The role of CAPS in preparing school learners for responsible leadership: An exploration of learner experiences at three high schools in the Western Cape

Schoeman, Rentia (2018-12)

Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT : One of the key components underscoring educational reform in post-apartheid South Africa is the establishment and cultivation of democratic citizenship. The Curriculum Assessment and Policy Statement places a strong emphasis on producing learners who embody the qualities necessary for responsible citizenship. The CAPS is explicit in its focus on cultivating learners who are able to lead, think critically and act responsibly. What remains unclear, however, is how schools are interpreting the objectives of the CAPS, as they relate to the cultivation of learners as responsible and democratic citizens. The general aim of this study was to explore whether the CAPS equips learners with the skills required for responsible leadership. The main research question addressed by the present study was whether the CAPS equips learners with the skills necessary for responsible leadership. The main objective of the study was to consider the types of programmes that schools might have in place, which speak directly to the cultivation of responsible and democratic citizenship. The theoretical framework of this study considered Gutmann and Thompson’s (2004) theory of deliberative democracy, while the conceptual theories of Enslin as well as Biesta and Lawy on citizenship education were utilised in the study to support the argument for the inclusion of democratic citizenship education in the programmes and practices of high schools. The study adopted a qualitative research approach, and in order to gain an in-depth understanding of participants’ perceptions, data collection techniques comprised semi-structured interviews with teachers as well as focus group interviews with learners. The study sample, chosen by using purposive sampling, comprised three Life Orientation teachers and 15 Grade 12 learners, from three selected high schools in the Metropole North Education District in the Western Cape. The three high schools were distinctly different from one another regarding the areas in which they were located and also in terms of socio-economic status, language, culture, race and religion. Data analysis, data interpretation and discussion of the data findings were conducted using a qualitative, phenomenological research design constructed within an interpretive paradigm that held the subjective perspectives of the research participants in high regard. Six categories with accompanying themes emerged from this study, namely shared challenges experienced by learners, views of the skills and qualities required by learners for democratic citizenship, perceptions and experiences of democratic citizenship, perceptions and experiences of leadership, leadership initiatives within the school environment, and views of life skills taught in Life Orientation. Data revealed that the sets of participants from the respective schools held vastly different perspectives regarding experiences of democratic citizenship education, leadership development initiatives and the subject matter pertaining to Life Orientation. The reason for the disparate viewpoints was largely as a result of existing and historic socio-economic inequalities in South Africa. Overall, learners had a good understanding of the concepts relating to democratic citizenship and leadership, but the presence of programmes demonstrating the application of democratic participation, as well as the promotion of the skills as set out in the CAPS, was seemingly dependent on the aforementioned socio-economic standing of the school. The findings of this research might be used to inform stakeholders, such as the Department of Basic Education, policymakers and teachers regarding the implementation and inclusion of democratic citizenship education within the functioning of all schools in South Africa, and the importance of leadership skills development amongst the youth, in order to comply with the vision of the CAPS in equipping all learners with the skills required for responsible leadership.

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