The Language Arts/English Language programme developed for the National Standards Curriculum (NSC) is underpinned by the general theory of learner-centredness which is specified in the National Education Strategic Plan (2011-2020). This plan clearly outlines the following objective: “Develop learner-centred and competency-based curricula at all levels.” (pg. 44). The learner is, therefore, at the core of all teaching/learning experiences and the objectives, skills, activities, assessment criteria and learning outcomes of all units are written from the learner’s perspective. The learner’s full engagement and differences are taken into account and the dimensions of ability levels, interests, learning styles and gender are critical factors that were given great consideration during the development of the teaching units. This means that the traditional text-centred and teacher-centred approaches to English Language teaching/learning are now given far less focus (aspects of which are not totally eliminated) and learning through authentic real life contexts is being promoted. Learners now, for example, will engage in simulations in order to develop targeted skills; analyze and respond critically to literature; use different language/literature media to respond to given scenarios; create original products and use a replicable process to develop written pieces.
Language Arts teaching in the NSC embraces the integration of learning which is promoted by the existing primary and secondary curricula. As students learn Language skills related to the various strands and sub-strands, they will interface with content and methodologies from a range of disciplines including Science, Social Studies, Information Technology, Drama, Food and Nutrition, Guidance and Counselling to name a few. These disciplines, which are termed ‘cross-curricula links,’ are the avenues through which the Language content/skills are learnt and applied in authentic contexts.
The 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity are also fully embraced and are promoted through the methodologies of simulations, group/peer-work, problem-based tasks and adequate allowance for exploration and innovation. The affective dimension is also foregrounded through specific objectives which when met, will help to facilitate the development of the aforementioned 21st century skills. Other values and attitudes, besides those exemplified through effective communication and cooperativeness in collaboration, are also developed through the inclusion of the affective dimension. Additionally, the themes selected, especially at the grades 7-9 level, are meant to help in shaping students to face the 21st century as rounded individuals. It is the hoped that students will benefit from the learning contexts of these themes as they learn language and literature skills that will shape/guide them in becoming life-long learners who will make intelligent and wise choices.
Aspects of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) methodology are embedded within the language programme but will not be explicitly reflected as in other disciplines which are the pillars of the methodology, such as Science, Mathematics and Technology. In Language Arts, STEM is reflected through the processes of learning and manipulating the language, such as the writing process; the communication and collaboration which help to drive processes and the responses of the Language learner to real-life issues through effective oral and written communication. It is also that aspect of creativity that enriches life’s experiences and solves problems. The STEM methodology is used as the general approach to language application. It provides opportunities for learners to use their knowledge of the English Language to solve problems and function as valuable citizens.
In an attempt to achieve the objectives of true integration, the STEM methodology and foster the development of skills necessary for the 21st century learner, the Progressive Language Teaching model was used as the basis for the development of the Language programme from Grades 1-9. Progressive language teaching is task oriented, student-centred and provides opportunities for students to negotiate meaning and interact meaningfully with the language, rather than participating in activities that demand accurate repetition and memorization of sentences and grammatical patterns. It is believed that with this underpinning philosophy, learners will become more rounded users of the language and will be better able to negotiate meaning, expand their language resources, analyse how language is used, and take part in meaningful social interactions.