“Curriculum transformation is part of good teaching and learning practice; in South Africa, the need for transformation is much broader, and includes deliberate efforts to give platforms for views, cultures and ideas that are underrepresented in the curriculum.”
This is according to Professor Barend Erasmus, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS) at the University of Pretoria (UP), who participated in a recent webinar in which the NAS Faculty and Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT) shared their curriculum transformation initiatives and goals with the University community five years after the Curriculum Transformation Policy Document was adopted by UP’s Senate.
Dean of EBIT Professor Sunil Maharaj outlined some of the faculty’s transformation efforts. “EBIT has activities where we encourage and have targets for our staff and students demographics to be more transformed. In certain modules, students are given extra marks if they were in a transformed group, in terms of gender and race.” He added that the faculty is committed to a broad transformation agenda that goes beyond race and gender.
Prof Maharaj went on to credit the EBIT Curriculum Transformation Committee for its role in the success of transformed online teaching and learning. “We are constantly considering new technology and tools that can be incorporated into our teaching and learning, as our students’ success and international competitiveness matter. Our annual teaching and learning workshop engages all our academic and professional staff to share their experiences and practices for a multicultural and diverse staff and student cohort. We are involved in many new projects to support the curriculum transformation agenda.”
Supporting his sentiments was Dr Adriana Botha, Head Educational Consultant at EBIT, who said many departments in the faculty had answered the call for curriculum transformation. She added that it was a priority for the faculty to steer its efforts towards implementing curriculum transformation drivers so that they are “visible in our learning programmes”. “We aim to ensure that the curricula are in service of the public good and the actualisation of human potential.”
“We have been applying concepts of transformation in curricula in classrooms,” Senior Lecture Dr Lelanie Smith noted. “Research has shown that the programmes being integrated directly lead to student’s development in a way that they can be more self-reflective.”
She explained that the faculty is running three projects, one of which is the Joint Community-based Project (JCP), a community engagement programme. It includes 40 allocated hours for professional development where students have to go out and provide communities with services linked to their discipline.
For Dr Carin Combrinck, Senior Lecturer at EBIT, curriculum transformation means “a new country, concept and belief”. “The most significant transformation happens in the minds of young graduates in the progress of their education,” she said.
According to Prof Erasmus, later this year, each faculty at UP will conduct a formal review of the state of its curriculum transformation. “A key requirement is to ensure diversity in class groups and departments, and to recruit for diversity. The NAS Faculty’s employment equity score had the largest year-on-year increase in 2020, and much more will be done. The [email protected] initiative allows for University-driven community projects that support transformation in all its forms, and we envisage these activities to play a big role in future. The Sustainable Development Goals remain an important framework in the faculty’s curriculum transformation efforts.”
“We increasingly recognised that the transformation imperatives of the University can no longer be regarded as niche,” noted Dr Nerhene Davis, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology at NAS. “We find that the societal relevance of the learning that we provide is under scrutiny, and our graduates are required to take part in more critical and essential skills; the need to continually transform will remain.”
Click here to watch the full webinar.