Multi-grade rural schools intervention in the West Coast Winelands EMDC : a case study
Boonzaaier, Petrus Johannes Visser
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Multi-grade teaching is a worldwide phenomenon. Meeting the basic needs of rural people in developing countries is a major challenge to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of the Education for All programmes. Situation analyses carried out by Little (1995, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005), Juvane (2005), Taylor and Mulhalll (1997) and Atchoarena and Gasperini (2003) indicate that multi-grade schools are common in impoverished, low population settlements such as remote areas and small villages. Researchers like Berry (2001), Pratt (1986) and Bryk (1994) report evidence that multi-grade schools can be positive places for learners and teachers. Observations done by Rao (2004), McGinn (1996) and McEwan and Benveniste (2001) show that successful models of multi-grade teaching already exist. Examples of addressing the isolation of multi-grade settings are found in Finland and Greece, where ICT is utilized to address this challenge. The "active" pedagogy which researchers like Little (1995, 2003 and 2005), Juvane (2005), Miller (1999) and McEwan and Benveniste (2001) promote for multigrade schools expects teachers to guide activities to be completed, and allows for free activities, which require application of the knowledge gained. It also involves creative exploration and application of regional-specific knowledge and relies upon learners to acquire and construct knowledge for themselves, guided by the teacher. Atchoarena and Gasperini (2005:6) believe in an integrated learning concept which bases its focus on the notion that effective learning is not limited to the classroom, but that, through use of community resources the curricula can "come alive."The "active" pedagogy and the expected participation of communities in the teaching and learning process should not only be for the benefit of the multi-grade class but should also be applicable to teaching and learning in mono-grade classes. This contributes to Bingham's (1995:6) view that a natural community of learners is inclusive of experiences outside school boundaries in the larger world. According to the Ministerial Committee on Rural Education (2005:12), South Africa's first ten years of democracy, are after 1994, characterized by an overwhelming commitment to equality, to treat everyone in the same way no matter what his or her differences are. Hence, the management and funding of rural schools are similar to the principles and formulas of those of urban schools. So too, curriculum and pedagogies of rural schooling are planned to be the same as those found in rural settings. Emerging Voices (2205:12) and Joubert (2005:3) agree that rural education has to provide the means to enable generations to break out of the recurring cycle of unskilled labour and resultant poverty. State education must deliver learners who are able to read, write and are numerate and furthermore deliver trained teachers for the multigrade Irural school system. In the literacy reviewed, it is clear that curricula, learning materials, teacher education and assessment are necessary components of an integrated strategy for learning and teaching in multi-grade settings. Surrounding these strategies is the need for national policies for curriculums, materials, teacher education and assessment that recognize, legitimate and support learners and teachers in multi-grade settings. The researcher identified two interventions, which addressed the above mentioned multi-grade phenomenon in South Africa, namely the Kgatelopele project of the Limpopo Education Department launched in 2000 and the Multi-grade Rural School Intervention (MGRSI) in the Western Cape Province launched in 2001. Both these interventions focused on the needs of multi-grade schools, and ways to address those needs. The MGRSI was structured according to a logic model, which provided the objectives of the intervention and the strategy, which it intended to follow in order to reach the stated outcomes. This study provided the opportunity to do a case study, which revealed the successes and the challenges of the intervention implemented from 2001 to 2006.