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8 Curriculum as Context ofTeaching and Learning Introduction This penultimate chapter considers the powerful influence the curriculum exerts on teachers’ and students’ classroom practices. More often than not, the curriculum is presented as an innocuous arrangement of subject-matter to be presented to the learners by the teachers and for the learner to assimilate in an unproblematic manner. However, the curriculum is both an enabling and a constraining structure. This position is reminiscent of Gidden’s (1976) ‘structuration postulate’ which posits that ‘the course of social history results from mutually constituting agent choices and structural dispositions’ (Scholte 2000:91). As already stated, actors (such as teachers and students) do not act in a sociological vacuum. Their actions are simultaneously enabled and constrained by the context within which they operate. If structures (e.g. the curriculum) and acting agents (e.g. teachers and students) are mutually constitutive then it is necessary to: situate the individual [teacher and/or student] in a social context [the curriculum ], to be able to say something about that context in terms of its internal structure and dynamics, of the opportunities it makes available and the constraints it imposes, and at the same time grasp that essential individuality and uniqueness of man (sic) that evades any total categorization (Sharp and Green 1975:17). Thus, the actions of individuals cannot be understood when abstracted from their context. Structuration theory is, therefore, useful in exploring the ability/inability of teachers and students to innovate. How then can the theory help us analyse the ways in which the curriculum constrains pedagogical innovations? Put differently, how does the curriculum, as structure, contribute to the regularity of teachercentred teaching practices and their intractability in sub-Saharan Africa? Teaching and Learning in Context: Why Pedagogical Reforms Fail in Sub-Saharan Africa 140 I attempt to answer this question by analysing curriculum development in the past two decades in Botswana, where the constructivist, learnercentred pedagogy has been declared the official pedagogy in schools. Ironically, emphasis on the pedagogy is intensifying at a time when the school curriculum is increasingly becoming behaviourist in orientation. Bearing in mind the fundamental differences between constructivism and behaviourism (see Chapter Three), this conflation of behaviourism and constructivism is contradictory: how are the two expected to co-exist? The tension between the two is further exacerbated by the recent emergence of the League Table – the ranking of schools by performance in terminal examinations. It is, therefore, important to look at these developments more closely with a view to establishing their implications for pedagogical reform. To develop some useful insight into the Botswana curriculum, it is important to locate the curriculum in a global context. This is a context characterized by a discourse of economic competitiveness, a discourse that calls for reform of education and training to align them more closely with the labour and skills demands of the ‘new’ economy. While Botswana, just like most sub-Saharan African countries, has always had a national, prescriptive curriculum that heavily limits teachers’ and students’ room to act, the curriculum reforms of the 1990s further attenuated that space. Specifically, the emergence of the “Objectives-based Curriculum” has constrained the little autonomy the teacher had. The result was a further tightening of state control of teachers’ work. In other words, we have witnessed since the 1990s hyper-entrenchment of state surveillance of teachers in Botswana. This development was to be aided by the rise of accountability measures in the country occasioned by public sector reforms which were encapsulated in the discourse of productivity. Accountability in the education sector comes in the form of ranking of schools by performance in public school examinations results. School principals today are asked by their employer, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (ME&SD), to account for the position of their schools in the League Table. The media have taken keen interest in the rankings and the general public gets the opportunity to discuss the examinations results on both public and private radio stations. In short, the performance of schools has become a public spectacle. This combination of surveillance and spectacle (Vinson and Ross 2003) has fundamentally altered teacher-student relationships by making them even more hierarchical and impersonal, leading to further entrenchment of banking education. 141 Contexts of Reform The past two decades have witnessed an unprecedented global attempt to attune education to the demands of the ‘new’ economy. This has impacted on education in major ways, including leading to fundamental curricular reforms. One strand of this reform agenda...


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