Is Change Coming to South Africa’s Classrooms?

On 27 March 2014, five of our teachers and facilitators attended the Inspired Teachers Conference in Johannesburg to discuss topics such as “How technology is changing the face of education” and “Teaching to light up a classroom.” Crispen Bvumbghe was one of our Good Work Foundation (GWF) delegates, and Ryan managed to catch up with him to ask a few questions:

Ryan: Crispen, do you think that real change is coming to South Africa’s classrooms?

Crispen: Believe it or not, before you get to the question of technology, there is a big psychological issue that needs to be addressed. It’s often referred to as “Chalk and Talk” – a system of teaching based on old technologies and a very one-sided, dictatorial approach.

Out with the old and in with the new. On the right, Crispen facilitates a number of self organised learning environments at HDLC.

Out with the old “chalk and talk” and in with the new. On the right, Crispen facilitates a number of self organised learning environments at HDLC.

Around the world, teachers are slowly beginning to forsake the limiting single “curriculum” and look to the pluralities of new learning methods and technologies. That also means that teachers need to adapt their role, to become facilitators of information that comes from a variety of sources.

Ryan: Will these pluralities lead to change in our classrooms?

Crispen: Yes I believe they can. Teachers must see them working and believe in them. For example, the Self Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) as well as Stanford Mobile Inquiry Based Learning Environment (SMILE), which we use at GWF, both empower children to teach themselves and each other. The teacher is relegated to “facilitator” of knowledge, rather than “giver” of knowledge. That encourages real thinking and collaboration in children from early on, and makes learning much more fun. I firmly believe that the best learning happens in a participatory environment.

Stanford mobile inquiry-based learning environment

A self organised learning environment.

When our teachers see that new technologies are not complicated, but actually very simple, and very effective, I think they will start to embrace new methods of teaching. More importantly, students will start demanding it, and teachers will have to be “on their toes”.

Ryan: Did the conference mention the general absence of parents in children’s education? The lack of parent involvement seems to be a problem around the world.

Crispen: Yes. Of course there needs to be more involvement, but that is out of our control. Technology will probably connect parents to their children’s progress on a daily basis (instead of an end of term report card). A concept that is interesting is “the hidden curriculum”. Regardless of what is happening in the home, it is a teacher’s responsibility to act as a role model to his or her students, practicing fairness, understanding and integrity at all times. That might sound “wishy-washy” but just imagine the impact on children across the country if teachers never abused their power and always delivered on a pledge to facilitate active, engaged learning in every child.

Ryan: So the “hidden curriculum” is real and teachers have a massive responsibility?

Crispen: Yes it is. What we discussed at the conference was the responsibility of teachers to help young people make good choices. That is a value that should be taught to people, but all too often, it is not. The teacher-student relationship is one of the few remaining “unregulated” relationship dynamics left, and is still open to the possibility of huge abuse. And abuse is not just abuse. Abuse is also apathy or lack of interest. So yes, we have a huge responsibility, but I think a more egalitarian and interactive style in classrooms – which is being facilitated by the internet, teaching apps and self-organised learning environments – will be a positive change.

Behaviour can be changed, both in teachers and students. And today – more than ever – we have to adapt as change comes to our classrooms.

Right to left: Crispen, Lungile, Glenrose and Havny at the Inspired Teachers Conference

Right to left: Crispen, Lungile, Glenrose and Havny at the Inspired Teachers Conference.