INTRODUCTION: The health profile of a country’s population and its vision as reflected in health
policies are dynamic. Curricula of health education institutions therefore need to be
periodically revised to be aligned with their context. This study explored the status of
physiotherapy curricula in South Africa (SA) as a point of departure for benchmarking by
METHODS: A document analysis was done of university physiotherapy departments (N=8) in
SA. Institutional ethical clearance and permission from the heads of departments were
obtained. Content analysis was used to analyse the South African Qualifications Authority
exit-level outcomes and the university study guides for community placements.
RESULTS: Most universities employed a form of service learning, with interventions in a range
of settings. Five themes emerged: practice of evidence-based physiotherapy, rendering
physiotherapy services, acting professionally, communication, and collaboration. The
country’s priority conditions were addressed. Teaching and learning strategies included
group activities (class or education sessions), community projects, home visits and portfolios
of evidence. Personal- and small-group reflections were prominent.
CONCLUSION: The undergraduate community physiotherapy curricula in SA address the health
profile of the population and priorities in the health system to different degrees. The
variation between universities should be interpreted with caution as the study guides only
give a limited snapshot into each institution’s curriculum. However, findings suggest that
each physiotherapy university department may have gaps in preparing physiotherapy
undergraduate students for the needs of the SA population and expectations of the
Government. Possible ways to share teaching-learning resources are recommended.