Education centre > Assessing the Value of an Exchange Visit to the Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden
Assessing the Value of an Exchange Visit to the Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden
Contributed by Nkopane Moteka, Witwatersrand National Botanic Garden, South Africa.
The legacy of the past system of government has left education within black communities in a state where teachers are chasing a specified syllabus. A rigid system of monitoring adherence to the syllabus through regular inspection and assessment has left teachers very little or no scope for exercising their own initiative. For most teachers, completing the syllabus meant using text books written according to the requirements and topic-sequence of the syllabus, so leading to an uncritical dependence on the text books.
It therefore becomes something of a tall order to change to a situation where you have a measure of freedom to use one’s imagination in attempting to make learning an experience of discovery and fun for the students. To encourage this among teachers, Mary South, Education Officer at the Sir Harold Hillier Garden and Arboretum, UK was invited to South Africa to share some of her experiences at a number of workshops. The outcome of the workshops were as follows:
In many cases, back in the schools other members of teaching staff became curious about the results, and in some cases negative criticism was made:
NBI’s Goal for its Education Programmes
The mission of NBIs Education Directorate (EEDU) is to use the gardens and resources of the NBI to inspire and enable people to take responsibility for their environment.
The feel that by engaging teachers and pupils in experiential learning it will lead to the discovery of their place and role in the environment and therefore result in a positive change in attitude to the environment. The approach to teaching, as in the methods demonstrated by Mary and used or adapted for use by EEDU, places NBIs programme among holistic and cross-curriculum development forums in South Africa.
The education system in South Africa is committed to the development of an outcomes based system, around which guidelines for learning programmes and corresponding assessment will be drawn. At the garden we are working to create a core of educators who will be committed to facilitating learning situations. The aim of these situations is to give pupils an opportunity to discover knowledge, think creatively and look at life with a critically enquiring mind, as well as work with others to achieve set goals.
Mary South’s visit coincided with my arrival in this organisation as outreach officer. Needless to say, it sparked a lot of debate and helped clarify the direction of the programme. While worksheets are still held in some esteem, learning through activity is better suited to environmental education.
In a democracy of the type South Africans are trying to build, consultation and discussion on issues are important. The citizenry of South Africa is undergoing a learning process of doing things for themselves. The development of thecurriculum mentioned earlier is one such process where teachers have an input in order that they become stakeholders in education rather than unconcerned channels of “knowledge”.
Our contact with teachers is to ensure their participation in making environmental education the backbone of all subject areas of learning.