This working paper presents the findings of research into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the curriculum in South Africa. Four research questions frame the report: how much time was lost for teaching, learning and assessing because of COVID-19?; what are the implications of lost time for learning losses?; what was the curriculum policy response to COVID-19?; and what is to be done about curriculum recovery and lost learning? Drawing on an analysis of policy, key informant discussions and a survey of international literature, the report argues that the time lost was very variable across schools, though substantial in most. This has led to learning losses that are vast but impossible to accurately measure. Although the curriculum policy response was coherent and mostly clear too many decisions around what to teach and assess were increasingly devolved to the school and teacher level. One of the key challenges facing curriculum recovery in 2021 will be the high levels of variability in coverage carried over from 2020 in schools and high levels of heterogeneity in classrooms. While the inclination may be thus to continue to devolve decisions around coverage and assessment to the teacher, the report cautions against this, recommending a differentiated approach in response, consideration of accelerated learning and additive remote strategies, and efforts to shore up as much instructional time in 2020 and 2021 as possible.
Keywords: COVID-19, curriculum, learning losses, South Africa, teaching