The foundational learning focus area initiates, supports and facilitates interventions in the areas of Language-in-Education Policy, Early Childhood Development and education development planning.
Highlights of past and current interventions
The premise for focussing on the Language-in-Education policy (LiEP, 1997) is based on the belief that a mother-tongue-based education (MTbE) approach to teaching and learning is one of the most significant developmental matters that our education system needs to address. This approach needs to be part of development planning in a much more systematic way as it links to matters of social and economic transformation.
The following principles underpin this area of work:
- In order to build a new South Africa we need to develop a multilingual ethos that allows people to speak to each in a lingua franca.
- The need to elevate the development of African languages to be used in all domains of life.
- A co-ordinated effort by practitioners, scholars, activists, the state and publishers should contribute to broadening multilingual practice.
- Public awareness is needed, as part of a national project to valorise the use of African languages, especially as languages of learning and teaching (LoLT) in the education system.
- Mother- Tongue based Bilingual Education (MTbBE) is a key concept that should find expression in the schooling system: it entails a minimum of 6 years of high quality teaching and learning in the mother tongue, alongside gaining proficiency in English.
- Strengthening practices of multilingualism in education is a societal matter, in the same way that education is.
- Multilingual practices such as supporting children reading and writing in their mother tongues and offering bilingual learning programmes, should be strengthened and supported.
In 2015, ESCECC released the first issue of IZIFUNDO. The IZIFUNDO newsletter speaks about the broad subject of multiligual education and features policy and literacy development as themes. The intention of this newsletter is to spark further discussion and debate on the subject of realising bi/multilingual education
Support to the Eastern Cape Department of Education
ECSECC supports the Eastern Cape Department of Education with realising their Strategy.
In providing support to the Eastern Cape Department of Education, ECSECC is driven by the following values and principles:
- Public Participation: Engage people from school communities on their history and their knowledge of their community, in order to better shape responses to social issues.
- Planning from below: Provide the conditions for children to grow optimally, by involving those who know them best and who understand their immediate environment.
- Transformation: Adopt actions that strengthen the ideal of democracy and decentralisation in education.
- Accountability: Hold teachers, students and parents accountable for upholding the highest standards, academically, socially and ethically.
- Equity: Support childrens' need to have equal outcomes in life which means that those children who find themselves on the wrong side of history, need to be supported in particular and deliberate ways.
ECSECC provides support to the Department of Education in terms of strategic planning, district development, the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign and the Education Advisory Council.
ECSECC has issued perspectives on the 2013 and 2014 matric results.
Early childhood development
ECSECC, through the Eastern Cape Planning Commission, facilitated a process of crafting a set of propositions for ECD in the province. These propositions considered aspects such as policy and regional context and were incorporated into the Provincial Development Plan. The Eastern Cape ECD Forum, which constitutes a representative body of state representatives, NGOs, higher education, researchers, donors and activists in the EC, played an important role in bringing the ECD community into dialogue on possibilities for provincial planning. The secretariat of the ECD Forum, ITEC, worked with ECSECC and the Planning Commission, to help co-ordinate the consultative and conceptual processes. The following key aspects in ECD were lifted for consideration:
- Nutrition and health is foundational to ensure that children from foetal stages are in a nurturing and supportive environment, as their health has a direct bearing on their ability to feel secure, learn, and ultimately contribute in society.
- Human Resources are needed in the form of a layer of ECD practitioners and specialists who can provide both caregiving and co-ordination responses to uplift the sector.
- Access to quality learning, safety, ECD centres, medical and legal services are needed.
Developing planning includes providing conceptual assistance to the Eastern Cape Planning Commission (ECPC) to devise a provincial development plan. The purpose of this work was to provide strategic direction and content for education. A set of critical activities was scheduled to guide the process for the provincial plan. A central question guided how the plan was to be developed, namely: how do we access quality and success in education? Essentially this was about creating and imagining such conditions to be realised. Therefore the idea of agency in various organisational forms, which includes formal institutions, were considered for the practical tasks they could possibly undertake.
The idea of revitalising schools through pedagogy, leadership and curriculum was offered as a general approach.
One of the starting points includes the idea that formal leadership and teacher leadership should be premised on a commitment to social justice and to a socially supportive environment for learning and teaching to take place. Essentially this means that classroom practices have to be aimed at both academic and social outcomes.
Principles in the plan incorporate the following:
Education as a social good.
The state must provide access to quality education as integral to promoting citizenship which among other factors entails even distribution of human and material resources. Citizenship is reflected in how people exercise their power to participate in their communities and in society, therefore it is incumbent on the state to support such participation through providing the social service of education.
Unity of theory and practice:
Bringing wide-ranging practical experiences that have demonstrated success in areas such as academic excellence and school leadership, amongst several others, into how we shape praxis for change should be embedded in how we shape responses. One of the approaches is to downplay authoritarian modes of teaching and learning, and in its place advance a democratic framework for teaching and learning.
This means evoking an awareness for change which translates into individual and collective responses for better conditions in schools. We need to locate key players, especially teachers, as agents of change, who can begin to lift the general level of education in the Eastern Cape. Leaders with a critical understanding of how school prepares children for broader society are in a position to propose a new mandate for school principals, teachers and parents to take action on.
Historical forces are very much manifested through inequality today and require time and deliberate actions to transform through processes of conscientisation and capacity building. Central to school reform are teachers which means a clear understanding of the kind of teacher that is required, must evolve. Historically, teachers were viewed as public intellectuals who offered leadership, acquired deep understanding of their subjects and connected their classroom practices to a set of wider values in society.
For more information about ECSECCs work in the foundational learning sector, please contact Mr Daryl Braam