In line with international developments, the Department of Education in South Africa (SA) recognises environmental education as a key vehicle to respond to the national and global environmental crisis (DoE, 2001, P. 3). For this reason, the post-1994 education provision sought to infuse environmental education into the new curriculum called Curriculum 2005. The White Paper on Education and Training (RSA, 1995) perceived environmental education as a means to a better quality of life for all people and argued that it should be integrated at all levels of the SA Education and Training system. The White Paper further stated that “environmental education, involving an inter-disciplinary, integrated and active approach to learning, must be a vital element of all levels and programmes of the education and training system, in order to create environmentally literate and active citizens and ensure that all South Africans, present and future, enjoy a decent quality of life through the sustainable use of resources” (RSA, 1995, P. 22). How have the schools responded to this challenge by the new integration policy? How is the environmental learning provided for in the primary school curriculum across SA? What resources exist to make environmental policy workable in schools, and how are these resources mobilised and organised to promote learning? These and other questions formed the basis for the present inquiry An Opportunity to Learn (OTL) study was conducted to explore how one primary school in SA provides OTL about the environment. The main aim of the study was to understand the manner in which teachers integrate environmental learning in the school curriculum. A qualitative research approach was used as a mode of inquiry for this study. Interviews, classroom observations and document analysis were used as data collection methods. The findings of the study suggest that Sechaba Primary School has managed to integrate environmental learning in its curriculum through the help of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders. The research concluded by arguing that OTL about the environment appear to be enhanced where there are strong connections between the schools and NGOs. Specifically, the following set of recommendations was documented: First, local leadership and agency are required to pursue the various opportunities and resources to build the school’s capacity for environmental learning. Schools should be encouraged to designate and support local leaders to take responsibility for driving the integration of environmental learning into their curriculum. Such integration is too important and maybe too demanding to be left to individual teachers independently in their own classrooms. Second, converting the latent capacity and/or physical and intellectual infrastructure for environmental learning into real OTL about the environment for the students will continue to remain a challenge for some of the teachers while others have managed the integration in some exemplary fashion. Opportunities for teachers to observe each other, plan together and work collaboratively on issues of integration should be created at school and district level. Third, it is critical that all teachers undergo in service training regarding the implementation of environmental education, and such training should provide teachers with enough time to learn. One of the major limitations of the Department of Education’s programme of implementation of the new environmental learning policy has been the inability to provide teachers with enough time to learn and implement the new ideas of the revised national curriculum statement. Finally, it is important to reiterate the importance of providing adequate resources for implementation of environmental learning from the Department of Education. Having said that, however, the case of Sechaba has demonstrated how such resources can also be mobilised from elsewhere outside the system. Encouraging beneficial partnerships between schools and NGOs may in itself be a valuable resource to encourage many primary schools in SA for whom government resources in this field continue to remain inadequate.
Dissertation (MEd (Curriculum and Instructional Design and Development))--University of Pretoria, 2008.