An Analysis of the Grade 3 Department of Basic Education workbooks as curriculum tools

Stellenbosch Working Paper No. 06/2016

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Since 2011 the Department of Basic Education (DBE), has provided all Grade 1 to 6 learners in public schools with literacy/language, numeracy/mathematics and life-skills workbooks. This study provides an assessment of the purpose to which the workbooks are best suited by analyzing the Grade 3 Mathematics and Home Language English workbooks for 2015 in the light of the DBE’s intentions for the workbooks. The study considers alignment of the workbooks with the official national curriculum, the Curriculum and Assessment Policy (CAPS), as well as ‘conceptual signaling’ and progression in the content of the workbooks. We then evaluate the kind of ‘curriculum tool’ the workbooks in their current format conform to. We explore three possibilities in the light of the DBE’s proposals for the workbook use: a practice tool; an assessment tool; and a monitoring tool. We also reflect on the workbooks as a teaching tool. Our analysis suggests that, in line with the Department of Basic Education’s intended purpose for the workbooks, that the workbooks best represent a practice curriculum tool. We highlight the significance of the high level of curriculum compliance of the workbook, and indicate that this would render them an effective monitoring tool for assessing the quantitative coverage of the curriculum at a systemic level.