a diet of outcomes

Richard G Berlach

Richard G Berlach

For the privileged, it seems that the imparting and consequent acquisition of knowledge is still a teaching-learning priority. And for the rest of us? A continuing diet of outcomes, I'm afraid. But then, as education authorities well know, the starving will eat anything.

I asked my colleague whether her school was in any way committed to the notion of OBE. With a wry laugh she simply said "no, outcomes- based education is for the masses, here we teach the country's future leaders".

OBE lacks reflexivity. Even in the face of ever-mounting opposition, OBE keeps spreading with a quasi-necessary resolve. The bureaucrats and technocrats of the education industry, probably because of the time and funds already expended, continue to justify and prop up a paradigm which experienced teachers are finding increasingly loathsome.

OBE is deceptively transformative. It takes key terms from the lexicon of education, ascribes to them new meaning, and then attempts to mould incumbents accordingly.

Teaching is one such term. A standard dictionary definition of teaching includes reference to imparting knowledge or giving instruction. OBE largely strips teachers of this function and makes them educational technicians. They are to become facilitators, guides, curriculum developers, child-minders - in short -

bureaucrats. Few teachers, I would venture to say, joined the profession to become indentured servants to the OBE agenda.

Not only has their job description changed but, with it, their status. What students want has somehow become more important than what teachers want.

OBE is all about the 'stakeholders', not about teachers. The 'stakeholders' rather than the educational providers, are now the educational experts.

Some sixty years ago, Princeton don Jacques Maritain wrote ". educators cannot permit the students to dictate the course of study unless they are prepared to confess that they are nothing but chaperones, supervising an aimless, trial-and-error process which is chiefly valuable because it keeps young people from doing something worse."

Yet labour market and household surveys indicate that opportunities for employment and further learning increase substantially with a senior certificate - compared to a grade 11 - and increase significantly again with a matric exemption, especially if mathematics is one of the subjects passed.

The cognitive demand of examinations has increased in the last two years. We have also introduced a new matric curriculum which does away with the standard and higher-grade distinction.

There was an urgent need to review the curriculum, which was out of date. Throughout the world countries review their school curricula from time to time.

The revision of the South African curriculum is not primarily about introducing outcomes-based education. Rather we need an approach, content and methodology that educates our pupils differently.

But the quality of the education can and will only be determined by schools themselves. Schools can, with the support of parents and pupils, do much to influence the quality of education.