THE IMPACT OF THE REFORMATION OF THE PHYSICAL SCIENCE CURRICULUM IN SOUTH AFRICA
University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
The South African Physical Science curriculum has undergone a reformation from the old National Senior Certificate (NSC) curriculum to the new Continuous Assessment Policy System (CAPS) curriculum in 2014. The intention for the introduction of this curriculum was to align the gap between the secondary schooling and the tertiary sector. The new CAPS curriculum has introduced students to more content materials and topics of a more challenging nature in comparison to the old NSC system of education. However, the impact of such a curricular change has led to a decline in the students’ levels of competence at a tertiary level. The reason for such a decline in performance could be attributed to the following reasons: a lack of sufficient and dedicated training of teachers to the new curriculum, sustained traditional mode of instruction and insufficient time for the completion of an extended curriculum. Because of a lack of extra time allocated to teachers, they may find it hard to complete the curriculum and this would have put a lot of strain on both the teachers and students alike. Teachers are under severe pressure to complete the syllabus, and this forces them to focus on the surface features of the curriculum and resort to testing of sections of the curriculum at a superficial level with no qualitative focus. To prepare students for an all-important exit examination at grade 12 level, teachers are training students to just answer previous examination papers (with answers), without preparing them with the necessary thinking and reasoning skills that is required for any examination situation. Under these tight teaching constraints, they could also be placing less emphasis on the all-important physics practicals as well. The impact of all this is that these students will find it difficult to cope with the higher education studies. The aim of this research was to compare the performances of students in both the NSC and CAPS examinations, and in particular to their performances to the new sections that were added to the curriculum. Results of student performances since the inception of CAPS has been a cause for concern, especially in terms of their understanding of the fundamentals of physics. A recommendation is that teacher support should be given a higher priority by the Department of Education for any meaningful change in the curriculum.