An Action Research Study Towards Enhancing Community Engagement Partnerships Between ODL Institutions and Schools

An Action Research Study Towards Enhancing Community Engagement Partnerships Between ODL Institutions and Schools

Tome' Awshar Mapotse (University of South Africa, South Africa), Sizakele Mirriam Matlabe (University of South Africa, South Africa), Elias E. R. Mathipa (University of South Africa, South Africa), Soane Joyce Mohapi (University of South Africa, South Africa) and Magano Meahabo Dinah (University of South Africa, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2642-1.ch005


The South African government has mandated national universities to emancipate and capacitate the teachers of the selected schools in science and technology through an Open Distance Learning (ODL) mode of which the University of South Africa form part of such as Higher Educational Institutions cohort. This chapter reports on the observations, field notes and interviews that were conducted with a group of four teachers and eight learners as a case study at Lovemore Primary School. This Community Engagement chapter focuses on teaching science and technology. In this chapter, researchers argue that focus group participants were able to give enough ideas, thoughts and points to enable the team to design an intervention programme through an Action Research approach. A developmental theory was used to underpin the study while the researcher and participants were engaged in a Community of Practice paradigm. More sessions will be planned to jointly structure the way forward and cultivate the nature of the intervention strategies.
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The curriculum in postcolonial Africa is still to a large extent confronted by the legacy of colonial education that remained in place decades after political decolonisation, reiterated Higgs (2016) hence is logical to state that Africa education systems still mirror colonial education inherited from former colonial education system. Whilst Africa has its dual mode of education delivery (colonial education and postcolonial operation), Higgs (2016:1) stress that education system in Africa during the 21st century has to operate in both post-colonial and globalising context. It is disturbing to learn that when South African learners are subjected to assessment on a global scale they score lower than most African countries.

Robinsons (2013:3) reports that, “South Africa’s performance on international benchmarks tests is low. We need to ask hard questions as to why this is so, bearing in mind that the reasons might go beyond what takes place in the classroom. Are teachers not able to explain the content properly? Are learners not motivated? Is language an issue? Is the culture of the school not conducive to learning? Are the days organised in an orderly fashion? Are the classrooms cold? Are the learners hungry?” To respond to these hard questions, some research teams of academics under the College of Education (CEDU) from the University of South Africa (Unisa), as an Institute for Open Distance Learning (ODL) have embarked on a Community Engagement (CE) project to be part of the solution to the educational problem that is ravaging South Africa (SA). CEDU is running a national 500 schools CE research project. The 500 schools are then divided into 100 schools per five identified provinces that are performing poorly.

The 500 schools research project proposes to investigate the underlying causes of under-performance in Grades 3 and 6, and to develop an intervention approach to assist the sample schools in five South African provinces: Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and North West (Bettman 2012; Smit & Romm 2013). This team of researchers, who were allocated to Lovemore Primary School (a pseudonym is used to conceal the identity of the school), were urged by the words of Nelson (2008) who declares that, “It is the teacher who makes the difference in the classroom. By far the most important factor to school learning is the ability of the teacher. The more capable the teacher, the more successful will be the students. There is an essential body of knowledge about teaching that must be known by all teachers.” The 500 schools project intends to ascertain whether teachers are grounded with the essential body of knowledge and what the gaps are that lead to poor learners’ performance and meagre teachers’ achievement. This project intends to develop the guidelines that may be useful in addressing this underperformance and poor achievement problem.

This study has focused on the subject, natural science and technology, as it is termed in the General Education and Training band of Intermediate Phase in the South African context. In South Africa, natural science and technology is a subject taught in Grade 6 after the Minister of Basic Education merged science and technology subjects from 2012. The term ‘natural science and technology’ is still applicable in the revised, reviewed and revisited Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) as adopted in 2011 by SA.

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