Reporting from Gqeberha, South Africa!
We are done with our third week at Machiu Primary School and feel like we have gotten a better insight in how the South African school system works. We also have a better understanding of how the teachers here work.
The teaching style at Machiu Primary School differs from what we are used to in Norway. Here they have a more authoritarian teaching style, while in Norway they have an authoritative style of teaching. The learners have a lot of respect for the teachers at school. Whenever a teacher comes into the classroom the learners greet them with “Morning Sir, Ma’am or teacher”. They also use these titles when they ask the teacher a question, whatever the question is. We have also observed differences in the ways of giving instructions and the types of tasks and assessments which were given. The school system in South Africa is result oriented, which shows in the ways of teaching and the focus they have from day to day, and term to term
The government sends out annual plans for each grade, and the teachers are obligated to follow them. The teachers make their own decisions when it comes to teaching and assessment methods. From what we have observed there are a lot of the same methods, which are the traditional blackboard teaching. On some occasions it would be suitable to compare the teachers to robots because they are so stuck to their plan and there is a clear distance between them and the learners. For example, if a learner cries or hurt themselves there is no comforting. The teachers tell them to go wash their face and then come back to class. The fact that they are not comforting the learners does not necessarily mean that they do not care about them.
At Machiu, the consequences are quite concrete for the learners if they don’t follow the rules. It is like that because the teachers want to uphold discipline. The way of coping with learning difficulties is to make the learners take the year over again. Some teachers adapt assessments to make it easier for the learners to pass. This could for instance be to make a learner tell a story instead of writing it down. The teachers use different strategies to maintain the learners attention. Sometimes they have “helpers” in the classroom – learners who have the task to write or call out the names of those who are not listening.
This week we took the learners in Grade 1 outside to read their homework text. They were not used to having lessons outside, and we observed a lot of joy and willingness to read. The way they corrected each other’s spelling and guessing of the words seemed for us as an indicator that they are used to being corrected while reading. We also tried to focus on the understanding of the text and connecting the pictures to what they read, so the learners who were struggling with the reading also could understand the text.