Integrated curriculum in Lesotho: exploring primary school teachers' instructional and assessment practices
Ralebese, Lerato Matilda
MetadataShow full item record
The risk of eroding quality in education, due to the focus on increasing enrolments in schools, has generated a wide interest in curriculum reform and learner-centeredness in education. Moreover, the realisation that education is directly linked to each country’s economic and social progression compels policy makers to pursue a policy blueprint that would transform classroom practices. However, the reforms brought by such policies hardly gain access into classrooms to change teachers’ practices. As a result, the policy-practice gap continues to exist. Although the implementation of curriculum reform is often contentious and complex, it is necessary to attain educational targets. As such, implementation cannot simply be regarded as a mere execution of policy prescriptions, but should engage the sense- making processes of teachers as the core implementers. When a reform is as radical and ambitious as the one espoused by Lesotho’s Curriculum and Assessment Policy (CAP), it becomes essential to establish teachers’ interpretations and actual practices with respect to the new curriculum. The purpose of this study was to explore the primary school teachers’ instructional and assessment practices in the implementation of the New Integrated Curriculum (NIC) in Lesotho. The study presents cases of four purposively selected qualified primary school teachers from schools in one dissemination centre in Maseru where the new curriculum had been implemented since its introduction in Lesotho in 2013. The data were gathered through document analysis, interviews, and by observing teachers presenting lessons in their classroom contexts while implementing the NIC. I employed the descriptive content analysis technique in analysing the data from their planning books, the interview transcripts, and from the observations. A combination of the sense-making theory and social cognitive theory was used to explain their understandings and practices. Teachers developed scheme-of-work and lesson plans in a compartmentalised manner and further presented non-integrated lessons. They typically isolated instruction and assessment in planning and during the lessons. They further used teacher centred methodologies and were in control of the learning process. Additionally, they faced contextual challenges, which included lack of resources and overcrowding. Therefore, teachers’ understanding of integration, pedagogy, and roles seemed to fall short of the prescriptions. Their practices were subsequently influenced by their limited understanding and the contextual challenges they faced. As a result, their understandings and practices were found to be unaligned with the policy prescriptions. These understandings of policy prescriptions and their subsequent implementation were attributed to contradictory policy messages, curriculum content organisation, scheme-of-work and lesson plan formats as well as the prevailing classroom situations. Teachers were positive about the NIC. However, their efforts in addressing the policy prescriptions pertaining to instruction and assessment processes are stifled, due to conflicting demands on them, prompting them to revert to their old ways of teaching. This study fosters awareness to the relevant stakeholders about teachers’ interpretations of the CAP prescriptions. It sheds light on teachers’ particular concerns as core agents of reform. It would further help the policymakers make decisions by reflecting on the actual instructional and assessment experiences of teachers. This study concludes that the effective implementation of the new curriculum depends heavily on appropriate interpretation of the policy prescriptions by teachers, clarity of the curriculum guidelines and the conduciveness of the context. I therefore recommend thorough professional development (PD) of teachers (in- service and pre-service) which focuses on integration and what it entails. I further suggest that the organisation of curriculum content should be reviewed to promote integration. The scheme and lesson plan formats should also be reviewed to break the boundary lines between the learning areas.