based approach which encouraged rote learning. It is also very practical: children learn by doing, and learn many practical skills as well as more academic skills which will help them to be more successful learners. The integrated approach has many advantages because it: matches the way children think, taking in many things, processing and organising them holistically, rather than in fragmented pieces or subjects; makes learning more relevant, reflecting the real world and how children learn at home and in the community; builds on prior knowledge and experience, making connections across subject areas and making learning more meaningful; provides contexts to use and apply subject-specific skills and concepts, so that they are translated into practical, rather than theoretical, learning; builds and reinforces key concepts and skills necessary to face the challenges of modern life. Why has the MoET decided to introduce an integrated curriculum? This is a time of both great promise and significant challenges for the education system in Lesotho: 1

2 The introduction of free, compulsory basic education, which is extended from seven to ten years, is an enormous national achievement, which has made it necessary to redesign the existing primary education policy and curriculum. The previous curriculum and assessment system have outlived their relevance and no longer correspond to the needs of today s learners. The previous system made teachers feel obliged to focus on the small number of subjects which are examined, to the neglect of other areas, thus teaching to examinations rather than to the actual needs of the learners. With the introduction of the new integrated curriculum and assessment process, teachers will prepare flexible, active learners, who are able to succeed in the world outside the formal education system as well as in the classroom. Lesotho needs an education system which prepares its citizens to compete and thrive in an increasingly globalised world, whilst preserving its distinctive values and culture, and transmitting these to the next generation. In the face of a series of issues which threaten the wellbeing of the country and its citizens, such as youth unemployment, climate change, food insecurity, the scourge of HIV and AIDS and growing numbers of households headed by children, Lesotho needs an education system which provides learners with the information, skills, attitudes, values and knowledge to combat and overcome these threats, rather than falling victim to them. The new curriculum is explicitly designed to address all of the issues presented above, and to equip learners to become dignified, discerning and successful citizens and workers in control of their destiny and that of their country. How is the curriculum structured? The new Integrated Curriculum is derived from five Learning Areas (Creativity and Entrepreneurship, Personal, Spiritual and Social, in addition to the more traditional sounding Linguistic and Literary, Numerical and Mathematical and Scientific and Technological areas) into which the traditional subjects have been grouped. This means the subjects are still taught, but with a focus on the connections between them. 2

3 In Grades 1-4, these Learning Areas are not taught separately, but are combined to reflect the way young children learn. However, each day learners will also work on numeracy and literacy windows to reinforce mathematical skills and literacy in both mother tongue and English. These windows support the rest of the curriculum and ensure that learners achieve solid basic literacy and numeracy skills. In Grades 5-6, the curriculum is structured according to the Learning Areas, in order to allow the traditional subjects to emerge (in particular Sesotho, English, Mathematics and Science). By the time learners reach Grade 7, all teaching will be in traditional subjects, although learners will still be encouraged to make connections between concepts from different subjects. The new Lesotho Grade 7 End of Level Test will assess the following subjects as per the new approved curricula: Sesotho, English, Mathematics, Social Sciences, Science and Technology, Arts and Entrepreneurship and Life skills. Inclusion of Life Skills Education (LSE) From Grade 4, the new curriculum includes Life Skills Education (LSE). This will equip learners with information and skills that will help them to make lifesaving and informed decisions and adopt safe behaviour. LSE enables learners to protect themselves from threats such as STIs, including HIV and AIDS, unplanned pregnancies and sexual violence. It also prepares them to access Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services if and when they need them. How is the curriculum assessed? The new curriculum will be assessed using continuous assessment, moving away from the traditional ways of testing which have been found to be severely limiting. Testing through examinations and tests provides learners with marks or grades, for example 7/10 or 12/20. However, it does not give any indication of what the learner is actually able to do. Instead of marks or grades, the new methods of assessment will generate statements about each learner s progress and ability. These will help learners, their teachers and future teachers, their parents and guardians, as well as education policy makers, to know exactly what a learner has learned and is capable of doing, also indicating areas where remedial work is needed. They will also remove the pressure from teachers to teach to the exam, allowing teachers to teach and assess the whole curriculum. Learners will know what they are learning (what they will know, 3

4 understand or be able to do by the end of the lesson) and the standards they are aiming at. Continuous assessment will enable teachers to identify learners who need extra support and to work with them on their areas of difficulty. This means that problems are identified and addressed as they arise, rather than waiting for an end of year exam to discover that learners have difficulties and making them repeat a year. Because difficulties are addressed, through remedial work, on an on-going basis, all learners should progress through the system with their own peer group. Successful assessment includes people other than the learner and the teacher. In particular, parents and guardians are encouraged to take time to understand the new process, to discuss it with their children and their teachers, follow their children s progress and support both learners and teachers in the new modes of assessment. Instructional materials Instructional materials for the new curriculum are being developed and availed for use in schools. In the meantime, teachers will teach the new curriculum by adapting existing materials and creating others themselves. How the new curriculum was developed The new curriculum is a home-grown product, designed to meet the specific needs of Lesotho. In 2009 the MoET produced an innovative and visionary Curriculum and Assessment Policy, with the aim of delivering Education for Individual and Social Development, to allow learners to meet the challenges of the world in which they live, whilst maintaining the core values and identity of Basotho culture and society. Since then, professional curriculum designers from the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) of the MoET, in partnership with other stakeholders, have been developing innovative new curriculum packages. The curriculum is being implemented progressively and each grade is trialled in 70 primary schools throughout Lesotho. It is evaluated and amended before being introduced nationwide. Request for support from the community The introduction of any change in education involves some upheaval, while all the different people and institutions involved adapt to new ways of working. In 4

5 some cases it takes time to show positive results. The introduction of the new curriculum in Lesotho involves teachers, learners, parents, community members and many other stakeholders getting used to new ways of teaching, learning and assessment. With time, this will produce very positive results, both for individual learners and for the country as a whole. All those with a stake in the new curriculum are encouraged to try to understand how it works and to support it by showing interest in what is happening in the Nation s schools and helping to support the process in any way they can. 5

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