Curriculum changes have been an ongoing feature of the South African education system for the past two decades. I investigated the impact these curriculum changes have had on the working lives of rural teachers. I reviewed the relevant literature to find out what has already been researched about the topic. Based on this, a conceptual framework was constructed to enhance understanding and analysis of empirical data. The key elements of the conceptual framework are theorised as teaching practices, identity formations, professionalism, work conditions and accountability.
Life stories of rural teachers who have been teaching in rural schools for the past twenty years were collected analysed and retold. Fifty-two rural teachers were interviewed and four of these were selected for in-depth analysis. In addition, classroom observations were carried out. The study found that the curriculum change that has taken place over the past two decades has reduced teachers’ autonomy; it has viewed teachers as pedagogues who are in the teaching-learning situation to carry out other people’s ideas; it has increased teachers’ workload resulting in its intensification; and it has resulted in greater teacher accountability to education officials.