Teacher responses to education policy reforms : case studies of in-service processes in the Western Cape Province of South Africa

Reddy, Christopher Paul Samuel (2001-12)

Dissertation (PhD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2001

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In South Africa the transformation process in education has placed tremendous pressure on teachers, redefining roles, functions and imposing new levels of accountability on education professionals. This thesis is based on research examining teachers' experiences of and responses to the recent policy changes and their implications for teachers' work at primary school level. The research captures a small selection of the diverse views and reflections of teachers in case studies of in-service teacher education processes set against the backdrop of major educational changes driven by structural and policy changes in a changing socio-political context. The participants in the research project consisted of a selection serving (working) teachers who attended in-service teacher education programmes voluntarily. The interpretations of events reflect my own perspectives and are informed by both the participants in the research and the specific period in which the research took place. Data produced suggests that while the initial legislative changes took place fairly quickly, the implementation of more systemic, structural, curricular and administrative changes posed a greater challenge. Hastily introduced changes related to practice about which teachers were not consulted resulted in professional uncertainty being induced and teachers experiencing confusion, anxiety and doubts about their competence. Large numbers in classes, poor resources, micropolitical issues at schools, were mentioned as contextual constraints affecting implementation of changes as prescribed in policies. Small pockets of compliance with and support for change initiatives were however also evident in the responses. I contend that the overwhelmingly resistant responses of teachers in the case studies conducted are related to contextual constraints and the decontextualised, externally developed policies and externally imposed changes that ignore teachers' experience (as teacher and personal), beliefs, values and local contexts and broader social contexts. Further I posit that planning of change processes needs to involve teachers at all levels including policy development and in-service activities so that teachers are not only informed of changes but are part of the change process.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die transformasieproses van die onderwys in Suid-Afrika het geweldige druk op onderwysers geplaas omdat hulle rolle en funksies hergedefinieer is en nuwe vlakke van verantwoordelikheid op onderwyskundiges geplaas is. Die navorsing waaroor in hierdie tesis gerapporteer word, is gebaseer op onderwysers se ervarings van en reaksies op die onlangse veranderinge in beleidsdokumente. Die imp likasies vir die werk van onderwysers in die primêre skool word ook betrek. Die navorsing hanteer gevallestudies waarin 'n klein gedeelte aangespreek word van die diverse sienings en refleksies van onderwysers wat deelgeneem het aan indiensopleiding met die oog op die implementering van Kurrikulum 2005. Dit word gestel teen die agtergrond van die grootskaalse onderwysveranderinge as uitvloeisel van die strukturele en politieke veranderinge in 'n veranderende sosio-politieke konteks. Die deelnemers aan die navorsingsprojek was 'n seleksie diensdoende onderwysers wat die programme op 'n vrywillige basis bygewoon het. Alhoewel hulle reaksies as uitgangspunt vir die interpreasie van die resultate gebruik is, reflekteer die interpretasie my eie perspektiewe, gegrond op sowel die ervarings van die deelnemers aan die navorsingsproses as die tydperk waartydens die navorsing plaasgevind het. Die data wat geproduseer is, sugureer dat, in teenstelling met die relatief vinnige veranderinge van die aanvanklike wetgewing, die implementering van die meer sistematiese, strukturele, kurrikurêle en administratiewe veranderings 'n groter uitdaging gebied het. Veranderinge in verband met die onderwyspraktyk, wat baie vinnig ingebring is sonder om die onderwysers daaroor te raadpleeg, het tot professionele onsekerheid gelei, aangevul met verwardheid, vrees en twyfeloor hulle bekwaamheid. Groot klasse, gebrekkige hulpbronne, mikro-politiese sake by die skole, is genoem as kontekstuele beperkings wat die implementering van die voorgeskrewe beleidsveranderinge beïnvloed het. Slegs'n klein groepie onderwysers het die beleidsveranderinge aanvaar of ondersteun. Ek voer aan dat die oorweldigende aantal negatiewe response van onderwysers verband hou met kontekstuele beperkings en die gedekontekstualiseerde, eksternontwikkelde beleidsdokumente. Die veranderinge wat ekstern afgedwing is en wat onderwysers se waardes en plaaslike kontekste geïgnoreer het, speel volgens my ook 'n belangrike rol. Verder stel ek dit dat onderwysers op alle vlakke by die beplanning van veranderingsprosesse betrek moet word. Daarby word beleidsontwikkeling en aktiwiteite rondom indiensopleiding ingesluit sodat onderwysers nie slegs ingelig word nie, maar ook deel vorm van die proses.

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