The botanical content in the South African curriculum: A barren desert or a thriving forest?
Botanists who are interested in education have often expressed their dismay at how plant sciences are neglected in Biology curricula, despite the important roles that plants play. While botanists in several overseas countries have studied the ways in which plant sciences are represented in curricula, no research has been done on how botany is neglected in the South African curriculum. Currently, the South African curriculum is known as the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for Grades R–12. In this study, a comparison was made among the content that is generally taught in introductory plant sciences courses, the American Society of Plant Biologists’ principles for plant biology education and the relevant CAPS documents. The time spent on plant, animal or human-focused content was established and compared at both phase and grade level. It was found that while the curriculum addresses all the major concepts in the plant sciences, very little time was being allocated to exclusively plant-focused content as compared to animal and human-focused content. This neglect was particularly prevalent in the Foundation Phase. The way in which the content is structured and presented in the curriculum may in all likelihood not be sufficient to provide a strong knowledge and skills foundation in the plant sciences, nor will it encourage the development of positive values towards plants. While consensus regarding the content of a curriculum will be difficult to achieve, awareness of potential gaps in the curriculum should be brought to the attention of the botanical and educational communities.
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